How do you launch a global haircare products powerhouse when you’re in your 20s, have a full-time job, and have never manufactured a product of any sort? That was the question Nancy Twine used to ask herself when she began thinking about founding Briogeo, the award-winning haircare brand she built and ultimately sold in 2022. In the short span of eight years, Twine became one of a few black businesswomen who successfully launched and scaled a global business.
“So many businesses don’t succeed – not because the product isn’t great or the service isn’t great,” Twine says in a recent session of Goldman Sachs Talks, moderated by Alison Mass, chairman of Investment Banking. “Oftentimes, it’s just because people give up too soon. And so as an entrepreneur, half the battle is building that resilience to really stay the course through the ups and downs.”
It was a down period that pushed Twine to launch her company in the first place. Her mother, a physician and chemist, passed away in 2010, and Twine was looking for something to pour herself into to help deal with her loss. She remembered how happy it made her when the two of them used to go to their local health food store and bring home a variety of oils, extracts, and butters for formulating “very basic but functional beauty products,” Twine said.
She noted at the time how consumers were becoming more conscious about the types of ingredients they were putting on their hair, skin, and bodies. Twine resolved to start a company that would sell “clean” haircare products made from natural ingredients and free of sulfates, silicone, parabens, artificial dyes, and other synthetic additives. She also wanted to desegregate a haircare industry that traditionally has been sorted by race, by selling products for all hair types and textures.
“That’s when I had that aha moment where I said, ‘Wow, I could take this family tradition and actually potentially turn it into a business,’” Twine says. “The early beginnings of Briogeo were really like this therapeutic journey.”
Twine worked at the time in commodity sales and trading at Goldman Sachs. She had started her career at the firm in 2007, just before the start of the Global Financial Crisis. She says that chaotic time taught her “how to just figure things out,” including who to go to for information at the firm—and how to come up with solutions without having to ask people for answers.
That skill came in handy when Twine went to launch Briogeo. She found a manufacturer that would let her conduct a very small run of her first products under the fledgling brand. She hired consultants to help with marketing and make sense of the retail landscape. Then she went to exhibit at the annual Cosmoprof beauty trade show in Las Vegas in search of retail partners.
When a team from Sephora visited her booth on the last day she didn’t even know who they were because they flipped their name badges so as not to get hounded. Twine only got a first name for one of the reps and ultimately tracked her down on LinkedIn to secure a formal brand presentation at Sephora.
Briogeo became the first clean haircare product offered by the global cosmetics retailer, which now depicts a clean seal on products to distinguish them in the marketplace. Twine became the youngest black woman to launch a product at Sephora, and she decided to leave her job at Goldman to grow the company further. In 2019, she took on a private equity partner to invest further in the business. Three years later, Twine sold Briogeo to Geneva-based Wella Company.
Twine sees her story intertwined with countless other entrepreneurs who had to get past hardships and other challenges and keep pushing their ideas forward.
“The biggest piece of advice that I’ve gotten is really focusing on how you can cultivate that internal resiliency,” Twine says. “That is such an important superpower. On the journey of entrepreneurism, so much of it is about learning and growing and being able to take those learnings and apply it to your business.”
This episode was recorded on September 6, 2023.