This is not a sponsored post. I talk a lot about accessibility and the problems that I have when companies don’t think about customers with different needs. Instead of just talking about problems, I also want to use my platform to highlight good practice, and talk about those brand owners who are working hard to make their products and services more accessible, particularly for visually impaired customers like me.
I first mentioned the Odyssey haircare box back in my March products post when I was talking about how much I’d enjoyed the Queen of the Nile mask. Since then, I’ve been getting the box every 2 months, because that’s how it comes out.
The Odyssey Box was created by Chloé, and As well as enjoying the products, I’ve been impressed by her commitment to diversity. She agreed to tell part of her story for this post.
What is ODYSSEY BOX?
First I wanted to know why Chloé decided to bring this new haircare box onto the market.
“I created ODYSSEY BOX to fill the gap in the market for a customer-first brand that could truly stand behind the products it was marketing. When I was growing up, I didn’t have access to the knowledge I needed to really care for my afro hair as I was the first generation in my family to decide against chemically straightening it.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I truly started to learn what my hair needed and started to embrace my true texture without using heat styling tools. In 2018, I discovered Black-owned hair care products and learned the truth behind the brand giants I had been purchasing for many years. I learned that the products I had been using contained low quality, filler ingredients, and in some cases, some of these ingredients were toxic.
It was an easy decision to make, to decide to stick with the natural, plant-based, community-oriented Black-owned hair care brands I had found and after committing my time and efforts to support these brands for 2 years, I knew that I wanted to have a longer-lasting impact and that’s where ODYSSEY BOX comes in.
ODYSSEY BOX is a subscription box service delivering luxury haircare from the best of black-owned brands for curly, kinky, and coily hair textures. We are committed to educating, empowering, and connecting our community, whilst working towards more positive mindsets about natural haircare.
An odyssey is a long and exciting adventure and that is what we believe your natural hair journey should be. I am aware that some ODYSSEY BOX subscribers don’t have curly or afro hair and for me, that shows that the demand for safe, natural, and effective products extends beyond just the natural hair community and so I am happy to be able to meet that demand.”
My thoughts on the products
As Chloé mentioned, some of her subscribers don’t have curly or afro hair. I fall into that category too. My hair is thick, down past my waist, and naturally straight.
I was interested to try out the box though when I saw it on YouTube, being reviewed on Sussex Sandra’s channel. I thought that the contents of the February box looked good, and I’d be able to use most of them. After all, a lot of the focus was on nourishing the hair and helping it to lock in moisture. My hair isn’t dry or damaged, but as it’s so long, I often use masks and moisture-rich products to keep it in good shape.
It didn’t bother me that I wasn’t the main target audience for the box. Occasionally there is a product that is not as relevant for me, such as one specifically for curls, but to be honest, when I was getting beauty boxes including products that were more geared towards my own type of hair, there were plenty of styling products that I didn’t want to use, probably more so than there are with this box.
I’ve been moving towards more natural products over the last couple of years, and I like the fact that this box supports smaller, independent brands. Sometimes I would like to do more of this than I do, but as a screenreader user, I often face challenges with the accessibility of smaller brands’ websites. This is not always the way, but when it happens, it can make buying from them more of a challenge. It’s not just a case of put in your credit card details and go if none of the buttons on the website are labelled!
Given that this is a luxury haircare box, it’s not one of the cheapest around. But if you want better ingredients and to support small companies, that’s normal. I expect to get value for money with subscriptions, but if it’s a race to the bottom with the biggest savings on products, it’s A not a sustainable business model, B not going to support independent brands, and C not going to ensure quality long-term.
.The Odyssey box website is accessible and I had no trouble signing up with my screenreader, so that’s a win-win. I can discover smaller independent brands, most of which I hadn’t heard of before, without having to find out whether each individual site is accessible.
Blind people and subscription boxes
In most beauty and hair subscription boxes, you don’t know what you’re going to get. I have various ways of identifying my products, but they all involve relying on someone or something else.
Probably the easiest way is to ask S – who knows more about beauty and skincare than most fiancés would want to. But that depends on him being around and having time to do it when I want the information. More importantly, he’s my partner, not my admin help. He does help me, but I’d rather be independent.
I have an app on my phone, which can often read labels, but then I have to Google to find out how to use the products. Also, its being able to read the label isn’t guaranteed – it depends on the font, the background contrast, the size of the writing, and the material.
I can wait for online reviews on YouTube or blogs – this is helpful, but this involves waiting, and I don’t like waiting! It also doesn’t tell me which product is which in my own box.
When Chloé asked for customer feedback, we got talking about accessibility. I’ll let her take up the story again:
“It’s important to me that I make the whole ODYSSEY BOX experience accessible. From the language I use to describe hair care concepts to the layout of the inserts in the box, I want every single person who gets a box to have an equal opportunity to enjoy it.
It wasn’t until I reached out for feedback that I learned that one of my subscribers, Kirsty was visually impaired and so my first instinct was to email the inserts instead of including them in the box so that she could listen to the information instead. I did this for a couple of boxes and had the realisation that it was all well and good being able to hear the information but if the products are all in identical packaging, it would still be challenging to distinguish which information related to which product.
I was so disappointed in myself for the oversight but saw it as an opportunity to do better for the August Box. I want my community of subscribers to feel empowered when they receive their boxes, and not feel as though they can’t access what they need on their own. So, for the August box, I got creative and taped some packing material to two of the products to make them more tactile.
The box contained two pump bottles, two spray bottles, and a pouch. So, this time around, when I emailed the information to Kirsty, I was able to say which of the pump bottles had something taped to it, which of the spray bottles did and what they felt like overall. I was pleased that it had a positive impact!
Small things like this make a big difference and only make the experiences for the customer and the brand more positive. It’s not always an impairment that disables someone, oftentimes it’s society and services that prevent equal access for all. I’m always willing to get creative and do what I can to make sure that my service isn’t one of those. ODYSSEY BOX is all about bringing you positive haircare experiences and I’ll go above and beyond to make sure of it.”
My customer experience
Of course we want good quality products, but the way you feel about a brand or subscription also plays a role. I am more loyal to brands that take the extra time to create an experience that lets me participate, independently and as an equal. When my box arrives, I can just unpack it and go, without having to ask my partner, or spend time scanning and figuring out what things are. I can read my email, check it against the products to see which is which if they feel the same, and get going using them. This is good customer service and I love the fact that it’s less work for me!
In the last year I’ve been working with a lot more small business owners, and I think that they are often less removed from their customers than bigger brands. They appreciate that we are all different and may have different needs, and it is often the small things like this, that make a big difference.
Thanks to Chloé for making her boxes more accessible to me as a blind customer.
The growth goals box
The growth goals box contains 5 full-size products from Black British haircare brand, shea decadence London. I hadn’t actually heard of this brand before, but having a range of products from the same brand gave me the chance to try them out together over a period of time.
In the box there is a conditioning shampoo, a deep conditioner, detangling hair milk, a curl-enhancing leave-in conditioner, and reviving hair dew.
I use all of them. My long hair can get tangled, so the detangling milk is a firm favourite this month, and the shampoo leaves my hair feeling really clean, without feeling stripped. The conditioner is rich and luxurious – I’ve never seen one in a pouch before, but it’s good because you can get every last drop out. The leave-in conditioners are quite rich for my hair, so I do use them, but they last me a lot longer because I don’t need much.
So – have you tried this box? Would you be interested in a hair subscription box? Let me know in the comments.
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Image © Odyssey Box