Initialized Capital-backed Naza shifts focus from the salon to hairstyle boxes during the pandemic

When Naza first opened its doors to women of color seeking quality hairstyle solutions in San Francisco in February, Naza founder Natanya Montgomery did not anticipate what would come next. Within the first few days of launch, Naza booked more than 300 appointments and all was well until it wasn’t. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the shelter-in-place ordinance in San Francisco, Naza shut down its brick-and-mortar location in March.

“We had intended to focus on the salon for a little longer than 20 days,” Montgomery told TechCrunch. “But the universe had other plans.”

In light of the store’s temporary closure, Naza has fast-tracked its style boxes to help women do their hair at home. It’s everything you need to learn a hairstyle, Montgomery said, likening it to a meal kit.  There are three kits: one for people who want to wear their hair naturally, one for crochet goddess locks and one for braid twists. But for those that need more help, Naza is also offering Zoom parties where people can learn how to do their hair.

“They’re skills that sometime between the age of six and twelve, a lot of black girls learned,” Montgomery said. “But there’s a secret society of us that never got the memo. Now, if you missed that memo, here’s how you can make up the time.”

Naza launched these boxes on Tuesday and sold out in less than 24 hours, but more will be available in the coming weeks. They are currently available for pre-order on Naza’s site.

“These will continue post-pandemic,” she said. “The curation of products was sort of fast-tracked. This would’ve been maybe eight months to a year down the line. Something that has been really exciting in the grand scheme of things is how differently founders are forced to look at the product roadmap. What is appropriate for right now versus what we thought would be appropriate for right now.”

Montgomery recognizes that some people may see haircare as self-indulgent, especially during a time when people are dying. But self-care, she says, is one of the ways people can get through these times.

“Thinking through how the majority of our customers are black and brown women and how they’re being disproportionately affected — whether that be by layoffs or by the actual virus itself,” she said. “There’s a lot going on in life and also mentally, so we’re thinking through how we can act as a place of support and a little joy.”

Beyond the pandemic, Montgomery feels optimistic about the long-term success of Naza. For one, it raised $1 million in capital from Initialized Capital earlier this year. Secondly, the style boxes are doing well “has given us space,” she said.

We are in a position that is different from small businesses in that we have a little bit of runway to be able to pay our people and ensure there is still a business standing afterward,” she said.