Stories

Cleantech entrepreneur Ciara May wants to recycle your hair

July 16, 2021

Photo by Nyara Williams

The Rebundle founder is $25,000 winner of the 2021 U.S. Bank Foundation Cleantech Inclusion Award.

As a young Black woman, Ciara Imani May identified a problem and it had everything to do with hair. She recognized that certain products made for Black hair were irritating her scalp – specifically plastic synthetic hair, which is commonly used for hairstyles worn by Black women. Not only that, she also learned that the plastic hair was leading to an accumulation of millions of pounds of waste. 

“I just wasn’t satisfied with the answers I received, and I wanted to find out how to solve this problem from a business standpoint,” said May. “I learned about how much waste the products were creating and I realized I couldn’t solve the health issue without solving the waste issue. So, I got to work.” 

May did just that. In 2019, she participated in a pitch competition and she won. She realized she had something viable and that it could lead to an actual business. While continuing in her day job at a tech start-up company, she spent her other waking hours putting together what is today known as Rebundle

After working in higher education and at a tech start-up for 2 years, May decided she could no longer work and continue to grow Rebundle, so she left her job. 

“I was scared and not comfortable at all, but I started to apply for various sources of funding and the first grant came through in April 2020,” said May. “My first product launched in January 2021.”

May and Rebundle will now have an additional $25,000 after winning the U.S. Bank Foundation Cleantech Inclusion Award, which is given to an entrepreneur working to advance climate and environmental innovations. 

“Rebundle’s mission aligns well with our environmental sustainability work focused on investing in renewable energy and offering innovative products and services to meet the needs of tomorrow’s green economy,” said Reba Dominski, executive vice president and chief social responsibility officer for U.S. Bank. “Congrats to Ciara and Rebundle, we can’t wait to see what you do next.”

In just a year, Rebundle has taken off selling out of its product twice and growing its online community from a few hundred followers to nearly 10,000 followers. The company has collected 216 pounds of hair. Today, May is working to keep up with demand. More and more women are learning about the product and requesting it. The team makes braiding hair out of banana fiber that closely matches Black hair. The ingredients are safe and nontoxic. Rebundle also collects and recycles plastic synthetic hair which is done when customers mail it to the company for disposal.

In addition to hiring for new operations and customer service roles, May said the U.S. Bank Foundation grant will allow her to make improvements to the recycling component of Rebundle. 

“Sustainable efforts are so important to the mission of why I started Rebundle,” said May. “I want our customers to experience not only a great product but know that we are leading the way to a more sustainable future of hair extensions.”

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