Beleza Natural Co-founder and CEO Leila Velez has a new approach to an old industry. Julie Ruvolo’s new article for Forbes.com, Bye Bye Brazilian Blowouts: The Next Big Brazilian Hair Trend is Beleza Natural (see original post here), offers insight into how Leila keyed in on overlooked aspects of hairdressing, and focused on underserved communities with her patented approach. Leila’s idea was simple–less chemicals, and more natural approaches toward hair with women of color in mind.
In the Forbes interview, she describes how applying supply-chain techniques learned while working as a young woman at McDonald’s (a fact that she is rather proud of) to the hairdressing industry has driven her success. Here she mastered the “art” and “science” approaches of the beauty salon–a place it is not often found. Her approach is described as a “veritable conveyor belt of services” that begins with a private consultation, which designs a specific, unique plan for each individual, and ends in the actual hair design. Her approach is so specific that her hair consultants (not hairdressers) analyze follicle density per quadrant of the scalp (they divide it into 16 quadrants), and takes into consideration the geometric shape of a client’s head in order to find the perfect cut that complements each woman.
This operation, which began in 1993, was entirely self-financed, largely due to her husband, Jair, selling his VW Beatle, has earned her the Ernst and Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award in 2006 and recognition as one of Brazil’s Most Influential Women in 2007.
This idea of bringing more efficiency and attentive care to hair-salons has grown into twelve salons in as many years, and employs over 1,400 people, mostly women. Leila has also just recently expanded into manufacturing her own proprietary line of hair-care products, 45 in all, that include creams, shampoos and follicle treatments.
Her company donates generously and offers free hair care to women in poor communities. In fact, 70% of her workforce are former clients, and women from these underserved communities. And employees remain happy as Beleza Natural offers good working conditions, generous health-care and tuition-reimbursement. Keeping an eye toward the future, Leila is constantly brainstorming and utilizing social media for ideas on new products and concepts.
As the article points out, a recent initiative, The Beleza Natural Institute, has also devised a model salon blueprint that is scheduled to be scaled internationally. Her first location is already slated for Harlem in New York City.