By Ryan Velez
Black hair is a multi-million dollar industry, but Black business people aren’t necessarily taking the lion’s share of the money from it. However, some people are managing to break through, and Black Enterprise has one such story to share today.
Vivian Kaye started in 2010, when she found herself wondering how to do protective style options such as weave and wig options that match kinky, curly, and Afro-textured hair. Today, her natural hair extension brand, KinkyCurlyYaki, features six textures ranging from sleek to straight to kinky and tight curl patterns. This company also sells wigs, wefted hair for sew-ins, clip-in extensions, frontals, closures, Ghanaian head wraps, and offers custom products.
Kaye says that she originally had no plans to make the leap to running her business full-time, but the opportunity allowed for it. “Initially, I ran both my wedding decor business and KinkyCurlyYaki side by side because KCY was never supposed to become a business. I started out doing it for myself and then started filling small orders for women who reached out to me personally. One day, I had a stack of orders for KinkyCurlyYaki products sitting in front of me, I realized there was a huge market for this kind of product. If I didn’t pursue it I would regret it later, so I went for it.”
Perhaps the most surprising fact about her success is that she had no beauty industry experience at first. To make the difference, she had to use every resource at her disposal. “I joined forums, hair and beauty groups, and manufacturing and e-commerce clubs to learn as much as I could. Now, every time we decide to try something new or build on a new technology it’s like having to start from scratch all over again.
Talk to other people in the business. Many times we’re scared to talk about what we’re working on or to ask people questions because we fear that someone will steal our ideas or turn us away. And yes, both of those things may happen but you can’t be afraid of that. You have to put yourself out there, build relationships and talk with others who’ve experienced success in your market or in a similar space.”
However, she also had to deal with feelings of doubt in order to get to where she is today. “In the beginning, I thought I didn’t belong in the beauty industry because I didn’t have a degree or any experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of what a CEO or successful executive is supposed to look like, but my advice to others is to just ‘do you’ and embrace the path you’ve chosen. You can change the definition of what success is and what it looks like,” Kaye says.