Tari Kandemiri used to shop in-store at beauty retailers such as Ulta and Sephora in search of products for hyperpigmentation. Despite her focused efforts, she often found herself overwhelmed.
“I’d read all the labels, read reviews while standing in the store, trying to find help, but it seemed like there were so many products and nowhere I could go that could synthesize all of that information for me,” Kandemiri told Beauty Inc on a recent phone call.
The 23-year-old, who studied computer science and business at Sewanee University, began to contemplate how platforms such as StitchFix employ data to offer personalized product recommendations to consumers. That led her to build Hama Beauty, an online platform that uses more than 500,000 data points and a patented algorithm, developed by Kandemiri, to recommend beauty products to users.
Hama, which means “family and friends” in Kandemiri’s native Shona language, has drawn thousands of users to its web site since its May 1 launch. Of the more than 5,000 people who have taken Hama’s Skin Quiz, the majority are aged 18 to 24. Their most common skin-care concerns are hydration, acne, dark spots, redness and dullness.
Hama Beauty, which Kandemiri built from scratch with a developer, caught the attention of Glow Recipe cofounders and co-chief executive officers Sarah Lee and Christine Chang. The pair selected Hama, along with two other start-up companies, to participate in Glow Recipe’s inaugural Community Mentoring Initiative, which aims to offer guidance and support to Black-owned beauty and wellness businesses. Lee and Chang received more than 100 applicants for the program since announcing it on June 9.
“I thought [Hama Beauty] was interesting, new and very different from any other business we’ve met and interviewed,” Lee said. “I love that [Kandemiri] has a specific point of view on what she has to offer for people with dark skin tone and similar skin concerns that she experienced.”
Kandemiri, Chang said, has “had good recruitment” in terms of attracting users to Hama’s web site.
“We’re trying to find ways to convert those customers who have been taking the quiz to join [Kandemiri’s] e-mail database, and how she can become an associate to partner with brands so this can be a real revenue stream,” Chang said.
Hama Beauty uses APIs and public data to house hundreds of brands sold at Sephora, Ulta and Walmart. The platform is self-funded by Kandemiri, who works full-time as a consultant and has not taken on investment. She is expanding the web site to include reviews and forums, and recently onboarded a brand through a paid partnership.
“I find solace in knowing that this algorithm has information about anyone and everyone,” Kandemiri said. “I want anyone to be able to come to the web site and feel like it doesn’t matter if they’re filtering for something under $25 or purchasing for over $75. I wanted to create somewhere that was simple and easy for people to access information about beauty because it can be tough to feel good or informed as you’re shopping for these products. I’m continuously taking feedback and working to make sure it is a place where anyone can go to shop.”
More from WWD.com: