I first heard about Tamiah Bridgett through a mutual friend who was telling me about a hair meetup group called “It’s a Natural Thang.” Tamiah and I were introduced a short time later and ever since then I have been an avid member of the Tamiah Bridgett fanclub. Not only does she set an amazing example for grace under pressure, she is also a fearless leader, always showing us where the light is shining. These past two years it’s been especially wonderful to watch Tamiah step into her role as inventor entrepreneur with her own hair tool line called Diversame. Diversamé creates tools with natural/afro textured, coiled, and curly hair textures at the center of design. I sat down with Tamiah to talk about her vision, her product, and just how she got to be such a mover and shaker!
Tara Sherry-Torres: You have been instrumental in creating a space of support and education for women (of color) and their hair in Pittsburgh. I have also heard you speak about your own negative experiences with salons using chemicals, etc. Can you please talk about your profession and “It’s A Natural Thang” journey?
Tamiah Bridgett: This is one of my favorite stories to tell! It’s a bit lengthy but a lot of fun.
I went natural in 2001. I was a grad student and didn’t have time to make my bi-weekly hair appointments. I had some braids put in twice and became fascinated by my new growth. I noticed between braid sessions, it was a much richer shade and full of sheen.
At that time I had a few friends serve as natural hair inspiration for me. One evening, I decided to cut the remaining ends of my relaxer off down to my roots! Within a month, I had mastered double strand twists and twist-outs enough for people to ask who did my hair. That’s why I always say I kind of happened upon doing hair.
I would tell people that I wasn’t a stylist. I had a manicuring license and had been doing that for a while but was not a hair dresser. I was met with “I don’t care, I don’t want a relaxer anymore! If you can do yours, you can do mine!” So, one person told the next person, and I went on to start working as a school therapist with a “side hustle.” Over the years I discovered new techniques, and by 2010 natural hair was all the rage!
There were blogs and vlogs and product entrepreneurs and folks becoming natural hair “gurus/celebrities” and meetups. I thought to myself, hmm. I know enough women that would probably want to come together to meet-up about hair and I could do a Natural Hair 101 session. June of 2010 I hosted that session with about 12 folks. We agreed to meet again but in our homes to defray costs. By the time we met a third time, there were folks on top of folks, sitting up the stairwells, thigh to thigh on the couches, on the floor! We agreed to take a break for winter and reconvene in the spring. An attendee suggested I start a Facebook group of some sort to keep up with each other during our break. I said, “I can’t do that. People are too mean.” I considered it overnight and formed the group in spite of my initial reservations. That was when It’s a Natural Thang was born! We started with 18 members and here we are in 2017 with 5,500! (We remain a private group). We host meetups with education, vendors and local and national product sponsors.
In 2011, I returned to cosmetology school to receive my license and decided to stay for the instructor’s course. In 2013 I became a licensed cosmetology educator. I wanted to use this role to advocate for more natural hair education in cosmetology schools but instead, ended up starting Diversamē !
TT: Tell us about Diversamē. Where did the idea come from? How did you bring it to fruition? What are the next steps?
TB: At one of the IANT meetups I met a young lady named Courtney Williamson. She asked me to consult with her about her hair concerns. During that time, she told me of a company she started with the assistance of an accelerator program called Alphalab Gear. I thought it was so exciting!
I pulled out my “rigged up” blow dryer and she asked me why I had it rigged and I explained that blow drying natural hair over the years had taken it’s toll on my hands and arms. The most efficient way of drying hair had been to literally tie my comb attachments onto my dryer. I mentioned that I wished I could change the traditional blow-dryer to be better suited for extremely curly/coily hair. She told me that I should come meet the folks at Gear and I did. They encouraged me to apply for the next cycle. I did and I was accepted! That’s when Diversamē was born. We are a company creating hair tools with textured hair at the center of design. I decided to start the first tool with my personal pain point, the hair dryer.
I received an investment to develop a prototype of the dryer. I hired engineers and had several advisors in the process. Today, we are at full prototype phase and are almost at the end of a crowd funding campaign to raise the funds needed for a first round of mass production.
TT: I love how your website says that it’s a styling product for the majority of hair. Please talk a little bit about what that means. Have you encountered ignorance to understanding the reality of hair textures while developing Diversamē ?
TB: Yes! The initial blow dryer was developed for straight, fine hair at the center of design. Even as new versions of the dryer developed, it was considering the process of those with less than a slight wave for hair. The majority of hair types don’t fit into this category. The majority of hair types around the world consist of wave, density, curl, coil and yet, those with those attributes continue to go underserved with hair-tools and accessories.
During the initial process, explaining the need for this tool was exasperating! People refuse to see that we are all different with different hair all using the same methods of drying! Even in cosmetology school, they teach a basic four section blocking for organizing the hair. Some folks can do it in 4 sections but the majority of the heads I work with need 8-10 sections.
We live in a day and age where we can use remote controls on our cell phones but are expected to continue to shove round holes into square pegs when it comes to styling tools? The majority of dryer designers/manufacturers have defaulted straight/ slightly wavy hair when designing, what about everyone else? That’s what makes our company so unique. We consider to processes of people who need “custom settings.”
TT: Do you have plans to expand the Diversamē product line?
TB: Indeed! Once we get the dryer into mass production we will (lord willing) be able to scale the company at which time, our product and tool roadmap is explosive! Get ready!
TT: What wisdom would you share with other young women inventors and entrepreneurs?
Be a student of your own experiences. Be willing to learn and screw up (Because you will. Many, many times). Do it afraid. The support system you expect is not always the support system you will have. Embrace those who embrace you and forgive the rest. Shine even when you want to fade.
TT: How and when can people buy your product?!
TB: Be sure to sign up to our email list on www.Diversamē .com to be the first to know when we launch post campaign.