When tech developer Michael James’ fiancé found herself crunched for time and in urgent need of some beauty supplies right before an event the two were attending, he very casually suggested she have the items delivered.
“She told him that that didn’t exist, and he was shocked.” James’ partner Ian Grant II tells BLACK ENTERPRISE.
“She made it work, but since he’s a developer by trade, it kind of stuck to him. Why didn’t a service like this exist for beauty supplies?”
Having worked in the haircare industry to develop tech-based solutions for service providers, James began talking through the idea of a delivery service to address that void. After doing market research first within their immediate circle, then through market research with customers at actual beauty supply stores, Grant and James launched Way Slay in June of 2020.
Currently available in Miami, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., the on-demand delivery app partners with stores to deliver any product a consumer may need, in as little as 20 minutes. They’re able to offer such quick delivery times by communicating the orders to their partner stores immediately and using a network of local drivers like an Uber Eats, thus giving them a competitive edge over online marketplaces like Amazon.
“Our goal is to make hair care more accessible so you can avoid the trip to the store,” explains Grant, whose background prior to the launch found him providing business solutions for franchise owners in the quick service restaurant business.
Upon launching the company, the two paid very close attention to the feedback they received from consumers to make improvements on everything from how products were listed to simplifying the checkout process. The launch of Way Slay has also given Grant and James the opportunity to educate retailors.
“We didn’t realize how low of an adoption of technology is being used within the beauty supply stores,” he says. “They may be selling up to $2 million a year; and in the normal retail world, for that type of volume, you’re going to have a POS system, inventory management, labor management… And they’re not using any of that. They’re operating like mom-and-pops. That was surprising to us. We find ourselves having to convince them of how easy this is to use and how it complements their business. That’s why we make the onboarding process so easy for them.”
Way Slay’s acceptance into Hennessy’s Never Stop Never Settle Society could not have come at a better time. The company is currently readying an expansion into Atlanta, New York and Chicago and has found growing their brand in multiple markets to be a challenge.
Way Slay is one of 20 members of Hennessy’s inaugural “Never Stop Never Settle Society,” championing the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.
The “Never Stop Never Settle Society” builds on Hennessy’s long-standing commitment to Black communities, which dates back to the 1800s, including involvement in what would become the National Urban League, the first corporate sponsor of the NAACP and the only company in its industry to be a founding corporate donor of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Hennessy has a rich legacy of assisting in the growth of African American business and socioeconomic status.
The Way Slay founders have a sound formula when it comes to choosing new markets, which boils down to the concentration of Black women, ages 25-40; the size of the market for food delivery; and the dependence on public transportation or other transportation challenges. But Grant says that growing brand awareness has been a little more difficult than the technical and other business aspects of the company.
“The connection with the executives at Hennessy is really important to us,” Grant says. “They’re using their brand to help put our name out there and that’s really important to because they’re allowing folks to get to know who we are, before we even get to their city. I feel like they can potentially become a soundboard for us to help navigate some of the challenges that we may be facing as a startup, especially since Hennessy is a worldwide brand that everyone loves; and that’s the point that we want get to. So that’s really exciting for us.”