This post was originally published on Defender Network
By Aswad Walker
Very few millionaires trace their start back to a desire to improve the health outcomes of Black people. But Demetrion Ware, founder of the haircare giant KeraVada does. And though Ware fought through and overcame his own serious health challenges, his health-focus began long before his own battle.
Interestingly, Ware found that Black women looking for quality haircare products had no interest in his line’s health focus. So, he switched up on the marketing message, but maintains his commitment to waking the Black community up to accessing healthier lives.
The Defender spoke to Ware about his professional and healthcare journey.
DEFENDER: For those who don’t know, what is KeraVada?
DEMETRION WARE: We are a natural hair and beauty company. Initially, we were a company that went out to all people and then we segmented ourselves back in 2015 to focus more on African American women.
DEFENDER: So, when was KeraVada actually founded?
WARE: Founded in 2014.
DEFENDER: Was being in the Black hair care business your dream when you were running around as an eight-year-old child?
WARE: <laughs> Absolutely not <laughs>. As an eight-year-old, I envisioned myself being a doctor, but went to college and kind of changed courses and I decided I would go a different direction—computer programming.
DEFENDER: How did you arrive at this particular business?
WARE: Well, around 2011, 2012, my grandmother had a stroke. She’s since died from that stroke. And because she had that stroke, I started doing research to try to figure out what was the cause of strokes and things like that. And I started getting deep into health and natural remedies and all that type of stuff. I found that there were these herbs that you could use that would reduce cancer and reduce stroke, and make it to where you don’t have to worry about having things like strokes and high blood. And I was thinking, “Wow. Nobody knows about this, and Black people have a high prevalence of those type of things.
And I realized also that with Black people, if we say something is good for us, we really don’t want it. So, I said, “How is it that you can get somebody to get something that is good for them in their body and it help them health-wise, and they do it just because they want to do it?” So, and I figured it has to be some other reason [besides something being good for us] to get us to use that. Initially, I was going to sell soap. That’s one way to get these herbs into people’s bodies. Then, I fell on hair, because I saw that the hair industry was growing. I said I’ll take these herbs and I’ll put them in hair products and do it that way. So, it wasn’t about me per se getting into hair, really. It was about me using hair to be able to get people to get herbs into their body, healthy things that they wouldn’t necessarily even care about normally.
DEFENDER: I read where you personally experienced some serious health challenges. What were those, and how did you make your way through that?
WARE: I got diagnosed with cancer back in 2012 or something like that—testicular cancer. The doctor told me, “We’re gonna have to remove your testicles. Of course, me being a Black man, I was like, “Nah, bro <laughs>.” From there, what I did is I had already started doing research on natural herbs and all the type of stuff. And, of course, I got deeper into it when I started the company. So, I really started getting deep into herbs and trying to understand how to use them and to try to see if there were ways to prevent cancer, to slow things like that down. And I actually found some things that were quite interesting. So, I started taking a series of herbs to hold back the cancer the doctor said I had. And, I actually held it off for about seven years. Then in 2019, I went back to the doctors and they said, “Hey man, you got cancer.”
They were surprised that I had it so long. They didn’t know that I was taking these herbs. And actually, it was working. The problem was the doctor and I didn’t understand why it kept coming back. Because I could get it to disappear. And I know this sounds crazy, but it would disappear in days. And the way I knew was because the cancer had spread to my abdomen, so I could feel it. It was around 2018, 2019. And I started doing this regimen again, and it would disappear. So I went back to my doctor and said, “Man, it’s gone again. But I can’t get it out of my testicles. For some reason, it keeps coming back.” And, I ended up talking to my cancer doctor and he said the reason why is because even the chemotherapy doesn’t reach the testicle. He said, whatever you’re doing, it might be killing your cancer, but it’s killing the cancer that’s getting outside of your testicles, but it’s not killing at the testicles. He said, basically chemo and none of that stuff reaches the testicle or the brain. Once it’s in the testicle or the brain, they have to cut out that area, period. So, what I was doing was working, It’s just the area where it was, it would start over, grow again, and then disappear.
So, I had to have surgery and have it removed. Once they removed it, the data numbers showed that I was cancer free. But I went ahead and went through the chemo anyway. It was a pretty terrible experience. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy. And then there’s nobody that talks about it—the chemo process and experience. I actually videoed all of it. I videoed the chemo. I videoed me getting thinner. I videoed my hair coming out live. I have videos of me just pulling and my hair would just come out in my hand. And, then I had locs. They just came out in my hand. And women were crying while I was doing the video. I kind of made a diary of what I was going through because I thought how we were as Black people, we try to hide when something’s wrong. We don’t want to tell family. We don’t tell anybody “I’m in the hospital.” I just felt like somebody had to come out and say, “Hey, I got this. This is my problem. I’m about to go through it. I may die, but it’s gonna be recorded so somebody can look at this later on the later date, and if they’re going through it or their family’s going through it, they can kind of see what I was going through or what I was dealing with because I have these videos of me getting up and saying what I was feeling at that moment.”
DEFENDER: Have you shared those videos with anyone? Because we’d love to share them with our readers.
WARE: I haven’t put them out. I held them for something like this.
DEFENDER: Great. I’d love to circle back on that because we focus on everything impacting the Black community. And health is a big thing. Your willingness to be so open and share would be really powerful.
WARE: That’s kinda my thing now. Of course, I have a company, but now with so many people having these health problems and I’m seeing so many people with cancer, and I know things that actually kill it, I can say, “Hey man, this does do it. There’s fruit that does it.” I’m a computer programmer. That’s my background. I was a programmer for 25 years. So, my whole job was troubleshooting, trying to figure out how to solve a particular problem, and then using the scientific method to be able to say, “Okay, this might not work. Let me try this. Let me try that.” That’s actually how I became a millionaire because I did that same method to figure out Facebook’s algorithm back in 2014. And I was able to get stuff to go viral, like overnight.
The scientific method, that’s how I was able to figure out what things worked for my cancer before I went to get it all treated like for real. But, man, there’s things that I’ve seen. I saw blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, those things kill it. They kill it. The problem I saw also is that then I would eat something like cheese and it would come back. And I was like, “Oh man, what did I eat?” And it would be back. And I had to figure out what I was eating because I had so many things in my diet. I was like, “What is it that I was eating that I needed to cit out of my diet?” It was cheese, meat, milk, butter and sugar.
Anytime I ate any of those things, oh man, there it was again. Then I’d go back my herbs regiment. The only time that I saw where I was able to get rid of it completely and it just not come back was when I only ate vegetables. I started eating kale and spinach. That’s really all I was eating. And once I did that, then it would go away from my abdomen area . But it wouldn’t go away from my testicle area. That’s when I just went ahead and took the doctor’s advice and went ahead and had it removed.
DEFENDER: How did your health experience inform how you live and your commitment to your business?
WARE: I really kind of looked at them separately. Because at one, what I ended up finding out with my business, I had to kind of pivot away from the health message of the business because people didn’t really care about that, like at all. They really only cared about how they looked. They only cared about being pretty. So, I had to kind of change my focus in maybe 2016 and pivot away from trying to market a healthy natural, herbal-type methodology mentality. Because that wasn’t flying for Black women. They were focused on “What can make me look pretty; what can make my hair like her hair? I want my hair like hers.” And that’s really sad. But that’s kind of really how it is. I had to come to that realization.
I think it’s gonna take a different platform to really get out the message about health and the things that actually affect our health. It’s gonna be a different platform because there’s no way that you can do it and present it to women, and men for that matter, where they actually care about the health when they’re not having a health problem.
ABOUT DEMETRION WARE & KERAVADA
Place of Birth: Houston
Education: Jersey Village High School and Aldine Eisenhower High School, then Oakwood University (an HBCU)
Advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs: Find a need and feel it.