Image Source: Josh Rottman
Navigating the world of beauty product testing has taken on new forms in the age of COVID-19, but Tari Kandemiri has set her sights on making it easier for you online. For our column UNTOLD, she is sharing, in her own words, how she went from beauty novice to CEO of her own skin-care shopping platform, Hama Beauty. This story was told to Kelsey Castañon and edited for length and clarity.
Growing up as a young Black woman from Zimbabwe, I didn't see myself in the beauty space, especially in middle and high school. A lot of the beauty standards I saw after immigrating to the US in 2004, those women in the beauty ads, the commercials — they didn't look like me. Instead, I became more interested in other things I was doing, and I always loved technology. Since I was little, I spent tons of time on Neopets, MySpace, coding pages, all of that. Maybe I'd go to Claire's and buy a little makeup palette that they sold, or I might get a special lotion because my mom had it or my sister was using it, but I didn't know where else to find myself within the beauty space.
Part of the problem was, at the time, I didn't know the best way to find products for my skin. As someone who didn't know much about beauty, I always felt so overwhelmed when I would go to Sephora or Ulta or these different beauty retailers. It just felt like there were 20 to 100 products online or on the shelf that promised to help. But then, one could cost $70 and the other would cost $15. I couldn't tell which would be the best for my particular skin tone or for my hyperpigmentation, and I had to read tons of reviews and watch videos to decipher what could work.
Combining the Power of Tech With Beauty
In college, where I studied computer science and business in undergrad, I wanted to learn more about skin care. I was trading stories with the girls in my dorm and with my friends to hear more about what products they were using. Already spending so much of my time online in the digital space, I was also reading blogs and reviews, watching videos, and learning more about places I could go to identify the information. I'm pretty analytical, so even with that, I found myself continuously trying to find more and more information.
Image Source: Buck Butler
But then, I'd notice biases in what I was reading, and I'd be like, "Well, there are six reviews here that say one thing, but then these 40 say another thing. How can I bring all that together so that I don't have to try to parse through it all in my head?" I realized that there was a space to create a platform that made shopping for skin care so much easier — something that made it less stressful and less time consuming to find the best product for you. That's where the idea for Hama came to be. My goal was to build something that combines beauty with my background of technology and data science to provide personalized product recommendations for people who can't identify what they need or don't know where to start.
Instead of just looking at the product catalog of reviews at one retailer, we're able to look across the whole internet. There are no biases. All you do is go to Hamabeauty.com and click our skin-care quiz. You add in some basic demographics (your skin type, age range, skin tone), and we'll narrow down the options. It uses an algorithm that I created and have patented to parse through all of the product data we have — over 500,000 product data points, including reviews on 10,000 different brands collected from multiple different retailers — to get you a list of recommendations in all price ranges.
Image Source: Hama Beauty
The algorithm looks at people with your skin tone or type tends to love X product from Y retailer. That way you don't have to take a quiz here and then another there to go through its assortment of products. I want to build one central source with a robust catalog that has all the information you need. And it doesn't compete with these stores, because we don't stock anything. Once we recommend a product, it still takes you to the retailer so you can buy directly from them.
Image Source: Hama Beauty
Taking Hama Beauty to the Next Level
I launched Hama in May 2020, in the thick of COVID, and I was so scared. But every day, when I check the analytics, I'm amazed at how many people are taking the quiz. In a few months, we've had over 10,000 searches; about 8,000 users overall. I want to continue making sure the technology and information available is robust and streamlining the process of identifying products. Maybe it's integrating a camera for functionality and bringing on more small to midlevel indie brands that maybe aren't at a major retailer yet but have the backing from a lot of consumers. Success, to me, would be finding a way to make Hama the mecca of where beauty and tech meet.
Before, I felt the skin-care shopping experience was too much. I couldn't decipher enough to even know what product could potentially be my favorite, unless it was a shot in the dark. Suddenly with the tool that I built out of necessity for myself and for market research, I feel like there's finally a space for me now. I'm by no means an expert — every single day I'm learning more and more — but as Hama grows, hopefully I'm able to start connecting with people who are experts in this industry to guide me, whether on the business side or on the development side.
It's awesome that I found my passion for learning about beauty products through my passion for data and technology and problem solving. What I think that shows is that anyone can be a beauty enthusiast. Anyone can fall in love with a brand with the right tools.