After being 1st Black woman to earn degree in Astrophysics from UW, Miona Short makes history again 

Mildred Europa Taylor July 05, 2023
Miona Short. Image via UNIVERSITY of WISCONSIN–MADISON

In 2018 when Miona Short made history as the first Black woman to earn a Bachelor of Science(BS) degree in astrophysics from the University of Wisconsin–Madison, she indicated that she was looking at launching her own hair care and beauty brand. Five years down the line, this has come to fruition as the aspiring astronomer has unveiled a beauty company called “Shukrah” alongside a first-to-market innovation, the Carefree Comb, according to Blacknews.com.

A patent-pending wide-tooth comb, the Carefree Comb is her company’s flagship product which makes it easier for individuals to de-tangle and shampoo or condition their hair in fewer steps. Short invented the comb out of frustration in November 2016 after losing her grandfather to bile duct cancer at the age of 68. “I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to eat, I didn’t want to go to class or take midterms that week, and I definitely didn’t want to do my hair,” she recounted to Blacknews.com.

In the process, she searched for tools that would make her detangle her hair faster but she did not find any and that prompted her invention. In order to produce different prototypes of her comb invention, Short taught herself computer-aided design (CAD), watched business shows like Shark Tank, and listened to podcasts about entrepreneurship as business school cost too much for her, she said.

The Chicago native’s Carefree Comb concept went on to win business competitions plus a grant from rapper and investor Chamilloinaire. Four years ago, Short started a tech job to save money for her first production but lost the job in 2022. She then focused on building her company, Shukrah.

“After being laid off, I knew I didn’t have the money to completely flesh out product development like a bigger company would,” she said. “I could barely afford rent, much less afford multiple rounds of testing [contract manufacturer] prototypes with trial-and-error. That gets expensive real quick. I really only had one shot at making this work. I had to take a leap of faith. So here I am, hoping Shukrah has wings.”

And Shukrah is expected to flourish as Short prepares to ship out pre-orders for the Carefree Comb around Christmas this year, she said. When Short became her school’s first Black woman to graduate with a degree in astrophysics years ago, she became one of the few Blacks with degrees in physics and astronomy. In 2018, African Americans earned a total of 223 degrees in physics and 10 in astronomy, per a report by API

Short’s historic feat came 100 years after the first Black woman graduated from her school. Short told Madison365 at the time that she had always wanted to study the stars growing up on the South Side of Chicago. She had this passion for all of science, particularly for astronomy and astrophysics, she said. With the help of Hip Hip Sisters Network founded by female hip-hop legend MC Lyte, Short was chosen to receive UW-Madison’s First Wave scholarship, which took care of her tuition. 

Short went on to spend a summer at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) before meeting her hero — astrophysicist Neil De Grasse Tyson. She is now in entrepreneurship with Shukrah and her innovation which was born out of intense sadness and deep joy but represented a journey of self-discovery and self-belief, she said on her website.

Despite not having any formal engineering or business background, she was optimistic that her brilliant idea “would fill a glaring need in haircare,” she added.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: July 5, 2023

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