Have you ever had your perfect twist-out turn to frizz due to the summer heat and humidity? Or your skin start to feel like paper as we creep into the colder months of the year?
Or maybe you’re like tech entrepreneur Sian Morson, who relocated to a new city and found that her hair and skin weren’t quite acclimated to the weather conditions there.
Morson left behind the cool, fairly dry climate of California’s Bay Area to be greeted by the heat and humidity of Atlanta. After a while, she said her skin started to misbehave and that the products she had been using in the Bay Area just weren’t working for her anymore.
“So, I started talking to some women who had relocated from different parts of the country to Atlanta, and what they told me was that they had to make some changes too, in terms of the products they were using,” Morson told Atlanta Black Star. “So that got me thinking, if this is not just a problem that I was experiencing and other people were having the issue, maybe there was a way to technically address the issue.”
The app entrepreneur began hearing similar grievances from women across the country, which she said gave her the validation to fully explore the idea of creating a technical solution. Cue the birth of Cast Beauty, a mobile app that compiles weather data to provide women with personalized recommendations for hair and skin products. Users are asked to input their age, hair type (curly, straight, etc.), skin type (dry, oily or combination) and the city in which they reside. The user profile asks additional questions, but Morson said they are optional.
“Those are the only mandatory questions we have, because your age, your skin type and your hair type are really critical to the algorithms providing the products,” she explained. “We do our magic on the back end, and we go in and find the products that are best suited for you based on your current location.”
Users are also asked to register using their Amazon accounts, just in case they decide to purchase one of the recommended products.
The app features a good mix of high-end and low-end options, but Morson said the more expensive brands tend to be some of the better sellers. The app has yet to receive any negative feedback from customers who say they didn’t enjoy the products suggested to them.
“Pretty much that’s because if you get products that you don’t like, you can always refresh and the app will send you additional products,” the Cast Beauty CEO said. “So it’s not like you’re stuck with whatever is recommended. If you choose to continually refresh, you’ll get new products until you find something that you like, so that’s been a positive.”
One aspect of the app Morson is working to improve, however, is the visibility of its other valuable content. In addition to the product recommendations, Cast Beauty also features videos, articles and quotes about different hair/skin types and how to take care of them. Morson said some users have pointed out that content is hard to find, so she’s working on making it easier to get to.
So what do beauty brands get out of being featured on the app? In addition to product promotion, beauty companies are offered valuable consumer data measuring shopping behavior and product preference, among other things.
“The benefit of the application for beauty brands is the data that we provide,” Morson said. “Based on the data that we collect in the app, we understand where people are traveling, we know when they’re planning to travel, we know what products they like and what products they don’t like. And I think that information is critical for beauty brands.”
Morson also noted that 85 percent of the app’s users are women of color, so it’s important to gather information around their product preferences, as well as what brands they enjoy. That data is then passed on to beauty brands interested in having it.
The product-matching app is currently available on both the iOS and Android platforms, boasting roughly 3,000 downloads so far, according to Morson. She exclusively told Atlanta Black Star there’s also a Facebook extension of the app in the works. Users who currently have a Facebook account and may not be interested in downloading a separate app will soon have access to the same functionality offered on Cast Beauty.
“By using [Facebook] messenger and messaging the Cast Beauty bot, users can tell [the app] their hair type and skin type,” Morson explained. “And then the bot will recommend products for them.”
The app entrepreneur said she’s happy to see her brain child grow into a successful business, but noted that the journey hasn’t been easy. Morson revealed that she financed the app with money from her own pocket — no GoFund Me page or help from private investors. Just her.
“It’s challenging. I will say that,” she admitted. “It’s not the easiest road, so it certainly is easier to do a GoFundMe or try to get funding. But that could also hamper you in other ways.”
“I think that at this critical time for the app, it’s interesting and good to be able to maintain complete control over the direction that we’re going and just really be mindful of who we partner with,” Morson continued. “Because once you take money, you also get a partner. And you get people who are, for better or for worse, going to tell you what you need to be doing. It’s really important to just not take that decision lightly.”
Morson did quite the switch-a-roo as well. She previously served as founder and CEO of Kollective Mobile, a boutique mobile development agency that helped small firms and businesses create their own apps and develop brand identity. Now she’s at the opposite end of the spectrum, which she said allows her to take some of her own advice.
Morson currently runs Cast Beauty in tandem with Kollective Mobile, but admits that the “younger” app now takes up most of her time.
“I think I’ll always have some interest in [Kollective Mobile], but it’s like you have one kid and then you have another kid, but the younger kid usually gets more of your time and more of your energy,” she explained. “So that’s kind of what’s happening with CAST Beauty.”
Morson’s new is app is just one way technology could potentially “disrupt” the beauty industry. The tech entrepreneur said it’s time for higher-ups in the world of beauty to understand that the standards that have been set over the last century are no longer applicable. They need to understand that women are not a monolith, nor do they have the same hair textures and skin types.
“The beauty industry needs to wake up to that fact,” she said. “Because my audience is mostly Black women, I’m privy to what brands they prefer, what brands they like. And I think the beauty industry really needs to acknowledge that. I think it’s happening, but it’s not happening quickly enough. And so I think that technology is really where I think that change can happen a lot faster.”
Cast Beauty is on a roll so far, saving hair styles and skin catastrophes one day at a time. But Morson said she has bigger and better ideas for the app that she hopes to put in motion in the near future. First, she said she needs a bigger team to support her growing audience. After that, the tech entrepreneur plans to expand her brand internationally.
“Right now we’re focusing on the U.S. market but ultimately, we would love to expand to Japan and China and the continent of Africa,” she said. “We want to be able to get beauty products into the hands of women all over the world. I think that that is our goal.”
“I also think some key partnerships that we’re working on right now could materialize in the next couple of years and really set the stage to get us where we want to go,” Morson added. “So, partnerships with not just beauty brands, but publications and things like that, is where we’re looking to head in the next couple of years.”
So far, the forecast looks sunny for Morson and her unique Cast Beauty app.