Who would think in a million years, that a man would create an app to help women find a local hairstylist? Well, sit back and put some coconut oil on those edges, because surprisingly in 2014, international student John Eke, a Nigerian studying in Ottawa, Canada, did just that when he created the Bantu app. After John became the go-to guy for hair advice among his friends at school, he took it upon himself to create an avenue that women of color could use to find a hairstylist – and thus the Bantu app was born.

Who would think in a million years, that a man would create an app to help women find a local hairstylist? Well, sit back and put some coconut oil on those edges, because surprisingly in 2014, international student John Eke, a Nigerian studying in Ottawa, Canada, did just that when he created the Bantu app. After John became the go-to guy for hair advice among his friends at school, he took it upon himself to create an avenue that women of color could use to find a hairstylist – and thus the Bantu app was born.

“I joke with him all the time… people must’ve been in dire straits, because he has no hair! I would never ask him for a hairstylist,” laughs Meron Berhe, who is also Nigerian and serves as the marketing and public relations manager for Bantu. The two met while attending school together, where over lunch one day Eke randomly mentioned the app. Berhe was surprised and yet faced the same struggles he described, so she had to see what the app was all about.  “It’s so relevant,” Berhe says. “When I met up with John, I wondered ‘What does it do? What is it?’ I love that it’s distinctively black; I like that it’s something we could claim… until Khloe Kardashian came out!” she says jokingly. After that first lunch, Berhe was on board, trying to help Eke market the app and expand it. Their efforts have paid off, with Bantu currently used in the USA, Canada, UK, and France.  During the process, Richard Kyereboah from Ghana joined to help with day-to-day operations while keeping the finances in order.

The name Bantu comes from Eke’s love of Bantu knots. “He loves how they’re so elegant and so regal. And that’s what he wanted people to feel like when they use the app,” Meron says about why Eke named the app Bantu. The biggest misconception according to Meron is that people believe the app is just for naturals. Bantu actually caters to over 64 hairstyles for both naturals and those with perms. In June, the company re-launched their newest version of the app for I-phone. The Android version was still in the works at the time of our interview.

As more and more African-Americans travel farther and popular travel groups such as Nomadness Travel Tribe and Travel Divas arise, Bantu would love to be your go-to app to keep your hair looking good while traveling. “There has become a big movement or shift in black people traveling,” says Meron. “I actually have a friend that’s traveling abroad, and it would be awesome to expand to other countries besides the ones we currently are in,” Meron continues, as she talks about how finding a good hairstylist would be essential when traveling.  Meron is a great example of having to travel 5 hours away to Toronto to meet her specific hair needs. She also mentioned how she recently went to NYC to get a Brazilian blowout, which turned out to be the worst hair experience. “We [she and her friends] spent 8 hours, basically the whole day, in the salon, while we were only there for four days,” she exclaims. She mentioned that she would be using her app to find a local stylist on her next trip to NYC.

As of today, those who download the Bantu app can rate their stylist. Eventually, according to Meron, the company wants to expand by adding more hairstylists and being able to book and pay through the app.

To learn more, download the app either at the app store or www.bantuapp.com.

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