Hair Decoded


Hair Decoded is an app that allows you to discover new hairstyles as well as local stylists and salons. 


PHOTOS: Jena Cumbo

An excerpt from an interview with Founder Shauna Graham. 

How long have you been working on your app?

I came into ideation in 2013. I started building late 2013 and launched on May 2014. So we’re going on 2 ½ - 3 years now. It was supposed to be a fun personal project but I showed a few people and they wanted to invest in it, so I received funding before design. It’s been a great experience, but we’ve had to pivot and now we have a brand new model. Before we didn’t, so we handed out 400 surveys to test the market. And we’re getting ready to launch again with the new model.

How did you come across your app idea?

Few years ago, back in 2010, I built an online magazine. My app is dedicated specifically to hair so a lot of the things I do is about hair. My online magazine was doing well. It had around 100,000 views and it was all about hair. When I had 100,000 views, I found that the most popular section on my magazine was photos of different hairstyles. So I thought why don’t I do something with just that. So I thought why not build an app about it. I started drawing it out when I was away on a camping trip. I wanted to build something for my users – something they could use on a daily basis – especially with other apps coming out and the popularity of Instagram.

Hair has always been my passion. When I was in high school, I had a mobile hair salon. And before that, I would braid bracelets and sell them to middle school. Hair isn’t my only passion but it was something I enjoyed it a lot.

What has been a mistake you’ve made? And what did you learn from it?

One of my business mistakes I made a few years ago was trying to do on my own. You can’t do everything on your own. At one point, I thought I could do the designing and then do the programming, and then the social media, the marketing, the photos, the videos – all by myself. That drove me to the ground and although my mentor told me I can’t do everything on my own, I was hard headed. So that was the lesson I learned.

Give it to a professional if you can’t do it. Help is good. 

In one word, characterize your life as an entrepreneur?

One word? Not even three?

Hmmm, I would probably say “risky”. It’s very risky, but I feel immune to it now.

When I was in high school, I wanted to get a job at Kmart and they never called me back. And I said, “Kmart? Who doesn’t get a job at Kmart?!”

So I decided to transition, and I said, “Fine, I’ll make my own money.”

What has been the most satisfying moment on working on your app so far?

I’ve been working for myself all my life. There are times where you never know what is going to happen the next day, and I have that…a lot of days. Right now I’m trying to build something, but I have nothing—it’s a really really motivating factor. Seeing successes here and there keeps me going. One day having a place to live, and the next day having nowhere to go. 

The most satisfying moment is that I remember that my journey has so many ups and downs. When I see myself here, I’m like “How did I get here?!” My specific journey of how and where I am today is very satisfying in general.


- Interviewed by Z.T., ROKO Labs