Next up in our Why We Invested Series is The Renatural. The Renautral is transforming the wig industry by revolutionizing wig manufacturing, hairstyle design, and ordering. Renatural's disruptive approach encompasses the entire wig supply chain, from production to delivery, ensuring exceptional wigs are in the hands of customers worldwide.
The 400-year-old industry wig industry has had little to no innovation since its inception and is currently plagued with unethical practices that harbor significant negative impacts. One of the critical issues in the industry stems from locations such as China, where 80% of wigs are manufactured. For example, Xinjiang, pictured below, has faced scrutiny for its prison internment camps, where millions of ethnic minorities are imprisoned and allegedly forced into labor, including supplying hair for wig production. In Xuchang, China, 300,000 local residents work to produce 50% of the world’s wigs. One Xuchang resident said, “Growing corn on one mu (one mu equivalent to 667 square meters) of land is worth less than a girl's long hair.” Therefore, sometimes, parents force their daughters to sell their hair to pay for food. Despite these unethical practices, the US continues to be a major importer of wigs from China.
The problems in the wig industry extend beyond labor and human rights issues. Wigs contribute to environmental unsustainability, with some products decomposing up to 7 years. To put this into context, the average everyday wig wearer goes through 2 wigs a year; if they wear wigs for 40 years, they will go through 80 wigs in their lifetime. If each wig weighs between 700g-1kg, each wig wearer would contribute to between 56 - 80kg of hair extension waste in their lifetime. This is the equivalent of 8,080 non-biodegradable plastic bottles entering the ecosystem (based on a single-serve 0.5 liter PET water bottle which is 9.9 grams). However, there are opportunities to address these issues through consumer education on sustainable practices, but the first step is the development of eco-friendly alternatives.
The Renatural is disrupting the stagnant wig industry with innovative manufacturing, ordering processes, and product design advancements. The Renatural pioneered the Wig Fix, the first patented wig product in over 55 years. The Wig Fix is a hypoallergenic silicon wig headband that promotes natural hair growth while wearing a wig. Since its launch, the Wig Fix has become a staple product for wig wearers. The Renatural isn’t stopping there, the company has ambitious plans to advance the efficacy of the industry while cutting manufacturing times and increasing productivity. Starting with streamlining the ordering process through AI automation, allowing for quick production and dispatch within 24-48 hours based on precise measurements. The Renatural’s manufacturing systems are significantly smaller and faster than traditional processes and can produce a wig in just 45 minutes, ensuring efficient, high-quality, and ethical production. The Reanutral’s wigs are made from organic bamboo and silicon, resulting in thinner, longer-lasting, and more breathable products that drive loyalty in wearers and longevity for the Earth.
Wig manufacturing is predominantly concentrated in Asian and Pacific countries, with the US accounting for a small fraction of the global industry. Nevertheless, the wig manufacturing market is undergoing a rapid surge and is positioned to grow to $19.12 billion by 2028. The industry is ripe for disruption, with low barriers to entry, limited innovation, and minimal regulatory hurdles coupled with increasing demand for hair extensions and wigs for beauty and cosmetic purposes; the timing is promising to introduce sustainably manufactured wigs to the US market. The COVID-19 pandemic has led to a significant reshoring of manufacturing operations, with a 116% increase in new manufacturing facilities in 2022 as companies move away from China. President Biden's "Made In America" plan reflects the political importance of revitalizing American manufacturing. Additionally, consumers are increasingly prioritizing sustainable goods and are willing to pay a premium for them, regardless of hyperinflation.
Renatural’s founder, Aasiyah Adulsalam, has the highest level of founder market fit. After her experience with pains in the wig industry, she has dedicated her life to solving the pains that people endure in manufacturing and using wigs. In addition, she is an immigrant founder who has already cut her teeth through a scrappy journey of bootstrapping a profitable consumer products wig accessory startup. Aasiyah's academic research includes a first-class dissertation on the exploration of wig manufacturing, which she completed during her undergraduate studies in geography. Aasiyah's expertise has made her a sought-after wig consultant for global hair brands and beauty conglomerates, and she has been recognized for her achievements, including being named on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in retail and e-commerce. Beyond having a strong conviction in Aasiyah, Redbud VC is bullish on the opportunity to build a category-defining company in a multi-billion dollar industry with little to no innovation over the past 400 years. Renatural’s technology has the potential to forge sustainable practices for consumers to feel comfortable purchasing and wearing hairpieces.