Konnie Wells‘s passion for engineering started in high school. “I was introduced to the National Society of Black Engineers, and I ended up getting into that program,” Wells tells POPSUGAR. After fostering that interest, she was introduced to 3D printing and design in college. “I went to the University of Missouri, Kansas City, and while I was there, those were my favorite subjects,” she says. “I didn’t really enjoy any of the other stuff.” Noticing her affinity for the space, her best friend bought her a 3D printer, and she’s been merging her love of technology and hair ever since.
Whether you’re one of Wells’s almost 30,000 TikTok followers or just one of the millions who have stumbled upon her videos on the app, you know that the engineer has an affinity for taking beloved beauty products and accessories up a notch. “I learned how to braid when I was 12, but I don’t really enjoy it,” Wells says. “Much of my 3D printing now comes from me wondering what I can do to make the process easier, more enjoyable, and aesthetically pleasing.”
This curiosity has led to Wells creating braiding stands, gel wristbands, protractor combs, and even filters to help people part their hair more easily — the video featuring the latter has been viewed more than three million times and counting. Still, her initial experience with the beauty space was born out of necessity. “I had to learn how to do hair after my older sister left,” she says. “I would practice on my younger sibling, and it resulted in me having to DIY a lot because we didn’t have much money to go to the beauty supply store.” Working with makeshift tools and accessories inadvertently prepared Wells to become a leading innovator in the beauty space.
As she continues to merge the worlds of 3D printing and beauty, Wells not only wants to create innovative products but also invoke change in the industry from the inside out. “At the forefront of anything that I design is a desire to make beauty products more functional for Black women,” Wells says. “We shouldn’t have to repurpose household items like thread racks to achieve our desired looks, and we shouldn’t accept that brands have blatantly been disregarding our needs in the hair space, especially when we are one of beauty’s biggest consumers.” It’s true — in 2021, Black Americans spent almost seven billion dollars on beauty-related items making up 11.1 percent of the total US beauty market, according to McKinsey. Still, true equity in the space continues to be an uphill battle.
While she is aware of how much of an undertaking this passion project of hers will be as she scales her business, Krysanthum, Wells says she’s up for the challenge and hopes to inspire others in the process.
“I want to continue to be a trailblazer in this space,” she says. “I know I’ve been doing things backward by getting the patents after disclosing my inventions, but I’m hoping that the number of people who are interested in my work and are supporting it can show potential investors the value in investing in this type of beauty technology.”
Ideally, this path will lead to her owning a beauty supply store, a dream that Wells says is for her community as much as it is for herself. “I want to own and help others own Black hair stores with products that are designed for us, in a space made by us,” she says. “I want the people that work in these stores to be knowledgeable and help to foster a sense of real community for beauty lovers, regardless of your skill or experience level.” Given the level of ingenuity and grit that she’s already displayed, it’s clear that Wells is on her way to doing just that.