Black-owned beauty delivery services expands to Pittsburgh

Written By Tia Bailey, Co-Features/A&E Editor

When Michael James’s girlfriend was getting ready for an event and needed to get to a beauty supply store, James suggested she get her supplies delivered to her—only to find out that such a service did not exist. 

Michael James and Ian Grant II are the founders of WaySlay, a beauty delivery service that helps out small businesses and has recently expanded to Pittsburgh. 

“Michael was doing some research to help his girlfriend get ready faster, and unfortunately, nothing like that existed,” Grant said. “And the nearest beauty supply store was like 20, 30 minutes away. So he started looking into this a little further with her to see how can we find a solution for her, and from there, he did some more research and told me about what she was experiencing.” 

James has a background in on-demand services, so this situation made him realize that there was a market for this. From there, he and Grant began to connect with local beauty supply stores as well as friends and family to understand their needs, primarily women of color. 

They asked women of color if there was a delivery service for the beauty supply stores they go to if they would utilize the service. After getting positive feedback, they began to start the company. 

WaySlay was started in Miami and has now been expanded to Pittsburgh. The app delivers beauty supplies from small businesses all around the city.

“When COVID hit, I ended up moving to Pittsburgh just to get away from the craziness and everything that was going on in Miami,” James said. “I was just gonna be here for a while at least, so I figured while I’m here, the demographic of Pittsburgh is our demographic. It’s 23% African-American population, and it’s a small city, so it’s easy for us to get the word out and partner with stores that can give us coverage all across Pittsburgh. In addition to me just being here, it’s a good fit for our business.”

When WaySlay first launched in Pittsburgh, it immediately started off well. 

“We got a bunch of orders waiting from the very first store that we onboarded,” James said. “You could say it’s maybe from the experience that we gained, maybe it’s because we just are able to cover the whole city right away, but people are definitely interested.”

Although the service was not created because of the pandemic, they did find more people taking notice and using WaySlay after it started. 

“I think we do find that folks are using delivery a lot more often,” Grant said. “I think just in general, people still have a fear of being around others and in public, so this allows them to have their beauty supply needs delivered straight to their doorstep without worrying about interacting with anyone.” 

This is especially helpful for women of color who have to go to beauty supply stores to get the products they need. Ariana LaBarrie, WaySlay’s Head of Communications, explained that the products they need aren’t always offered in conventional stores.

“Having this delivery instead of having to go to one neighborhood to pick it up, I feel like we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that has been helpful as well,” LaBarrie said. 

WaySlay partners with small businesses in the area, most of which are beauty supply stores that specialize in products for women of color. 

“The stores that we’re partnering with…are local beauty supply stores that carry products that are typically designed for women of color,” Grant said. “So everyone has a different hair texture, and women of color typically have a thicker hair texture that requires hair care styling products that, to be honest, Target and Walmart where you can get delivery items from don’t carry, or just other hair needs like wigs and weaves since that’s very popular.”

The company focuses on local businesses. In Pittsburgh, they are partnered with Yerimah’s Sisters Beauty Supply (which is downtown, just minutes away from Point Park) and Hair City. 

“There aren’t too many that span state lines,” Grant said. “They tend to be fragmented, local beauty supply stores.”

Grant said the business is motivated to drive business to the stores. Similarly to food delivery services, consumers are charged a delivery and service fee, but a difference is WaySlay is partnered with a national delivery service, allowing their service to come at a lower cost for the beauty stores they are partnered with. 

“When an order is placed, a delivery driver is notified immediately, arrives at the beauty supply store within 5-10 minutes, and can typically deliver in as little as 20 minutes, but it is typically less than an hour for sure,” Grant said. 

The main purpose of WaySlay is to make shopping more convenient for consumers. They want people to get their beauty supplies in the easiest way to help them feel confident. This, to Grant and James, is the biggest benefit of the app for consumers. 

“We wanted to allow folks who maybe don’t have transportation opportunities, or maybe they have to take a bus to get to the beauty supply store, or maybe folks like yourselves who are busy doing different things who don’t have the time to take the trip to the beauty supply store, and then obviously to use those products to feel confident in whatever it is they’re looking to achieve in their lives,” Grant said. “So whether it’s for an interview or they are Skyping for work, that’s really our big purpose for WaySlay.” 

A big part of their demographic is single mothers who now do not have to take the trips to the stores with their kids, making the whole process easier for them. Another group that WaySlay markets to is college students; they deliver all throughout Pittsburgh, including downtown. 

“If you want to summarize it in a tagline, WaySlay was created so you can avoid the trip to the beauty supply store and get your products now,” James said. 

WaySlay is available both as an app and a website. 

“There’s actually three applications,” James said. “There’s an application as a consumer where you can place your order and track the progress of your order, add your payment information and all of that. There’s a merchant side of things where merchants can manage their storefronts, track their payments, reports, all that great stuff. And then there’s an admin portal, where we kind of see everything that’s going on in the app, help a customer if they need help, help a merchant if they need help and track everything that’s going on.” 

A benefit for retailers using the app is that they are being tech boosted, which helps improve their profitability, says Grant. 

“In addition to that, they have new lines of communication,” he said. 

Along with being catered to people of color, WaySlay also allows consumers to have access to more natural products that other stores may not have. 

“When you go to Target or Walmart, you’ll see a shampoo that has 30 different ingredients, and a lot of people are looking for more natural products that are only available at the beauty supply store,” LaBarrie said. “So I feel like that has kind of drawn more people not only to the app but to beauty supply stores in general where they can get more core products such as cocoa butter, argan oil, compared to the more processed stuff that is usually sold at mass retailers.”

As WaySlay continues to grow, they would like to keep expanding to other cities, as well as grow their company into more than an app.

“Right now, you look at WaySlay as an app that delivered beauty supplies,” James said. “But our goals are much higher. We want to be the number one supplier of beauty supply products in the world.”

They would like to be the go-to company for sales trends information on beauty supplies. Through AI, they want to be able to tell their partners what supplies are in demand and help the companies as well.

“We are very excited to be leading the way in this industry in a way that’s going to help our partners really be able to grow their business through our technology,” James said.