Welcome to Byrdie's series, The Hustle. We're profiling BIPOC individuals in the beauty and wellness industries who are usually behind-the-scenes. From the cosmetic chemists formulating your holy-grail serum to CFOs driving the biggest beauty companies forward, these women are the definition of career goals, and they're getting real about the journeys that led them to where they are—the highs, the lows, and everything in between.
After graduating from the University of Virginia, Nancy Twine felt the need to commemorate her mother's teaching. Twine's mother was a chemist and a physician. Growing up, the two would go to their local health food store to buy different oils, extracts, and butter. Twine and her mom would manipulate compounds to create beauty potions and solutions in their home.
This experience inspired Briogeo, an ingredient-conscious haircare brand created for all hair types. Twine launched the brand in 2013 with now-cult favorite products, including the Don't Despair, Repair Curl Mask, and Curl Charisma Conditioner. Briogeo has become a multicategory brand available at mega-retailers, including Sephora and Ulta Beauty. Twine set out on a mission to desegregate hair care through her brand, affording effective, safe options available to everyone, with Black women at the top of mind. Ahead, we spoke to Twine about her journey to building an award-winning hair care brand, where she sources inspiration, and what's next for Briogeo.
Tell us why you decided to change careers from finance to beauty.
When I started thinking about starting Briogeo, I was inspired by my mom and me solving our issues at home. I have naturally curly 3C hair, and the products and knowledge that exist today did not back then. I started my career in finance, so when I started thinking about what I would do next, I revisited memories of creating my own products.
There were a few fascinating dynamics at the time around 2010. First, a significant movement was happening in food, with consumers gravitating towards organic, natural foods. This was beginning to spill into the beauty world for the first time. As a beauty consumer, I shop for products like everyone else, and through my own consumer experience, I saw a white space in the market.
What made you want to start a haircare brand?
My affinity for haircare comes from navigating and creating products for my texture. Many of the brands that existed during that time didn't have products for me. In many ways, I felt left out. Few clean products performed well, and the void was glaring. So that was the inspiration. I also connected to cosmetic chemistry through what my mom did growing up.
What are your day-to-day responsibilities as the founder and CEO of Briogeo?
There's a significant distinction between the two because, from a founder's perspective, in many beauty brands, founders tend to be the creative director of their brands. CEO is more of an executive role, overseeing everything from finance to operations, supply chain, and more. I'm not the brand's creative director, but I work closely with creative and marketing and help provide a vision they can evolve.
Tell us some things that challenged you while building Briogeo.
You must evolve your team structure as the company develops. It started with just me, then interns to part-timers who became full-time with the needs of the business. We've had to leverage more of a formal structure to ensure everyone feels supported with clear strategies and visions for the team. At the same time, as you grow, you must maintain the ability to do things at speed and not get stuck by too much bureaucracy or people slowing things down.
What are some of the joys you've encountered while building your brand? I'm proud of what we've been able to do in terms of scaling our business with two of the largest beauty retailers in the world: Sephora and Ulta. We launched exclusively with Sephora in 2014 and went from being online only to being in 25 doors, to 50 doors, to being in all doors in North America. In 2021, we launched in Ulta, a huge moment for us because that quadrupled our brick-and-mortar footprint in the United States.
Overall, I'm proud of the ability to continue evolving, especially as the industry has become more competitive and saturated. We can serve many more Black women because we're more accessible, which was always part of the vision. I think we've made everyone feel welcome—no matter their hair texture or type—which I believe is powerful and unique to our brand.
What's your current haircare routine?
I only use Briogeo products unless it's a product that we don't make. For example, our product assortment doesn't use aerosols due to our commitment to sustainability. But sometimes, when I'm on set, I spray my hair to give it a hold. In the winter, my scalp gets flakey from dryness, which led to the creation of our dandruff relief shampoo. I love our Scalp Revival and Don't Despair Repair collections. I start with the Super Moisture Shampoo and the deep conditioning mask.
Before blow-drying my hair, I always prep it with the leave-in mask and finish with the strengthening treatment oil. If I'm wearing my hair curly, I'll use the Curl Charisma leave-in cream for definition and scrunch in some of the Curl Charisma Frizz Control for a light hold.
For Black History Month, Briogeo is partnering with We Speak models for the Curls For Consideration campaign centered around hair discrimination backstage. Why was it important for the brand to participate in the conversation?
[Editor's note: Twine brought Briogeo's Chief Marketing Officer Claudia Allwood on the call to discuss the campaign in depth.]
Allwood: Inclusivity, diversity, and representation are at the core of our business. And as a haircare brand, how we think about and discuss hair presents an empowering opportunity. Briogeo aims to educate stylists to facilitate a beautiful and elevated experience for talent with all hair types and textures.
We worked with We Speak Models, a talent agency focusing on casting exceptional, diverse talent, for this campaign. Our production crew featured almost entirely Black talent from our photographer, videographer, directors, and writers. The campaign intends to educate and empower models and stylists on sets and backstage. The conversation about inclusive hairstyling and how we treat people in the chair—and in general—is critical for us, even as a brand.
What's next for Briogeo?
Briogeo was created for Black women to feel represented in a line that serves everyone. It has also helped create more awareness among non-Black women about Black hair, so our community is also learning. We want to bring our core methodology around ingredients to styling, and we're doing tutorials online and bringing that education online and on shelves in our product offerings. We want to empower more Black and non-Black hairstylists to get comfortable and seek out training and information to style all hair textures confidently. Encouraging quality and evening the playing field is a priority for us.