Featured The Hustle

Astrophysics to entrepreneurship: Shukrah offers Carefree Comb for women of color, more products to come

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After becoming the first Black woman to graduate with a degree in astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2018, Miona Short went to work at the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. She then pursued a career working for a health tech startup, to help fund her brainchild and company selling natural and easy-to-use hair products.

After being laid off, she decided to pursue the idea for her business full-time. 

It wasn’t a new idea. She started thinking about it back in November 2016, after the sudden passing of her grandfather. At the time, she was dealing with a lot, on top of having to take midterms, and was trying to find a protective style that was quick and convenient to do with her hair. 

“I just didn’t feel like doing my hair that week,” Short said. “I got this idea. I needed to buy a comb that would allow me to put my conditioner in it or put my detangler in it, so I could just do my hair from the bed. That’s how I came up with the idea for the Carefree Comb.”

Through her business, Short envisions a world where people don’t have to compromise their beauty. She hopes her products and tools he lp people find convenience in doing their hair and inspire delight in the process. 

She named her business Shukrah, which is Arabic for gratefulness. Short created the comb as a product for Black women, but after taking a survey sample in 2019, she found that other cultures of women, particularly South Asian women, also had a need for the product. 

“I thought that was really beautiful because I’m designing this for me and my people with textured hair, 4c hair (the curliest, most tightly coiled type) and hair that’s hard to disentangle,” she said. “And there’s a whole other application to it for people of a different culture.”

Short mentioned many successes and challenges with owning and operating her company. Over the years, she’s learned to trust the process and keep the momentum going while she continues to develop her products. 

“Bringing a product to market or creating a product from scratch, when you don’t have a background in that and don’t know how to do it, requires a lot of research,” Short said. “But also a lot of patience with self. My very first prototype, (which) I designed myself, was printed at the end of 2018. And I’m just now about to get the finalized version that’s coming to market and it’s completely different.”

Shukrah is driven by customer satisfaction. Short is building the company with customers in mind and ensuring that the products can help with natural hair styles. The Carefree Comb is still available for pre-orders and will be released in December of this year. 

Short also mentioned that she is working on a product for men with beards as well. She is excited to continue to grow her business and create products to help people of color take care of themselves.