New beauty supply delivery app expands to Pittsburgh


Via WaySlay

WaySlay, a Black-owned company that offers delivery of beauty supplies and natural hair products, initially launched in Miami in July 2020 and expanded to Pittsburgh last month.

By Betul Tuncer, Staff Writer

When Pitt alumnus Mike James’ girlfriend needed some last-minute beauty products, the idea for WaySlay — or as he calls it, “Uber Eats but for beauty supplies” — was born.

“One day she needed to go to an event. She was running behind and needed a couple of additional beauty supply products,” James, the company’s chief technology officer, said. “I suggested that she just find an app that she can use to get those products delivered, since everything basically has delivery these days.”

James said when she told him this app didn’t exist, he used his background in software design to make his own. James co-founded WaySlay — a Black-owned company that offers accessibility and convenience for beauty supplies and natural hair products — with Ian Grant II last July. The company initially launched in Miami and expanded to Pittsburgh in January.

Grant, the company’s CEO, said there were many reasons the company launched first in Miami. Grant said it was convenient to start in Miami because the two founders were based there at the time, and the city was popular in food delivery — making it a great place to test out the service.

James said WaySlay expanded to Pittsburgh because the city’s smaller size offers more opportunities.

“The overall area that you need to cover here is much less than in Miami,” James said. “So that helps us get to market and offer complete coverage of the city as fast as possible. And then it becomes more about partnering with other stores so that we can offer customers a variety of products.”

Grant added that he and James had hoped the Pittsburgh community would have an interest in beauty supply delivery. He said they want to use Pittsburgh as a way to test out how their service operates in different seasons and weather conditions.

”Since launch, we’ve seen that our hypothesis was correct and that there is a lot of interest in Pittsburgh,” Grant said. “So it’s good to see the reaction the City has given towards WaySlay.”

James said the app works by partnering with beauty supply stores and helps offer their products for delivery. The business has partnered with Sisters Beauty Supply in Downtown and Hair City in nearby Monroeville, located just east of Pittsburgh. The supply stores upload their inventory into the app and customers can then locate stores near them and the products available. Customers pick which beauty products they want to buy, check out on the app and have their order delivered to their doorstep.

The app helps small, local businesses by broadening their customer reach and offering convenient delivery services, James said. WaySlay collects fixed service fees on every order — allowing the service to maintain a profit margin.

“We’ve been able to help those businesses find a new avenue to offer a sales channel during the pandemic,” James said. “And we’re really giving these stores immediate internet presence whereas they wouldn’t really have in this industry since a lot of them are not opening up their own online stores.”

Kim Cardiel Earley, co-owner of Hair City, said the store officially launched its partnership with WaySlay last Friday. She said the process was “perfect.”

“The launch was perfect. Mike did all of the heavy lifting, he made it super easy for me,” Cardiel Earley said. “All I had to do was set up my account, punch in a couple of numbers and that was it.”

Cardiel Earley said the partnership, though fairly new, is great because it brings in extra revenue. She added that so far her business has gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers who have shopped there through WaySlay.

“We’ve been telling every single customer since we’ve gone live so I’d have to say the feedback has definitely been exciting,” Cardiel Earley said. “A lot of the time people don’t have cars, so the fact that they don’t need to Uber out here then Uber back and can just pay one fee and have it brought to them is good.”

While finding beauty supplies may be as simple as stopping in a Target or Walmart for some, an app like WaySlay is essential for others. Yasmine Crawley — the president of Crown Culture, a club that celebrates natural hair — said she believes there’s still a lot of negative societal perceptions toward natural Black hair. She said this is a big reason why so many Black men and women, such as herself, have a complicated relationship with their hair.

“It’s been kind of a self-love journey. It’s made me realize that I am beautiful with my natural hair,” Crawley, a senior psychology major, said. “And that I don’t have to wear my hair straight to be considered beautiful or to be deserving of any praise about my hair.”

Crawley said she thinks WaySlay is a great service for those with natural hair, and she will definitely be using it.

“I think it’s really awesome because it’s definitely needed,” Crawley said. “Any way we can use technology to help people with natural hair to figure out where they can get their hair done and what is available to them is great.”
Crawley said learning how to take care of her hair with the products available as well as acknowledge the beauty of it has been a “self love journey.” She added that the app will also be convenient since before going to a new city, she always has to know what beauty supplies she has access to.

“Even something as simple as going into a hotel, I know better than to use the conditioner that they put in the bottle for free,” Crawley said. “So I have to make sure I’m prepared to go to a new place and look up ahead of time what salons can I go to or what beauty supply stores I can go to that have products that I need.”

Grant said now that WaySlay is available in Pittsburgh, he hopes Pitt students use the app to get their beauty supplies.

“The biggest thing for us is to be able to provide them with convenience so that students can focus on their school work or different job opportunities,” Grant said. “They shouldn’t have to go out of their way just to find beauty supplies that they need to prepare for an interview or to be able to give them the confidence or whatever it is they aspire to be.”

As a way to encourage Pitt students to benefit from their service, the WaySlay co-founders said students can use the code “WAYSLAYH2P” for free delivery on their first order.

James said the company ultimately hopes to be the largest supplier of beauty supply products in the country. WaySlay hopes to expand to new cities such as Atlanta, New York, Chicago and Washington, D.C., in the future.

Crawley said she also believes that beauty and hair care should be accessible to everyone. She added that she hopes other people with natural hair embrace their beauty.

“For all the other natural curl friends out there, be proud of your hair, don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t wear it the way you want to wear it,” Crawley said. “It’s beautiful and you deserve to be able to style your hair how you please and feel confident in it.”