Industry: Mainstream Beauty
Name(s) of founding student: Mejoy Lawson, MBA and MSI ’21, Kene Onuorah, MBA ’21
Brief description of the solution: Comme Homme (pronounced come home) is a tech brand that bridges the gap between self-care and mental well-being. Beginning by tackling the insecurities associated with hair loss, Comme Homme combines community, augmented reality technology and uniquely designed scalp care products to inspire confidence in the millions of men facing hair loss. hair.
Funding Dollars: Around $100,000 through grants, pitch competitions and accelerators.
What led you to start this adventure? Around the age of 26, I noticed my hair thinning around the hairline and crown. This realization was hard to accept as I was someone who liked to change my hairstyle every few years. I had braids, waves, an afro and a fade growing up. Therefore, coping with permanent baldness was a tough pill to swallow. I struggled with that for a while, and a few years later, on January 1, 2017, I decided to go home (a phrase used to describe men who shave their heads). This was the most liberating decision I have made in my grooming/self-care journey. I received praise and compliments from my family and friends, which boosted my confidence and strengthened my belief that I had made the right decision.
Fast forward to 2019, when I was entering business school at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, I met my co-founder, Kene Onuorah, who suggested I start a brand specifically aimed at bald men. He had faced similar difficulties in his hair loss journey and noticed that there was no product on the market that served our community. Ultimately, being intimately familiar with the problem and, after doing market research, learning that nearly 50 million men in America are facing similar struggles with no real solution in sight, motivated me to start this company.
What has been your biggest achievement so far with Venture? My biggest accomplishment was creating our three introductory scalp care products (Scalp Wash, Scalp Exfoliator and Scalp Moisturizer). Prior to starting Comme Homme, I had no understanding of consumer product development, manufacturing and supply chain. I spent several months researching ingredients, researching contract manufacturers and packaging suppliers to not only understand the process, but also to ensure that I could create products that would add value to our target consumer. As I write this, I’m staring at my living room filled with boxes of tested products ready to ship to any bald man looking for products made specifically for him. Products designed to target the pain points that bald men face on a daily basis. There is no greater feeling!
How did your MBA program help you move this startup forward? Michigan Ross and the University of Michigan provided me with a strong business curriculum supported by a tight-knit community. I have participated in several programs through the Zell Lurie Institute, an institute dedicated to immersing UM students in entrepreneurial environments where they create, lead, and shape innovative businesses. These programs included the Eugene Applebaum Dare to Dream Grant Program (a multi-semester business-building program offering start-up workshops and mentoring, and awarding grants of $300 to $5,000) and the Michigan Business Challenge (a competition campus-wide multi-round business plans where teams of students have the opportunity to win cash prizes totaling more than $100,000, get feedback from business leaders, and expand their business network), which we won. Additionally, I was elected Managing Director of the Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, a student-run early stage investment fund, which gave me exposure to other startups within the ecosystem of the University of Michigan. In summary, my MBA experience at Michigan Ross and UM provided me with the leadership and organizational skills necessary to succeed through coursework and experiential learning opportunities. Additionally, he provided resources to help build, shape and structure the idea of Comme Homme into a fully functional and scalable business venture.
Which founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How has it turned out to be motivating for you? My mother was the serial entrepreneur who inspired me to start my entrepreneurial journey. She is a trained beautician who owned a beauty salon adjoining our house. She then changed careers to become an award-winning international fashion designer. Over the years, I have gained a deeper perspective on my mother’s entrepreneurial journey and learned to appreciate it. Witnessing his drive, vulnerability and ultimate ownership of his success strongly influenced my passion to start my own entrepreneurial journey. She is always who I turn to whenever I need advice on this path.
Which MBA class was the most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you learned from it? In my experience, a big part of the life of an early startup involves managing the limited capital deployed within the company. To this end, the basic financial accounting class was extremely valuable. Without any previous business training, I needed to understand how to effectively manage our capital, the impact of each decision on our financial statements, and how to discuss these decisions and reports with potential investors. The case-based teaching method coupled with a plethora of real-life examples provided by Professor Ross Greg Miller in this course gave me real-world steps to becoming a financially responsible business owner. Additionally, Professor Miller was extremely accessible outside of class when I needed additional support with our financial projections. Since then, it continues to be a sounding board around the construction and understanding of critical financial and accounting practices.
Which professor has made a significant contribution to your projects and why? As a direct-to-consumer startup in 2022, it’s important to have a strong and consistent brand identity, presence, and design that permeates all aspects of your products. For this, as we approached the final stages of creating our products, we needed a packaging designer for our bottles and tubes. After several failed attempts to find a designer we felt comfortable with, we reached out to the University of Michigan School of Art and Design for help. We received a response from Professor Franc Nunoo-Quarcoo, a professor of Branding & Product Design, who was delighted to hear from us and wanted to know more about our company. After an initial conversation, Professor Nunoo-Quarcoo told us that he would be happy to work with us. For 4-5 months Professor Nunoo-Quarcoo (and his wife) worked hand in hand with us to design our packaging. Their support has contributed significantly to our product development schedule.
How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to the development and success of your business?
Michigan’s startup ecosystem contributed to the development of Comme Homme early on by helping to shape and structure the idea. Resources in the form of mentorship, grants and advisors have accelerated our growth. Programs within Michigan Ross and UM, such as the Zell Lurie Institute, Michigan Law Clinic, and optiMize (to name a few), have been key to our success. Ann Arbor Spark and New Enterprise Forum were organizations affiliated with the University of Michigan that also provided resources to support our development.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? I would like Comme Homme to become a brand known for providing personal care products and physical and mental well-being services to support men’s growth, maturation and health. Our mission is to help men embrace their natural evolution. Therefore, I would like the company to support all aspects of human evolution by providing products and services aimed at solving the critical issues that men face as they grow. We start with hair loss, but the vision is much bigger.
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