Wakati, which means "time" in Swahili, is a hair care brand for natural, textured hair. The four-product collection is available at Target, Walgreens and Walmart now

By Erica Gerald Mason
May 17, 2021 02:42 PM
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Jade Fryer FAMU student and Wakati Intern
Jade Fryer FAMU student and Wakati intern

When the creators behind Wakati began development on the hair care brand several years ago, they sought to launch a "transformational" collection, says Kenya Foy of the brand's marketing team.

The goal: for Wakati — a part of the Kao USA Inc. umbrella which includes Bioré, Curél, Jergens, John Frieda and more — to meet the needs of those with natural, textured hair at an accessible price point.

In order to "truly deliver" on that promise, says Foy, they got creative, and enlisted the help of business students from Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University (also known as Florida A&M or FAMU).

Wakati product line
Wakati's line of products (photo: brand)

"Our CFO, a FAMU alumni, reached out to some contacts there to see if some of their students would like to collaborate with us on this product," explains Foy, adding that their newfound teammates "were brought in pretty early on in the process and were involved in many aspects of developing Wakati, from packaging design insights, marketing plans and distribution guidance to gaining product feedback."

Wakati and FAMU "worked together to tackle consumer challenges and develop brand elements that would ultimately help birth it," Foy says. The collab is the first between the brand and the Historically Black University, but neither hopes it is the last. Below, PEOPLE spoke with FAMU student Jade Fryer about the process.

PEOPLE: Tell us about your experience being involved with product line development?

Fryer: "It was introduced to us business students with no details about the formula or the brand. As participants in a case study competition, we were tasked with creating a full marketing plan. My team placed first, which ultimately led to me working as the Marketing Intern on the Wakati brand during the summer of 2019."

PEOPLE: What did your team want to include in the marketing of the line?

Fryer: "When we competed in the student challenge, there were important things we knew had to be included, and one of those was to celebrate and show Black hair with big, natural curls. My team and I thought this insight confirmed the silhouette was the way to go with the brand packaging.

I also felt like one of the most important selling points was Wakati's partnership with FAMU. I knew that the FAMU community would absolutely love this and of course would support it. I also knew that Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HCBUs) love to support each other and seeing FAMU on a shelf would definitely pique other HBCU students' and alumni's interests. So, we were overjoyed to learn that FAMU's logo would [ultimately] be on the packaging."

PEOPLE: How did the FAMU students help with promotion and marketing?

Fryer: "The man behind the camera for our first Wakati photo shoot is a FAMU graduate, Stephon Williams. One of the models included in the shoot is also a FAMU graduate: Maya Dubois."

PEOPLE: Did your products have to pass the Auntie test?

Fryer: "We definitely wanted to make sure that these products were something that not only we would use, but our family and friends would use. As products were sent out, we collected as much feedback as possible from our loved ones — and the products did receive the stamp of approval!

Women with natural hair only put products they can trust in their hair. There is a community of natural hair enthusiasts on social media and on YouTube. This is where [many] women go to get information on natural hairstyles, products and more. That being said, I wanted Wakati to have [digital] content that both eased the mind of the consumer (because the product was new and not well-known) and showed results."

PEOPLE: What can you say about your school's role in the creative process?

Fryer: "As a woman of color with natural hair and an HBCU student, Wakati's partnership with FAMU is special to me. Not only did it give me and other students the opportunity to put our creative ideas together to develop a marketing plan for the brand, but it gave me the opportunity to intern in a city I had never been in, allowing me to meet new people and gain new professional experiences. FAMU, and more specifically SBI, played a significant role in Wakati's creative process."

PEOPLE: What did being a part of this launch mean to the students?

Fryer: "As students, we appreciated the company's efforts to include us in all stages of the process. Wakati is the first brand of its kind to partner with an HBCU. Seeing our schools get the attention and the recognition they deserve is fulfilling. There is so much untapped talent at HBCUs, and Wakati is doing its best to uncover it through its influencer and student ambassador programs."

PEOPLE: What message do you hope consumers take away from the Wakati line?

Fryer: "Natural hair symbolizes the freedom associated with being unapologetically you. For our community, this means being able to go to work without being told that our hair is 'unprofessional.' This means young girls are able to go to school without being told that they have to either take their braids down or go home. This means men and women won't be told that their locks are 'dreadful,' hence the term 'dreadlocks.' Natural hair is beautiful in all of its forms and should be valued as such."

PEOPLE: What's your favorite product in the line?

Fryer: "My favorite product in the line is the Wakati Oil-Infused Cream. I use it as a base on all of my styles now! The Water-Activated Advanced Conditioner will always hold a special place in my heart though."

PEOPLE: How does it feel to walk into a store and see your product on the shelf?

Fryer: "I've been blessed enough to see Wakati from its early stages of development to being on the shelf at both Walgreens and Target. Knowing that I played a part in its success is a great feeling, especially because my beloved, soon-to-be alma mater is also included in this success."

Shop the collection at Target, Walgreens and Walmart now.