While “scalp health” may be the latest buzzword in haircare, for Canviiy founder Sherrel Sampson, the concept is in no way new. In fact, she’s been preaching about the importance of scalp care since founding her own haircare brand in 2014.
After battling a persistent itchy scalp, Sampson was inspired to take matters into her own hands and formulate her own botanical-based scalp care products. By doing so, the hair entrepreneur has been able to fill a much-need void in the haircare market and attract a loyal following in a category that’s been seeing quite a boom lately.
Despite already cultivating exciting partnerships with the likes of Target and Moffitt Cancer Center, her brand has no plans of slowing down anytime soon. In fact, this month, Canviiy announced that it’s expanding its retail presence and will be launching into 2,000 CVS & Sally Beauty stores. Along with this exciting news, the brand also shared that they’ve launched their very own retail concept called Florida Organics by Canviiy at Orlando International Airport and have expanded their product lineup to include a new scalp balm, shampoo, and conditioner.
Ahead, The Tease spoke with Sampson about Canviiy’s growing retail presence, why the brand’s new products are a must-try, misconceptions about Black-owned brands, and her tips for entrepreneurs hoping to thrive during the pandemic.
The Tease: This month, Canviiy will be launching into 2,000 CVS and Sally Beauty stores. What have these partnerships with major retailers really meant for the brand?
Sherrel Sampson: It’s extremely exciting for us. I mean, when you look at it, as of last year, we were in about 300 stores. So, going from 300 stores in 2021 to over 2,000 stores is just “wow!” It’s just a proud moment for us because we really started this brand at a grass-roots level and just to see it blossom and grow in a very organic way has just been really beautiful.
This February has seen a number of other Black-owned brands also launching into retail this month. How does it feel to be expanding your retail presence during Black History Month and see so many other Black-owned brands doing the same?
Sampson: For me, it just shows that large retailers are starting to recognize the innovation that Black-owned brands are bringing to the marketplace. They are giving us our fair chance. It’s not easy, but they’re at least giving us a chance to present the innovation that we’re bringing to the marketplace and they’re recognizing it and saying, “Hey! We’re going to give this brand a shot to really prove what they can do.” So, in Black History Month, it’s just a huge recognition to be launching in February, but also it just really shows the progress that we’ve made in terms of buyers and retailers alike just respecting the formulations and the quality products that we are bringing forward in the market.
When it comes to Canviiy’s retail presence, how are you continuing to find other ways to reach consumers more directly? The brand already utilizes such diverse distribution channels.
Sampson: In terms of how we think about growth, for us it’s about making sure that we can build a sustainable business—one that’s not just focused on one revenue channel. That’s just, in my opinion, smart because at the end of the day, if you rely on one channel and if something doesn’t work out, your business can be very fragile, in that regard. So, as we started to build, it was important to build a strong business model around diversification and for me, it’s not about going wide. It’s not about following trends. It’s about following your niche and following what you’re great at and going deep with that. That’s exactly how we look at it in terms of, yes, we partner with Moffitt Cancer Center, but we are currently speaking with other potential healthcare partners in the healthcare space—particularly, in the cancer space. And so, for me, it’s interesting because I like to, in a way, be a trailblazer. I’m not necessarily focused on what competition is doing, but I’m focused on how we can optimize our brand, how we can make ourselves different, and how we can create that special niche for ourselves and ultimately, deliver innovative, excellent products.
Canviiy recently launched a new retail concept, featuring a number of Florida-made products, at Orlando International Airport. How did that partnership come about?
Sampson: I actually spoke to Orlando executives—small business executives—and pitched them on the concept. So, I spoke with them and honestly, I had to rally other brands to buy into the concept and they were excited. Orlando is the busiest airport in Florida. So, when you think about the opportunity—yes, we’re in retail, but how do we maximize the eyeballs and how do we drive traffic in-stores? Also, how do we drive trial purchases, right? We know that some people are going to discover us there. It’s a great discovery channel for us. And, it’s a great trial channel for us, as well.
Additionally, Canviiy just released three new products: the Hydrate + Strengthen Scalp Balm as well as the Moisture + Repair Shampoo and Conditioner. What are you most excited about with these launches and do you have a personal favorite product?
Sampson: In terms of the shampoo and conditioner, we knew that we had to introduce them to the line because it was a natural complement to our current assortment. For individuals that may have product buildup or may be dealing with dandruff and flakes, our foam treatment is a solution that they use, however it’s a post-shampoo solution. So, we would often get that question of where’s the shampoo? And, we didn’t have it yet. So, we definitely thought it was just a natural complement to the assortment. It had to be. Then, there’s also the fact that we wanted to make sure that it was really great—not just something that we threw in there, but with different performance attributes. Like, how does it feel on the hair? Does it dry out the scalp? Is it ultra-moisturizing? For conditioner, does it have detangling attributes? Is it softening? And, more importantly, are the ingredients in there actually giving you those strengthening properties that you need for your hair follicles? So, just really looking at the synthesis of the ingredients and making sure they’re going to perform really well for our customers across the board.
And, I would say hand-down that the scalp balm has to be my favorite because I really think that this is going to be a replacement, particularly in the scalp moisturizing category. There are oils out there. There are petroleum greases. But, there is nothing like this. I don’t think there is any balm that isn’t petroleum-based on the market, so I want to say that we’re actually the first to bring a non-petroleum scalp balm to the market. And, when I tell you that it’s extremely lightweight—it literally melts on your scalp and it has a slight tingling sensation. It’s so smooth and it penetrates beautifully. So, forget about Blue Magic and forget about your grandmother’s grease. This is next-level grease and moisturizing for the scalp.
The “skinification of hair” trend has really taken off over the last few years and as a result, we’ve seen a greater interest in scalp health. Since its inception, Canviiy has always made scalp health a key focus of the brand. With that being said, how has Canviiy responded to this increased focus on scalp care and seeing other hair brands start to move into this category?
Sampson: So, actually it’s a really exciting time because what it emphasizes is, for one, that we’re trailblazers, right? We were ahead of the game seven years ago when we started this. But, what it’s actually done is that when the larger multinational brands do come into the category—while they do have the ability to take shelf space—it gives more focus on what other brands are out there that are offering premium scalp care. And, in my opinion, it allows us to sit at the table and at least have a discussion. While we may not win all the opportunities, I feel that with the big players focusing on it and many other brands developing scalp products, I believe that it’s opened up doors. It’s sort of perfect timing.
And, I think, similar to all trends, there are going to be people such as myself that are going to continue to innovate quality products and then you’re going to have the “me too” products that are going to exist. For those brands and companies, once the trend is gone, they may discontinue the items or the line and then move on to the next trend. Those of us that are really true to what we are doing—true to being in the category and wanting to innovate—are going to continue to innovate and those that are interested in moving to the next trend, will do so. That’s how I look at it. I stay in my own lane. We focus on what works for use. We’re going to focus on continuing to innovate not just our products, but our business model as well. At the end of the day, we’re going to be the best that we can be and that’s all we can do.
When it comes to Black-owned brands, there is often a misconception that products created by Black people are only for Black people. Have you experienced this with your brand Canviiy? In your opinion, what needs to be done to change this perception, particularly on the part of retailers and the media?
Sampson: In my opinion, I think this time and this moment is really unique and really revolutionary for Black-owned brands and I think through my lens, I see it as a form of appreciation. I’m greatly appreciative that brands and outlets such as yourself are giving us opportunities to even have a voice. And so, I definitely want to start there. But, I think for our brand it’s a little different because we have diversity across different channels. They understand that it’s not just for Black consumers. Of course, you are going to run up against the, “Oh, is it for me?” But, I think it’s actually the responsibility of the brands. And, this is coming with my marketing hat on because, at the end of the day, if you only show Black imagery then that’s how they’re going to recognize your brand. So, I think having that diversity in your imagery, in your marketing, and in your campaigns will help consumers and media outlets alike know that it’s not just for Black consumers or African-American consumers. I think there is responsibility for both—for outlets and for brands to make sure that their content is diverse—and that’s one of the things that I always enforce and reinforce with my team. Yes, our core is no doubt African-American women—professional women—but we have to make sure that we are speaking to different ethnicities and making sure that they know that we don’t just serve one particular customer. So, I feel as if there is a responsibility as a leader to make sure and communicate that.
What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs that are trying to thrive in this pandemic-era market?
Sampson: I think as we experience growth it’s important to know what your values are as an individual and as a team. I think if you know what those values are as you start to grow, you won’t become distracted. For example, with us, one of our goals is to have humility—have humility towards our customers, have humility towards our peers, but more importantly, have humility as you grow. Because, at the end of the day, I truly believe as fast as you can grow or as big as you can grow, you can come down just as fast. So, it’s important throughout this journey that you remain humble because at the end of the day, you can rise and you can fall. That’s one of the values that I keep near and dear to my heart. I thank my peers. I thank my team. I thank my customers. I thank my suppliers. I thank my partners such as Orlando Airport because at the end of the day, they are entrusting my vision. They are entrusting that I’m going to deliver excellence and more importantly, I need the support of everyone to do that. I can’t do that by myself. So, that’s the advice that I would share. As you grow, make sure that you have a strong foundation. Make sure that you’re rooted in other things, other values other than money and at the end of the day, always be humble enough to say thank you and show the support to your village and to your community and to your partners who support you.
Interview has been edited for length and clarity.
To learn more about Canviiy, be sure to follow @canviiy on Instagram.