Wuli Grooming · Amadou Doumbia

See how Amadou's multicultural flair and $45K bootstrapped start-up is revolutionising curly hair care.

November 11, 2023
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  • Founder - Amadou Doumbia
  • Location - Sydney, Australia
  • Started in 2022
  • $100,000 revenue
  • 2300+ newsletter subscribers
  • 4500 average monthly website visitors
  • Bootstrapped
  • wuligrooming.com

What's your backstory Amadou?

Hi, I'm Amadou, the brain behind Wuli Grooming. I hail from Mali, West Africa, but I've spent the bulk of my life in New York City. At 24, I ventured to China, residing in mainland China, Shenzhen, and Hong Kong for over six years. Eventually, I found my way to Sydney, Australia, driven by my career in PR, communications, and marketing in the hospitality industry. Multilingualism is a facet of my identity—I speak French, Bambara, English, Japanese, and some Mandarin and Cantonese. This rich tapestry of cultures and languages has shaped who I am today.

What does Wuli Grooming do and how did you come up with the idea?

Wuli Grooming crafts Australian-made, all-natural haircare products tailored for curly and wavy hair, focusing on hydration and moisturization. The concept was born in 2020 out of my own struggle to find suitable products for my hair type. Disappointed by the synthetic ingredients prevalent in the market, I found inspiration in an old styling cream, Brill Cream. Partnering with a chemist friend, we formulated a unique blend packed with 11 active plant-based ingredients. The journey involved extensive market research and collaboration with a local manufacturer to create a premium, gender-neutral brand with a focus on hair health.

How did you get your first 10 customers?

My first 10 customers came from hitting the weekend markets in Sydney. Despite an elaborate website plan, I learned the value of direct consumer interaction. Our first market on December 5th, 2021, at the Entertainment Quarter was a hit, validating the brand's place in the market. This hands-on approach not only tested our pitch but also helped refine our product placement and promotion strategies.

What steps did you take to understand that your product was a good match for the needs of your target customers?

I engaged in continuous product testing and feedback loops with consumers and professionals. Early on, I distributed samples to the barbers and salons I'd networked with for critical feedback. Participating in markets proved invaluable; it allowed customers to experience the product first-hand. Additionally, a pivotal moment came when expanding the product line on a barber's suggestion, which led to our best-selling bundle, catering to a broader clientele.

How did you acquire your first 100 customers? Which methods did you use to connect with them and promote your product?

Initially, the weekend markets were the main driver for reaching the first 100 customers. I focused on organic growth strategies like SEO, social media content, and influencer partnerships rather than paid advertising. As word of mouth spread, online sales began to pick up, complimenting the direct market sales and establishing customer confidence in the brand.

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

I explored various channels, including online marketplaces, salons, retail stores, and professional distributors. Not all were successful; particularly, platforms not focused on beauty and wellness and salons unfamiliar with caring for curly and wavy hair were less fruitful. Redirecting efforts back to consumer-facing strategies proved to be the most effective, reinforcing the importance of understanding and catering directly to my target audience's needs.

What specific tools, software, or resources have been most helpful in growing your business?

Shopify has been indispensable for building a strong e-commerce presence. Upwork has also been a game-changer; I'm one of their top tier clients. It's been instrumental for hiring—from business development consultants to web developers. Xero has been invaluable for keeping my accounting in check. Then there’s the variety of Shopify apps, like the quiz app that's been crucial for educating my customers about our products. Lastly, I highly recommend Seed Lab Australia, a free accelerator by Woolworths, which is brilliant for getting your brand retail-ready.

How did you make the transition from a side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship?

The transition was quite seamless thanks to my role as a consultant, which allowed flexible working days. This setup has been a blessing, enabling me to work on my business during evenings and weekends, as well as weekday mornings. I still maintain my job, which exercises a different part of my brain, while giving me the security to pursue my entrepreneurial dreams with my full attention outside those hours.

How was your experience on Shark Tank?

Shark Tank was an enlightening experience, reinforcing the importance of valuing my work and brand. Although I didn't find the investment match I sought, the experience underscored my need for a partner who brings more than just marketing skills—someone who understands operations and has the capital to support growth. The exposure from the show was phenomenal; we've had hundreds of orders without any paid advertising since.

What drives you to do what you do?

I'm driven by the desire to inspire others from similar backgrounds, showing that success is attainable regardless of starting points. It's also about bettering my family's life and supporting the entrepreneurial community. Sharing resources and being a problem-solver is part of my ethos. I strive to help others by sharing knowledge and tools that have aided my success.

What advice do you have for founders in the earlier stage of their journey?

Patience is key. Celebrate every milestone while focusing on the ultimate goal. Ensure your business foundation is solid with due diligence, trademarks, accounting, and a customer service plan. Start small—you don't need a huge budget to launch a brand these days. I bootstrapped my business with $45,000, which is quite lean. Embrace failures as they come, learn from them, and persevere. When you can speak passionately about the problem your product solves, you know you're on the right track.

Who are some recommended experts or entrepreneurs to follow for learning how to grow a business?

  • Nyakio Greco
  • Tracy Ellis Ross
  • Maeva Hiem
  • Calvin Quallis
  • Sandra Velasquez (Nopalera)

Any quotes you live by?

"Life's too short, make every opportunity presented to you count."

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