How Vivian Kaye Turned Her Hair Care Needs into a Multi-Million Dollar Biz

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K. is a fourteen year veteran entrepreneur who has bootstrapped to companies from the ground up for the last seven years. She has strictly focused on the e-commerce world where she built kinky curly Yacky, which offers textured hair extensions for black women to over one million in annual revenue Vivian has been featured on shop. Expert Academy Series Ted Conferences the way we worked and has been featured and digital publications such as Black Enterprise Magazine and refinery twenty nine Vivian, welcomed being boss. Thank you for having made such a pleasure to be here. Vivian! We've gotten to know you a little bit over the past couple of days. You've popped in on some of our sessions. You've been offering us so much guidance and. Radiance and your smarts and all of the things. So now I'm dying to hear your story like, can you, can we? Let's rewind a little bit and we're GonNa. Get into all of the wisdom that you have to share, but I want to know more about your entrepreneurial journey, so tell us like. Where did it begin? How did you get to where you are now being on Ted and refinery twenty nine this morning i saw on your instagram. You're on somebody's vision board like talk about goals. How did you get there? Honestly I really don't know. Because, it's not like being an entrepreneur was a big thing right, so you know back when I was growing up? Being an entrepreneur was for people who didn't have jobs. And so I kept you know I was always in jobs where the one person department one Person Marketing Department and then you know I was at a job one day and decided to start side hustling. So I started out my first business as a side hustle and then while I was running that side. Hustle I got fired for sorry I got laid off. That's the momentum. Laid off from that job, and then at that point I said. You know what let me just let me just go for it. Just go for it and do whatever I need to do. 'cause I'm young I'm free and I can. I can do whatever I want. And while I was running that business I started running, and then I had started a side hustle with kinky curly Yacky, so it was like I had businesses running at the same time so it wasn't something that I set out to do, but with both businesses I set out to solve my problem. And at the time I didn't realize that that was the best way to start a business. But that's what it was I. set out to start to solve my own problem or to solve a pain point that I saw people were having so so that's how my entrepreneurial journey began. What was the first sight hustle? The first sight has a wedding decorator. So all I would do is go in and decorate people's wedding so instead of being on a an event planner doing you know doing all those little things I focused on one thing and what it was I decided so there's a whole story behind that so I'm one of four girls and I'm the second the number two. So my older one was getting there. My older sister was getting married and she hired a decorator who who sent you decorate the wedding for? Say a thousand dollars right, so she paid her deposit. Everything was good, but two weeks before the wedding she came back and said I need another thousand dollars, but didn't have a reason why. Right so I thought well. Of course, she couldn't have paid for A. She couldn't afford to pay her, so she ended up having to hire different decorator that decorated did a crack tastic job. And so I'm like. Why is it so difficult? Why can't decorators just say that they're going to do X. Y.? And this is what it costs and Bass what they do and keep it simple, so then I thought well. I'm just GONNA I was been into decor and HGTV when TLC used to beat more home decor than reality so I would So I started I decided I wanted to be a wedding decorator I. wanted to create weddings that were simple, but fabulous so I would ask. My bride's like okay, so do you remember the last wedding that you went to? And they would say yes, will do you remember the centerpieces or the decor? Remember. It was pretty I'm like that's what we're going to do. So instead of spending mortgage down payments on decor. Why not create something that is memorable, but affordable and people just remember it was pretty, and that's it so that's what I set out to do. And it was a it was a great success, and this was a business that I started with no prior knowledge like I just figured it out as I was going along. And so I can tell that you're a branding lover at heart because you're like, forget pretty. I want memorable and I think this is going to be a thread that we we've through all of your stories, but before we get to connecting those thoughts. I went to hear more about kinky curly Yucky, so what was? What was the problem that that was solving? And how did well I I'm the worse doing I always do this. I always asked two questions in a row. So question one is more about kinky curly yacky. What problem did that solve? And then I'm really curious to hear a little bit more about how I do think that whenever we have side hustles and day jobs and we're trying on a bunch of different things they all start to. Tie together in some ways like we're always learning lessons from one thing to the next. I'm also really curious to hear. What lessons did you learn from wedding decorating that you're able to take to kinky curly yacky. That's a great question. Okay, so the first question was How can you KEROUAC even started? About problem so the problem was I as I was a wedding decker, and so I'm I. I actually live in Toronto, so it's one of the most Toronto Canada, and it's one of the most diverse cities in the world so I was doing everyone's wedding from you know the Muslims to South Asian to Indian to everyone, everyone's wedding so This is going to be a bit explain if anyone really wants to know the real detailed answer. I could always do that at a later point, but. For Black Women. We have to present. We have to show up in the world in a certain way, which is quote unquote presentable so most a Lotta Times wearing our hair, as it is naturally with kinky curly with kinky hair It's not professional. Why don't go professional? So I wanted something that looks like my hair. But would protect my hair because our hair is not suited to this north. American environment, it's it there's not moisture. It dries out really quickly but anyways I wanted something that looked like my hair and know what asked me where I bought it because I didn't want that whole. Nikki manashe thirty two inches of blonde wig down to my I wanted something that looked presentable. So I searched and searched and searched for something that looks like my hair, and then when I found it I weren't to a meet up. To just like a general networking event, and another black woman came to me and said WHO's your hairdresser? And what is your regimen for keeping your hair like that? And I said girl. This is a wave. And she was like I would buy. And this was in this was in two thousand eleven, so I thought well if she would buy it. And I bought it. There's gotta be at least a dozen. Other women would buy it to now. When I was looking to solve my problem, I saw I saw the gap in the market I. Thought There are no companies just selling kinky hair, but I was already running the successful decor business. I was buying my coach bags. I was going on vacation. I was happy with that, and then I decided then I thought well. You know you know. Weddings have a down sees. It feels like you know what I can't like. Itching the back of my brain, so then I said to myself you know what in the down season of of of Vivian the core I'm going to launch his company and I literally made up the name while I was in the shower like I was like Yankee curly. Jackie, O okay and I bought a domain name, and I launched it in December two thousand twelve, and it immediately took off. Okay so I actually do want to hear the details about the actual hair. You don't mind no worries because okay, so I remember talking to emily in the early days of ALMANAC supply company, which is her business and she was trying to find very specific candle containers to pour her candles into, and we talked about some deep googling like how you just have to search like. Get real good at searching. So how did you well? I guess two questions? Are It was a we've, but it looks natural so I think this goes back to that almost that brandon conversation of like it doesn't have to look quote Unquote Professional. Let's make it memorable like let's just make it bigger. Bigger let's make it more of a statement. which I think is so cool so I guess I have two questions here one. How did you find the natural hair? If there is a gap in the market? How did he find a? We've that had the natural texture and then in that might be getting too much of your secret sauce like you might not have to answer that one, but like how do you? How do you find the materials and then guess my next question is? How did you start to then scale and expound upon that not having any experience in that industry so how? Sold! The key was that I was trying to solve my own problem so What I was doing is I. Would I was doing that deep googling I was in facebook groups I was on hair care black hair care forums. Just you know just. Talking with other people and people of course at that time, a lot of people were sharing okay well. I bought this here I. Bought that there, and so that I would of course make note that, because again at the time I was not looking to start another business I was just looking to solve my own problems, so I wrote. You know I would contact every. Every single factor, every single manufacturer, every single website that said they would do kinky hair, and the once I found the one I was like. Wow, this, actually a pretty decent I would ask them to tweak it a little bit. Just a suit, my needs and they did it and I was like okay and I thought well after the girl confirmed my idea. I decided okay well. Let me see the state. Factory can still do it and I would order the same product under different names and asking to do different things to it, and they would do. So I thought okay. Okay. I'm onto something here. And so that's how that's how I was able to. I guess perfect the product because again. I I like to get high on my own supply, so that's the beauty of the businesses that I M my customer. I know what I'm looking for I know what problems I'm looking to solve I. Know What my pain points would be. And what other black women's pain points would be, and the only person who's able to address that is me. So of course I use that to my advantage You know to tell my brand's story but at the time again I listen, I'm an immigrant. I'm a college dropout and now a single mother. So I had no clue. About all these storytelling and branding mark I had no clue I just thought it was just doing what kind what came naturally to me. So so how I scaled that business well, I think one of the mistakes that a lot of people are making in starting businesses that they don't have an audience for the product that they have and so then what I had done again I inadvertently created an audience by by being on those facebook facebook. Forums a facebook groups that had black hair care forums because I was shining. Just being Vivian online people remembered me. So bad, and the funny thing was what I, when I when the business launched, no one knew it was me I didn't. I wasn't. My face wasn't the base of the brand it was just like here's some products. You guys will love Ed Oh. My Gosh and people bought it, but what happened was. I was facebook group and someone I didn't do. The WHO is on the back end of my website do that. Who has privacy on the back end of my product? Someone in one of the facebook groups created a fake place book profile and posted all my information in those facebook groups. Saying this is the person who owns that brand. So what she meant. To to like to help me to make me fail actually was what turned my like. What is what actually skyrocketed my business? Because once people found out that I was the person behind that brand, they were like well. Shoot I'm going to almost support her because she's this. She's that I remember she's Great. She's awesome, and that's what took off so I realized then that. My brand, my person like why. Is What is going to help me succeed in business. Amen I. Resonate so much with what you're saying and. I have branding agency as well and really focus on personal branding and I i. feel like one a lot of people always tell you you need to identify your customer and what they need, but I always think it really does start with you if you can start with what you need you like, you can trust that. We're not all that different and that if you can just get specific about yourself, you're going to be getting specific about your dream customer. Customer so we are so aligned there and then the fact that I mean it was an unfortunate, and you know really inappropriate way to learn the power of personal branding, but you did learn the power of personal branding, so that is incredibly exciting and I. WE'RE GONNA dig into more about like how you leverage that and who you are, and what you do, and how you bring it into your business and draw boundaries and all of the things but. We do have an attendee question that I. Want to slide in here if we may. I'm in this question is from. Death and I think especially for creatives. Who is you know most of our crowd here then we add like to hear your. Hear your thoughts on this, so here's your question. so Vivienne said she had the hair problem herself and chose to solve it, but what kept her on that path instead of ending up as an all purpose, beauty, Guru or similar. To be honest. Hair is not my jam. So really what I? How I think of it is just the ends to a means way or means to an end it's the means to an end, so my real goal is to give black women confidence to show up as they are in the world. So hair just so happens to be the the means to that end. So how I just stick to hair you know I'm pretty. I'm pretty good at focusing on the one thing like it's what I've learned is You know niche of and that's my I will preach about I say niche, but its niche. You know it's either. We can use them interchangeably potato potato. Okay, so with me I. Find that if You speak to a very specific group of people, and you sell them a very specific product. They will be your most loyal fans. They are cheaper to market to they. Are you know more about them? Especially when you already are them so for me that makes it very easy to stick to that one thing because I know that very well and I can speak to it now. Let's just by started venturing into. Say. Make up girl I'll even know how to put on eye shadow right so it wouldn't. It wouldn't. I wouldn't have authentic voice I can't lend that often into city to that product, but what I do know is hair. I'm not a hairdresser. I'm not a hair stylist. Because I had a passion for solving my own problem so that I could show up as quote. Unquote professional in the world. I can solve the I know what looks professional for me. You know I learned you don't like it. That's your problem. Not Mine Right, so we as a black women. What started in two thousand? I want to say. In Two thousand eleven two thousand twelve. Is that Youtube? We started all jumping on youtube and teaching each other how to care for our hair. We stopped putting before. We're used to put chemicals in our hair in order to straighten it to look to fit that European standard of beauty. But then we were like you know what I'm tired of that crap. We're tired of that. We don't want that if that's not Howard. The hair grows out of our heads. You're either going to accept this as we are or not right so so the goal of. Of making black women confident in how they show up in the world is really what keeps me focused on here. There's other people and I and I realized. I'm really good at that, so if I just if you just focus on the one thing that one goal your why. Then you're. You'RE NOT GONNA get distracted by all the Shiny Mirror. The the shiny objects that are floating around, because yeah I could make some easy money doing makeup, but I'm not passionate about that I. don't that doesn't that's not my jam? I love the what you did was instead of doing. The sheds are what people may have expected you to stuck with thing I think oftentimes people in this crowd see either see someone who have sort of diverged from that path, or so. They're thinking okay I. Should I should diversify as well or they sort of get these little inklings of like going to different. Different things I love that what you've done is just focused. You focused on doing the one being amazingly well exactly, and that's and that's the one, if I had to give one piece of advice to anyone is do that one thing and do it really well before you move onto anything else because you know doing that. One thing really really really really really really. Really really really advising that really do that. One thing really well. Guess what you can do anything you can apply that same, so that's what I learned in billions, the core I learned that if I kept it simple and I just focused on providing my brides with this one product and do it really well, it would speak for itself, so I took that same. Simple yet fabulous and I applied it to. Kinky Curly Aki. So people like what can I all? I'm explained the Kinky curly Yacky. What is that, so? It's Kinky kinky hair, and it's curly for curly hair, and then there's Yacky. So? Yuck, so yacky actually is short for Yak, or against the long overreact so back in the day when they wanted to mimic black women's hair straightened. They use hair from Jack the animal. So the industry just put an eye on the end and call the Yacky, so you would know what Jackie was. If you were a black woman, so any block won't be like. Oh! You got that Yacky in and so it's a sort of tongue in cheek, so you would have to be part of that target demographic in order to understand the name of the the name of the brand clear I love that. You're very specific about your dream. Customer to effect. Because I was her I get hot on my own supply. So at some point, did you end up closing the decorating business I did? I closed it I. Shut it down back in two thousand fifteen, and the only reason why I did is because I got practice. More. Yeah so I launched kinky curly. Aki in the summer of two thousand twelve by July of two thousand, thirteen. I was in the business was doing really well at that point? It was I was just doing just under four hundred thousand dollars in sales. and I found out in July I was pregnant. Anti ago. And so you know with my? With wedding core I had brides booked a year out. Right so so I was still doing those weddings, still going to the still going to meetings breastfeeding doing weddings that type of thing. And then I started I wasn't really paying attention to what can carry Aki was doing I didn't know all these numbers until later on because I was doing it just because I just loved it and I was learning about H. Tim Allen Marketing in Seo and I just I just threw myself into it, but wasn't paying attention to the numbers. I just knew it was doing well. But then when I found out, I was pregnant. I was like okay. Okay, the being you got to the chill, you gotta chill. You can't be can't be doing everything and then in two thousand, fourteen march, two, thousand, fourteen I, gave birth to my son and he's been wonderful ever since he's six now. and then I saw what can curly accu was doing I thought. Ma'am really half assing it. What happens if I put my full ass into this? And once I did again. It took off, so so yeah, okay so. I I know that whenever entrepreneurs are listening to this or site hustlers listening to this. They're like wait a second. She accidentally created a half a million dollar business and wasn't even paying attention. So how does that happen? Did was that like word of mouth or referral? Launches You have specific marketing plans. What did that look like for? You had none of that I had was what people knew me from in the facebook groups, and and because I was also also go. Gee of the niche, their niche of just selling kinky hair did not exist before I. Start before I created my company. So because I saw a gap in the market I'm A. I pioneered that so any other company that you now see selling kinky hair is because of me. And so then because I was first to market with that bat just. Exploded because that's women were looking for. I was solving their problem and on top of that I looked like them. Right so it's like they were like girl. You know, 'cause. One of the things would be like girl I was tired of the whole African in the front, an Indian in the back. If you're a black woman, you know what that means, so what that means is we're all from. Black women are from the African for so we had these tight kinky air, and then we are putting on these silk weaves. I didn't blend with our hair. So I was tired of the whole African in the front and Indian in the back, and that resonated with people, so it just and I didn't do I didn't i. Here's another thing I just literally launched with one product. I locked to one product and I only had three lancs. I only had three lengths. I remember at the time, and someone would buy one I would take that money in going by two. And that's how I built. My business I didn't I. Bootstrap I started from zero. I took no outside capital I didn't have any debt I literally started from the bottom. And was it easy. No, no, it wasn't. Is that possible ABSA freaking move? All right well, we're going to take a little break here because we've got to tell you about working smarter and not harder and. 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Why do you think that autheniticity and being true to yourself and using your own personality is important for anyone who is building a business or a brand? Because people don't necessarily. I think one of the biggest things people need to keep in mind as people aren't necessarily buying the product. As you can see, it's not like I'm the first person to ever sell Kinky, textured hair extensions and back. There were tons of companies that had it, but what they did. is they buried it underneath the silkier texture, so not the first. To Sell Kinky textured hair extensions. But what people don't realize that people aren't necessarily buying the product. They're buying the person or they're buying the emotions. They're buying lifestyles behind the product. So brand is where you can tell that story so branding will help you. To, help you, stand out in the crowd. It will help people remember and especially when you have a story that resonates with someone one. That's what they're buying into. They could care I. Mean Yeah, you could, you could be selling something. That's more expensive and more has a tools unless this unless that, but what they're buying is the person or the idea or the emotions behind. It so I that's what I realized very quickly is especially in the wedding decor. Businesspeople clouds giving. You made me you made it. It feel so simple. You made me feel so comfortable, and you made this process so easy for me and I realized. It doesn't go learn how to do all the fancy. You know all the fancy. Do Decor all I want but that's not what they care about. They care that I made them feel good about the money that they were spending made their wedding. Feel pretty like I made them feel that way. So that's that's really what you should focus on. I love that you said that you're not the first person to sell kinky natural hair extensions, but that it's been buried, and so you took a product unique in on it, and then you highlighted it, and it's beautiful, and you're owning it and you're helping. Other women own it I'm curious, little bit with some of the activism around. Natural Hair California has banned hair discrimination. It's something that I was so excited to see and when it continue to see, are there any levels of like activism or do you think even products like yours have helped? Create that kind of. Activism you know? Do you think that it's like no? This is who we are and this is just as professional as any other hair well I. Think the problem was that we were letting you know black women in general were we were leading the world? Tell us what was beautiful. And you know Youtube and you know the the beauty of the Internet was us being able to see each other people outside of our own communities, and how they look. How many rock their hair and all that jazz so I think really it. It just helped people just be who they wanted just to be who they are like just to be their authentic selves and truth be told, and it does just women in general, because even society tells us. Women were supposed to look like like I'm pretty sure after this quarantine thing has done. There's going to be a lot of people who were blonde. That aren't blonde anymore, right? But you know with black women where we're especially, you know we. Don't want to say Alison to say hated on because of how we look, and so then this i. feel just the way to just listen world we have to teach. We have to teach the world. This is how we are. If they don't like it. That is their problem. Because this is how my hey, this is how the hair grows out of my head naturally. It's curly it goes. It goes to the heavens because that makes me closer to God in the Sun. Right, as so if that's not something you think is professional, I think you really need to reexamine what your idea professional is. Karen sorry. Goes show that Chad. Presentation matters absent. That is what the Internet gave us. It gave us access to each other and to To all kinds of beauty and bodies and ways of being right, and it allowed us to see ourselves and others, and we can't help it, but need permission you know, and that permission sometimes simply in representation I have so many role models where I'm like. Oh, I didn't know I could do that until I saw them do it. And you're providing tools for that awareness as well which I think is like that's an important part of this, too. It's not only having access to the vision of its having access to the tools to, and that's even what you've done. Okay Vivian, you're you just radiate confidence? We all see. We all feel it over these past couple of days, do you? Some of our listeners are indeed here today WanNa know. Do you ever doubt yourself like? Do you ever have what we call being bossed? Friday? Feelings I mean especially going into industries that you didn't have experienced in. Full frequently. Battle with imposture syndrome Prodi feelings all the time. But then. I. Think to myself you know what. If. I don't do what I'm. Put on this earth to do then nobody will. Nobody will be able to do it either, because people who who look like me or even in the same situation as me so I. Guess I'm a single mom. I've been through depression. I've been I've been through all the things that tried me and I came out gold. So if I don't tell that story, I don't tell people how it's done. Then everyone's just this is GonNa be one hell of a boring world so if I. Let that Imposter Syndrome. Eat Me! Eat Away at me. Then that's not that's not fair. It's not fair to anyone. Right, so I shine so that everyone else can shine to. Raise that's like. Your purpose higher than your emotions absolutely. Thinks the. Catholics. Say she's like yes. I, know what with his quarantine? My bow talks has worn off so you can see my reaction. That's right. My eyebrows moving now. I love it. Up Cackling. Right I'd like to bring this to. The branding things, which you've talked a little bit about and the conference, but not everyone has been a part of the conference like listening to this we have. So many more people who have been who have been here with for the past couple of days, so I wanna to talk about this personal branding piece. And if you have any top tips for anyone who's looking to infuse more of their personality into their brand, how can just any old person in by any old person I mean? Everyone is a snowflake How can anyone shine in their business and use themselves as a tool for growth? Or what I want to remind people is you don't need to be me. So you, you know there's. If you think about people like if you think it will jams, right? There's different Jams Jentzsch. Ruby shied differently than a diamond emeralds than that, so you need to be exactly that so be yourself because the minute you start being someone who you're not. It's going to feel like work. It's going to feel You're going to hate it. People will see right through it. So you really don't have any choice, but to be yourself and so sometimes that means you being quirky, or it means you know. Maybe you do more blogging than you do video or whatever the case may be. You just need to show up as yourself. In whatever platform however way you want to do it and the people who it will resonate with. We'll find you. They will find you, so don't be. Please don't be anybody else you don't. That's not what you were. Put on this earth to be to be someone else I just doing yourself a huge disservice by not being yourself. How windy you feel the most yourself Vivian. Like sometimes it's hard to know like what what is me. What should I be sharing? Where do I draw these lines? You know what you know you know where the lines are to be drawn right? You know you know liking. We women. That's one thing I find with specially with women, and there's a lot of things on finding, but anyhow with women we need to trust. Our guts were always second guessing ourselves. We're always doing all these things, but you just need to trust yourself because you know what you know where that line is. You know what you should be sharing what you shouldn't be sharing. Someone there's comanding that unlike very existential questions, which is basically sums it up I'm like, but but even are we but a bundle of sell. What is time? What is personality? What is money. So sorry asked me asking the question again, so I can play it all night, so the question is windy. You feel most yourself like. How do you know what is authentically? You because I think all of us. WanNa show up as we are and who we are. But we can start to second. Guess Ourselves, so you were saying like we. As women need to listen to our guts like we know, it's in our guts. But how do you tune into that like I know like? Let's just say. I remember doing a couple of years ago, I did. I was I was asked to speak at a hair like a beauty hair brand thing and I didn't like it. 'cause hair was not my passionate kid. I could give to kicks about hair, but put me on. Put me in a forum or an opportunity like this. This is where I shine. So I know. You know you know like you know like you know. I'd so, that's the only. Way Can I can explain. We know you know you know. My in I think even what you're explaining is that you know by trying things, and then like listening to yourself right, so you did the hair thing or you went and spoke at the hair thing and you're like this feels gross like, but you wouldn't have known that if you hadn't tried it. I ache, factly eggs, and that's the key to life to. You gotta try. You gotTA. Try GotTA. Try GotTA. Try 'cause. That's the only way you're gonNA. Find out what you. You like and don't like you can apply that to life like you don't know you like Kale until you try it. You don't know you guys that do this until you try it. You have to go through and try a bunch of different things, and then and you know one of the things I started to realize because I'm I'm forty two, so at forty I was like you know what I'm done trying to live in this Fox like I'm done, it's over. I'm Vivian means lively one so Vivian you just need to go about living your best life because. You know all before I was forty at kept trying to be. Everyone kept trying to put me in this box. You know be a box. Go in the box. You know what I. I discovered that I was a parallelogram. Graham is is a sideways buckler rectangle that has. The Google it okay. I was a parallelogram and I was tired of being put into the box, and so once I turned forty. I just flip the bird to everything and said you know what again if you do not like it, I do not care. That is not my problem. You can go kick rocks with an open Tokyo.

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