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Candace Mitchell Harris: BeautyMatter NEXT 2023 Innovator of the Year

Published October 31, 2023
Published October 31, 2023
Candace Mitchell Harris

Candace Mitchell Harris was looking for answers to untangle and demystify her haircare questions when she turned to computer science to find a solution for women dealing with textured hair issues. She went from problem solver to pioneer, using her 17 years as a computer scientist to launch a beta version of Myavana, an innovative haircare technology using artificial intelligence to personalize product recommendations in 2012.

For over a decade, Candace pioneered within an overwhelmingly homogenous and noninclusive space to carve out solutions for BIPOC women, a group often ignored. Myavana analyzes hair strands and product variables using scientific strand analysis and HairAI to produce personalized haircare plans that support healthy hair and growth.

Candace has created the first AI system specializing in textured, multicultural hair, utilizing a recommendation methodology that is scientifically proven and trusted by some of the biggest brands in the world—including Sephora, Unilever, and Amazon. With over 2 billion hair strands analyzed, the business holds the world’s largest database of textured hair types and hair strand analysis. 

The Atlanta-based beauty tech company is disrupting the multibillion dollar texture hair category by melding science with industry-changing technology. As a B2C and B2B solution, Myavana's Personalized Consumer Intelligence Data changes how consumers make purchasing decisions and illuminates the massive data-validated opportunity for manufacturers to inform product development needs.

What’s one piece of advice you’ve gotten that’s guided you?

The best advice I’ve received is to not be afraid to be a pioneer because innovators have great faith that sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible. In the dynamic realm of business, innovation is the compass that guides us toward uncharted territories of success. It's a journey fueled by unwavering belief in the unexplored and the unconventional. I’m at a point in my journey where I’m now seeing the many seeds that were planted over the last decade bear so much fruit. I believe that the invisible seeds of groundbreaking ideas put into motion often appear elusive to the eye, but it is through embracing the power of faith that unveils their potential, perceives solutions hidden beneath the surface, and discerns opportunities where others see none. The intangible essence of innovation lies in the realm of imagination and creativity, which brings visions to reality.

What is the accomplishment you are most proud of so far?

I am most proud of being inducted into the Georgia Tech College of Computing Hall of Fame because it represents barriers broken for Black women in tech and also for myself internally. I struggled so much with fear, self-doubt, and imposter syndrome during my time in undergrad, and if the younger me could now see that I was honored in this way, those imaginary fears that often hold us back from walking fully in our purpose would all be eliminated. It taught me that when you go confidently in the direction of your dreams and remain steadfast in what you’re called to do, you will arrive right on time for your chosen destiny moment.

What’s been your best business mistake or failure?

I failed to raise venture capital in the earlier days of my business after meetings for over 18 months not going anywhere due to the lack of knowledge and interest in the beauty industry at the time—specifically the natural hair segment, which caused me to resort to creative ways of raising capital such as crowdfunding, pitch competitions, and accelerator programs. In hindsight, I realized that it ultimately worked out in my favor because I was able to retain a significant amount of equity when most founders were losing ownership due to consecutive rounds of funding. It taught me the importance of knowing your value, not giving up, and aligning with the right people strategically to grow your business, along with the necessity of being resourceful. It was a short-term pain that turned into a long-term gain.

What advice would you give to the next generation of beauty innovators?

I would encourage beauty innovators to examine the things that impact our inner and outer perception of beauty and create solutions that can have a positive impact on consumers’ self-esteem. I believe we’re at a time in the market where we’ve been so programmed about what we “think we should look like,” and there should be a movement to help people embrace their authentic beauty. New brands can enter the market that deeply resonate with their audiences emotionally and create solutions that not only make us look better but truly speak to the heart of the consumer.

What excites you the most about the future of beauty?

What excites me most about the future of beauty is that it’s literally being written (and coded) at this very moment, and there are so many problems to solve that are industry changing and shaping the way we shop, primp, and self-care. I’m also encouraged by the increase in diversity of leaders and founders in the beauty industry, which will equate to more representation in the products created that fulfill the needs of every pocket of consumers around the world. The future of beauty is now!


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