Tracey Pickett turned a rainy-day epiphany into a thriving headwear brand
5 December 2022 | By Matt Miller, Sr. Copywriter
This is Buy Black, a series highlighting Black-owned businesses. Here, we feature business owners who share their stories, provide tips for growing a brand and discuss the importance of supporting the success of Black-owned businesses.
Tracey Pickett always seemed to find herself getting caught in the rain. Growing up in Atlanta, it felt like the skies opened up whenever she would go to the salon. (“Like a curse,” she says.) Pickett remembers in 2010 having to walk across her entire law school campus in the rain to get to an interview and showing up with her hair a mess. “It kind of ruined my whole mood,” she recalls. “I felt like, ‘OK, there has to be a solution for this.’ But when I went online, everything to cover your hair was like a shower cap or granny bonnet or plastic bag.”
That’s when the idea struck to create Hairbrella, a line of stylish rain hats for women to keep their hair dry and styled.
From a young age, Pickett knew she would be an entrepreneur someday, and kept a notebook of ideas that would pop into her head. As an undergraduate student on track to become a lawyer, she wrote a letter to herself, vowing that she wouldn’t practice law for more than five years without taking a leap into entrepreneurship. “At the time, I didn’t even know what product that was going to be,” she says.
But after that fateful rainy day, she knew her journey into entrepreneurship would be with Hairbrella.
The idea continued to simmer, as Pickett passed the bar exam and started a job working in corporate law at a Fortune 500 company. Then, as she had pledged, on her fifth work anniversary, she left the business to officially launch Hairbrella in November 2016 – a decision of a lifetime (and a lot of rainy days) in the making.
In 2016, Tracey Pickett left her job in corporate law at a Fortune 500 company to launch Hairbrella, a line of stylish rain hats for women to keep their hair dry and styled.
Weathering early challenges with the right resources
As Pickett explains, her fear of regret is stronger than her fear of failure. And this drive served her well in those early days of Hairbrella. The first prototype was, she says, “me wearing a shower cap with a beanie on top of it.” She searched through textile stores for the right material. (“Most were too thick or too hot or stood up on my head like I was Marge Simpson.”) She eventually stumbled across the perfect fabric at an upholstery store in Atlanta, and spent most of 2017 to 2018 refining the product and securing investors. Then, in 2019, she launched her first marketing campaign.
At the start, Pickett connected with customers through social media and her own personal network. She would experiment on her own with different kinds of ad campaigns or ask friends for help to learn the basics. Around this same time, Pickett listed Hairbrella in the Amazon store. “It was about getting reviews, of course, but I didn’t know anything about optimising my listings; I just knew the images had to be good, and I was pointing out all the product features. I’m way more hip to that process now. Then, I was just trying to get traction,” Pickett says. “It used to just be point of sale – you get an umbrella when you’re walking out of the grocery store. But I noticed queries for rain hats growing year over year, and I wanted to be in front of that for customers looking in the Amazon store.”
At that stage, Pickett and Hairbrella received support from a number of resources like Collab Capital (an investment firm that funds Black-owned businesses), Fearless Fund (which invests in businesses led by women of colour) and the Amazon Black Business Accelerator (BBA).
“These are all the types of things Black business owners can leverage to grow their business,” Pickett says. “I know for me, having a presence on Amazon has been great, and I think it’s great for other Black business owners to take advantage of that programme.”
Through the Amazon BBA, Pickett says she was able to learn how to navigate aspects of Amazon that she hadn’t been taking advantage of. Hairbrella started working with the BBA in July 2021, and the brand’s sales have since grown 150% in the Amazon store.1 “That’s been a combination of focusing on our Store and also using ads way more than we did before to grow month over month,” Pickett says. “Hopefully, we’re going to be a multimillion-dollar store on Amazon.com next year.”
With the help of the Black Business Accelerator, Tracey Pickett has learned how to grow her brand on Amazon. Since 2021, the brand’s sales have grown 150% in the Amazon store.
Pickett stresses the importance of Black business owners having access to these types of resources and opportunities.
“Many of us are the first to own a business in our families or even in our network,” Pickett says. “When someone tells you what you can expect or what you’re going to have to navigate, or even having access to capital – that makes the difference between giving up on your dream or actually being able to pursue it.”
As Pickett explains, those investors and those resources were the reason Hairbrella was able to launch in the brand’s first two years.
“Now we have multimillion-dollar companies inspiring creators to get out there and do it,” Pickett says. “It’s the reason why aspiring Black entrepreneurs can now actually realise their dreams. We have great ideas. It’s just that we have to be connected to the resources that allow us to really break through as first-generation business owners. Then, of course, we can reach back and help others.”
Today, Hairbrella is among the top-selling rain hats, and has been featured on Oprah Daily, Forbes, Good Morning America, Allure, The View and many other outlets. The brand has gone international, available in the US, the UK and Canada, with millions of dollars in sales worldwide. Next, Hairbrella is expanding into sports with running, swim, golf, and baseball products in unisex styles.
“We’re getting incredible feedback,” Pickett says. “And we’re excited about more ways we can become a top choice in functional headwear for customers.”
1 Advertiser-provided data, 2022