Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.
In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In launched The Future 5 across 11 major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. Read our round-up of Atlanta’s rising startups from last quarter here.
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In a world full of various standards and stipulations, “come as you are” may sound more like a challenge than an invitation. Fortunately, an Atlanta startup is on a mission to rewrite this narrative and help people take pride in their natural appearance. Young King Hair Care develops personal grooming products designed to meet the needs of young men of color.
Stefan and Cora Miller launched Young King back in December of 2019, but the inspiration behind the project started back when their now five-year-old son was born. Little Kade came into the world with a full head of hair, so his mother went shopping for products for him early on. However, Cora Miller’s search for clean, plant-based natural hair care products specifically designed for curly-haired young men came up empty.
“As a woman, she’d always been grown and groomed in a hair care routine, but [she] quickly found that equivalent didn’t exist for men,” Stefan Miller told Built In. “That aisle for male grooming … [is] really focused on adult men. So even as we think about young men of color, anybody from zero to 18, there really isn’t much that’s out there for them.”
Though the company began as a way for Stefan and Cora Miller to help their own son, the pair quickly realized that plenty of parents everywhere were in the same situation. Rather than having to resort to using options that are typically marketed toward women and girls, Young King aims to make products that young men can feel are genuinely meant for them.
Young King offers a range of products from curling cream to leave-in conditioner that are plant-based and crafted with natural ingredients like grapeseed oil, marshmallow root and shea butter. The company’s products are free of ingredients like sulfates, parabens and mineral oil that are prominent in many Black hair care products but aren’t actually proven to promote healthy hair. Young King also focuses highly on its products’ scent profile and developed citrus-based fragrance blends meant to be age-appropriate and approachable.
“We always say, for our young kings, we’re just the megaphone, we aren’t their voice. We’re just amplifying the ‘dopeness’ that they are doing and giving them the ability to be confident in their skin.”
As a beauty tech company, Young King is rooted in building self-esteem and confidence and grounding these in self-care, according to Stefan Miller. As the U.S. continues to progress into an age where straightened hair is no longer the societal standard, the company hopes to empower young Black men to show up as themselves and be comfortable with their appearance, be it with an afro or otherwise.
“The inspiration came from our son Kade, and [we] really just wanted to make sure that he was represented in the aisles and the places that he chose to step into,” Stefan Miller said. “We think, especially within our community, representation is so important and critical.”
The company has seen rapid growth amid increased adoption of its products. Two months after it launched, Young King was one of 10 brands accepted into a Target accelerator program out of 450 candidates. During its pilot year, the company made about $4,100 in revenue, according to Stefan Miller, and later on in 2021, it made over $3 million. Today, the company’s products are on the shelves at 1,500 Walmart and Target retail stores across the country.
In line with its goal to create a holistic self-care experience for young men, Young King launched a line of skin care products in April. Usually, the education on beauty and self-grooming that men receive growing up is less thorough than that of their women counterparts, Stefan Miller mentioned. Looking to change this norm, Young King now offers facial cleanser, toner, serum and moisturizer.
“We always say, for our young kings, we’re just the megaphone, we aren’t their voice,” Stefan Miller said. “We’re just amplifying the ‘dopeness’ that they are doing and giving them the ability to be confident in their skin. ... We desire to be the experts for everything that is positivity around young men of color.”