The founder and CEO launched her brand to solve the problems she commonly faced when shopping for hair care products.
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maeva heim holding bread beauty supply products
Credit: Courtesy of Maeva Heim

Have you ever wondered how to turn your dreams of owning your own business into a reality? We can help. Each week, as part of our Self Made series, we showcase female entrepreneurs-as well as their quality, handmade goods-and share their best advice related to starting, maintaining, and growing your own business.

In many ways, Maeva Heim has the women in her family to thank for her career—they ushered her into the beauty industry. "My grandmother was actually a soap maker in a small village in the Ivory Coast, West Africa, and would sell the soaps at the market, and in the '90s, my mother opened an African hair salon in Perth, [Australia], where I grew up," the founder and CEO of Bread Beauty Supply says. "It was one of the very first African hair salons in the entire country, and one of my very first experiences in the beauty industry." At age 10, the entrepreneur began spending her weekends at her mom's salon, braiding customers' hair, sweeping the floors, answering the phone, and managing the booking diary. "It was a lot like playing 'shops', but with a real cash register!" she adds.

During her time in her mother's shop, the beauty expert learned about hair products designed specifically for textured hair; her mom imported them from the United States and sold them in the salon. "That's how I initially became familiar with the category and what was available in the market for curly and textured hair," Heim explains. "Then, when I was in my early teens, I would trawl through the American Black hair care forums to research product and style trends that were yet to reach the Australian market, and contact suppliers in China to source merchandise for the salon—like lace wigs and specialized hair extensions." All of these meaningful experiences led to the launch of BREAD, which offers everyday essentials for textured hair care routines. Below, discover more about the birth of Heim's business—including the personal and professional moments that paved her path.

bread beauty supply mud mask
Credit: Courtesy of Bread Beauty Supply

Finding Her "Mane" Path

Heim initially pursued a career in law—she has a passion for advocating for marginalized people—and also earned a business degree during her time at university. "I had every intention of becoming a lawyer, but when I finished my degrees, I decided to pursue a career in marketing and landed an internship at L'Oreal, where I spent my early career," she says. There, she gained more experience in the consumer goods industry and learned how to take a brand to market when she left to work at Procter & Gamble. "I found myself more drawn to the beauty industry than other consumer categories, so after my summer with Procter & Gamble, ended up back at L'Oreal, where I worked across almost every category in the business, from makeup, skin care and fragrance to gifting and even devices," she adds. "Funnily enough, I never found myself working on a hair brand."

In the time she spent working across the beauty industry, she concretely realized something she'd known her entire life: It never truly catered to women like her. "As a woman of color, I didn't feel like I was getting the same level of product availability or brand experience that everyone else was, and I was determined to change that," she recalls. "I left L'Oreal knowing I wanted to create a brand that would drive the industry towards a more diverse future, and provide better experiences and products for women of color, and specifically Black women." While she didn't quite know what that brand would be, she knew there was fulfilling work to be done.

Filling the Gap

Ultimately, Heim's own hair care journey guided her. "I made a trip over to the United States, and flew from New York to Colorado with a hair relaxer in my suitcase," she says. "When I arrived in Colorado, I opened up my suitcase and discovered the relaxer had exploded over all of my clothes." She was due for a relaxer touchup at the time, but didn't have access to another one—and in that moment, she decided that she wasn't going to relax her hair anymore. She also realized that this change would upend the reality she had lived since she was six years old. "And while I had protective styling growing up, my natural hair, when left out, was always straight," notes Heim. "I had never—in my over 20 years of life—had to deal with my natural texture or even understand what it was."

The first step? Finding the hair care products that were right for her. But she was quickly taken aback when she made her way to a drugstore's "multicultural" hair care aisle. "I felt like I had jumped in a time machine and gone back to 1995," she recalls, explaining that none of the brands that catered to her hair type felt relatable; they looked the same, and came with similar messaging, but none were intuitive to use. All Heim wanted to do, she says, was learn how to wash her hair, but these brands' offerings didn't make it easy or efficient. In her eyes, "beauty shouldn't be problematic or hard, it should be fun, and real—not overwhelming," she explains.

Though the journey of transitioning from relaxed to natural hair felt isolating, Heim realized that she wasn't alone. "There was an almost 40 percent decline of hair relaxer sales over a five-year period at that time, and a drastic cultural and commercial shift in the multicultural hair care category," she recalls. Heim knew that there were other women like her that were in search of products that fulfilled their hair needs after spending most of their lives chemically relaxing their strands. "So, I decided to take my industry know-how and start building BREAD to fill this gap," the CEO says.

bread beauty supply hair oil
Credit: Courtesy of Bread Beauty Supply

Forming the Business

Heim always envisioned BREAD being sold at Sephora. So, once she had BREAD's overarching mission—to simplify women's wash regimens—intact, she set her sights on getting her products in front of a Sephora buyer at a beauty conference in Los Angeles, with the hopes of being selected for the company's accelerate program. The Sephora executive she met stayed in touch and ultimately advocated for Heim's inclusion in the program. After several intense rounds of interviews, she got the gig. "At the end of Sephora Accelerate, I secured a launch deal—closing the loop on what I had envisioned for the brand from the very beginning," says Heim.

A Simple Routine

BREAD's easy-to-use wash kit, also known as the "essential hair care wardrobe for curl care," makes caring for curls streamlined and fun. Heim recommends starting with the Bread Beauty Supply Hair-Wash ($20, breadbeautysupply.com), which is a blend between a co-wash and cleanser; it gently lathers hair. From there, apply the Bread Beauty Supply Hair-Mask ($28, breadbeautysupply.com), which deep conditions and hydrates. The last step is the Bread Beauty Supply Hair-Oil ($24, breadbeautysupply.com), a silicone-free, multi-purpose oil described as a lip gloss for your strands.

Heim stresses that all of her products fall under the clean category. "We know that hair products marketed towards Black women are disproportionately more toxic than those available in the general market, so I wanted to make sure our formulas were clean and safe," she says of the vegan products. She also encourages her customers to unlearn the false narrative that textured hair is difficult to manage: "We want to dispel that myth by encouraging more women with textured hair to embrace 'lazy girl' styling and casual, done-undone looks—starting with 'care' products to address the health of the hair," she adds.

The Bread Winner

As for the advice Heim would give other entrepreneurs? Dig deep and get comfortable with the possibility of failure. "In a somewhat counterintuitive way, if you go into it head-first assuming you're going to fail, there's a sense of freedom that comes from that. It helps you to feel like you can just keep moving forward, even when you stumble," she shares. Heim has taken her own advice throughout her journey, which is leading her towards BREAD's future of becoming a brand with major media buying power.

"I want this brand to be able to have a say in the way that Black women are represented in the media, because right now it can be very one-dimensional," the CEO explains. "Once we're in that position and we're able to impact those representations, my hope is that, one day soon, Black women with textured hair all over the world will be able to walk into a board room with bantu knots, or an afro, or whatever she wants—and not a single person will bat an eyelid."

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