the story behind bread, australia’s first textured hair-care brand
How Maeva Heim is changing the face – and hair – of the Australian beauty industry.
Maeva Heim, the founder of textured hair-care brand Bread Beauty Supply, wants to see more Black women running large beauty companies. With a loyal community of ‘Bread heads’ (what Maeva calls her devoted customers) and celebrity fans, Bread’s product range now spans hair oil, hair wash, hair masks, and accessories. But in the early days, Maeva wondered whether a thoughtful brand experience could exist for young Black women and women of colour who weren’t interested in – or wanted to stop – relaxing their hair.
Maeva’s introduction to hair care and beauty started as a teenager in the late ’90s, working for her mum’s beauty salon in Perth – one of the first to offer African hair braiding. “I was in the salon every school holiday, every weekend, sometimes even after school. I would help my mum braid hair, answer the phones and take appointments.”
The salon was also where Maeva’s appreciation for e-commerce was born. “On the side, I would bulk-buy beauty products from eBay and convince my mum to sell them in the salon.” It wasn’t long before she was connecting the dots between world events and product curation. “I would spend a lot of time on international political forums to see what the latest trends were, research suppliers in China, and get all sorts of custom-made and imported hair-related products.”
Her early experiences at the salon eventually led to an interest in studying business and marketing at university, which soon turned into a career in brand management for corporate beauty and consumer products. Working behind the scenes, Maeva noticed that many companies weren’t speaking directly to Black women and women of colour: “To me, there was a disconnect between ownership, what was happening in the market, and who would be speaking to the market.” Her boyfriend soon prompted her with a career-changing question: what are you going to do about it? “When it comes to Black people in positions of power, it's usually entertainers or sportspeople,” Maeva says. “But where is the Black Steve Jobs? And why aren't we seeing enough of that?”
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As an Australian consumer who didn’t have access to the same depth of Black beauty experiences or products as US customers, Maeva wanted to start shifting industry power structures. “I knew I could take all of these ideas and insights I had collected about what should be happening in the market and create a brand that’s part of the movement towards creating a more diverse beauty industry.”
Maeva has always been someone who created her own opportunities. Bread started off as a side hustle, but she knew it could be something bigger. Still, the process of fundraising to launch the brand took a few years. “In those early days, getting tangible help was a challenge. I knew what we were building, and I had the confidence that it would work out. But we needed resources and funding to be able to do it.”
Maeva ended up spending a few years flying between Australia and the US to build relationships with potential investors. “That was super-challenging to do, and I feel like it took a long time. But I also knew I wanted to get it right. It wasn’t something I wanted to rush.” Another hurdle was convincing people of Bread’s potential while she was on the path to making the product a reality. She eventually invested in a personal loan to cover business costs because she had the conviction that her idea would work out.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, Maeva was cautious about overwhelmingly positive feedback towards her business idea when pitching. “The rhetoric you hear in fundraising circles is that you want to actively get a lot of pushback,” she says. “You want to get a lot of ‘this is a bad idea’-style feedback to know that you’re onto a winner because it means other people are concerned about something that you aren’t aware of.” To test her ideas, she also developed a big-picture idea of why other brands often failed: “There are so many different factors that impact this market: pre-existing power structures, not enough funding in this space, and not many people having the opportunity to create something to fill this particular gap.”
Beauty entrepreneurs and independent brands have typically found it difficult to launch as direct-to-consumer, but Maeva aimed to fill that in-between space in the market. “You either have people creating products at home on a kitchen counter or on the other end of the spectrum, huge multinational corporations with lots of resources creating products for specific customers,” she says.
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When Maeva was ready to bring Bread Beauty Supply to life in 2019, finding the right retail partner who believed in the brand was a big step forward. “Once I knew what Bread was and why I wanted it to exist, I knew that I wanted my products to exist in Sephora,” she says. To get on Sephora’s radar, Maeva attended an event where she knew a Vice President from the company would be speaking. Her mission? Get face-to-face time, and pitch Bread directly.
Within 48 hours of speaking, Maeva was on a plane to San Francisco to present a pitch deck, which led to her being fast-tracked into Sephora’s Accelerate program in the US. Maeva is one of the first Australian founders to be accepted into the incubator program which focuses on founders of colour – the initiative has since also launched in Australia.
Bread launched in 2020, smack-bang in the middle of Covid-19. With so many operational challenges presented by the pandemic, plans for global expansion were cut short. “Things like being able to get supplies on a boat from one country to another and being able to get samples from different places to be approved for production was difficult,” Maeva explains. “We had to make some really quick and tough decisions around what we would do and decided to focus on the US exclusively.”
Now, Bread Beauty Supply is officially launching in Australia with Sephora – a personal milestone for Maeva. “It’s going to be a really surreal experience to see young girls picking up our products on shelves. The young women of Australia who haven’t always felt included – or are coming of age – get to have that experience of shopping with their friends and finding products made for them. That’ll make it worth it.”
Maeva’s advice for young entrepreneurs carving out their own path:
1. Take the time to do it right.
“Don't feel so much pressure or guilt about just launching something. Do it in the way that makes sense for you.”
2. Focus on what you’re building, not just what other people tell you to do.
“Approach things with a purposeful naivety. Assume things can be done in a completely different way, even if you’re launching a product in a category you have a lot of expertise in.
3. Take a risk and believe in yourself.
“What I did was approach things with a lens of ‘I know this is how it's done’ while also thinking, 'what's the harm in trying something different?'”
See more from Bread Beauty Supply over here.