Becoming a Boss: How Viviane Kaye Started Kinky Curly Yaki
Hair Business

Becoming a Boss: How Viviane Kaye Started Kinky Curly Yaki

The Queen of Kinky Curly Yaki

These days starting a business is extremely common.

Everyone is looking to make a little extra money from a side gig, or they are trying to follow their passion from 5 pm to 9 am. But, starting a business based on a trend requires a leap of faith.

And about seven years ago, Vivian Kaye decided that she wanted to take that leap when she started a business catering to the natural hair demographic. Specifically, women who wanted to add length and fullness to their natural hair texture.

At this time, circa 2011, rocking your natural hair was just becoming “a thing” in the mainstream market. Issa Rae was not popping up with the Kankelon hair on red carpets. And Yara Shahidi was still too young to influence the style of the twenty-something-year-old.

Although many curly-haired women were going away from perms and texturizers, they were still covering or manipulating their naturally kinky hair textures. Vivian not only convinced her customer to embrace her natural hair texture, but she also had them rocking it on a daily basis.

Keep reading to find out how Viviane Kaye started Kinky Curly Yaki, a high-quality hair extension business that caters to natural hair textures.

Viviane Kaye Kinky Curly Yaki

The Wedding Decorator

Before Kinky Curly Yaki, Vivian Kaye decorated venues for one of the most important days in a woman’s life, their wedding day.

Being from Toronto, a melting pot in the form of a city, her clientele ranged in ethnicities. Because her job consisted of serving everyone from Southeast Asians to Italians, and Koreans, Vivian knew her look had to be on point. This sentiment made sense because her work product was extremely visual.

It is here that she struggled with the natural texture of her hair and keeping up a professional appearance. Unfortunately and understandably, her clients did not understand the purpose of a headscarf or a du-rag to cover up the hours of effort put into her failed twist out.

At this time Vivian started an expensive and expansive search to solve her own issue: lack of access to hair extensions that could help her achieve the perfect twist out. The twist out was not the only style goal that Viviane had in mind while on her hunt. She also needed a kinky texture of hair that would blend with her real hair.

Often Viviane struggled with the texture difference that most naturals have, one texture in the front and a completely different texture in the back. She affectionately called hers “Afro in the front, Indian in the back.” You can imagine, this is a challenge when you want to match your leave out to your extensions, and you want to avoid it tool.

That is until she found a really expensive hair texture that she loved enough to get a sew-in.

Viviane Kaye Kinky Curly Yaki

Lesson One: You Are Your Customer

While rocking her sew in Vivian attended a black girl meet up.

Unbeknownst to Vivian, this is meetup would serve an impromptu focus group for her soon to be product line. Because all of the women at the meetup were born with some texture to their hair, they were intrigued with Vivian’s hair.

In fact, not only did various women at the meetup compliment her on her hairstyle and its texture, but they also expressed a range of interest in her techniques. These women wanted to rock a natural look, and they needed all of the details!

The crazy part about this entire story is that the women did not know that Vivian was wearing a sew-in! They thought that all of the hair was growing from her scalp. Upon divulging her sew-in secret, the women switched from admires to wishful consumers. It is here that a light bulb went off in Vivian’s head. She could use this hair to become the plug that these women and so many others needed. She could start a business!

So, in the offseason of her wedding decor business, Vivian bought a domain name, purchased a few business cards, and threw up a website. Thus, the start of Kinky Curly Yaki. Needless to say, she hasn’t looked back since.

Takeaway:

Be your own customer because when you’re your own customer, you will always have a ready-made Better Business Bureau rating your next move.

Lesson Two: Investing In Yourself Is Expensive

Part of the success of Kinky Curly Yaki lies in the product testing.

Vivian has worn every single texture that she offers on her website. And she wore it before she offered it to anyone. Because Vivian knows that the biggest mistake most people make when selling hair is following this two-step blueprint:

Step 1:

Find a wholesaler

Step 2:

Dropship their product

She wanted to bypass the customer complaints and chargebacks by doing a little more legwork in the begging on the sourcing process.

And because the textures that she is offering can be course and may have a tendency to tangle, Viviane knew that she could run into potential quality control issues with the hair.

She needed to know what each hair type would do when worn in different environments and styled with different products. Not only did she test the hair, but she joined forums, hair and beauty groups, and manufacturing and e-commerce clubs to immerse herself in her industry as well.

This testing costs quite a few resources. To purchase hair from a vendor, you need money, and at times you have to spend a lot of it because of minimums and freight costs. To wear the hair, you need time. Time to not only continuously style the hair but also time to see how long the hair can last.

All of this is information that is eventually passed on to your ideal customer in the form of selling points.

kinky curly clip ins

Testing is Essential

It is hard for entrepreneurs to grasp that a lot of money to goes into trial and error.

But, when it came to making the final selections for her assortment line, Vivian was glad that she put the sacrifice in. This expensive lesson although costly helps Vivian when customers call in saying that they’re not sure why their hair extensions might be behaving in a certain way. She can troubleshoot the product effectively because she’s worn the hair before.

There are so many other business owners out there that are looking just to make a quick buck. They don’t care about every single product because they’re just trying to get the coin into their pocket. But she knew that she had a lasting business that could get her very far.

Takeaway:

Learn your product. This way you can avoid selling inferior products, and you can better advise your customer.

Lesson Three: Right the Wrongs

While it took time to establish Kinky Curly Yaki, Vivian looks at all of her setback like lessons. She defines them as something necessary for her to learn and deal with to grow as a business.

When recalling on a time that she ordered a batch of kinky clip-ins Vivian says that she has run into instances where the shipment she ordered came in all wrong. The clip-ins came in as wefted hair instead of the temporary clip-ins that Vivian ordered and advertised on her site.

Where most entrepreneurs would have a panic attack, Vivian moved with the swiftness of an event planner that had to fix a last minute venue change. The first step that she took to rectify the situation involved a direct call to her clients that ordered the Kinky Curly clip-ins.

Then she got to work on the supplier. She went back to the drawing board to fix the miscommunication effort and got her correct order. It is crucial that she contacted the customer as soon as she realized that there was an issue. Any other course of action would have set off a flood of angry customer calls and bad reviews that could have negatively impacted the company.

Takeaway:

You can’t expect to run a business and not have shipping issues or miscommunication happen to you. You are supposed to roll with the punches and take all of the bruises as they come while moving forward.

Treat everything like a lesson to help your business deal with more significant hurdles, and you will find the silver lining!

Lesson Four: Maintain Supplier Relationships

Vivian is moving major weight! But none of this would be possible without the help of reliable suppliers whom she has built a relationship with.

Vivian started to create all of these relationships at the start of Kinky-Curly Yaki and continued to mold them while KCY kept growing into the business that it currently is. It is incredible to know that Vivian is still using the same suppliers she started out with when she was ordering one or two bundles. And because her suppliers have built with her, their relationship is beneficial to them as well.

Long gone are the days when Viviane ordered one to two bundles. Now she is ordering kilos of natural texture hair extensions from these suppliers. She attributes their strong bond to open lines of communication.

It is also vital they have direct forms of communication! At this point, there is no intermediary. She has access to the person in the company that can help to get her point across and if need be, make changes immediately so that it does not become a bigger issue in the future.

Takeaway:

Relationships and communication are two keys to success when growing your business. If formed correctly both parties in the relationship will benefit as the company grows.

corporate hair

Lesson Five: Establish Transparency

When Vivian Kaye started, she did not let anyone know that she was the woman behind Kinky-Curly Yaki!

It is only over the last couple of years that Vivian came out as the face of her brand. It wasn’t until recently when she started to have moments relating to her customers and their hair struggles that she made the most important realization of her company’s existence. People need to see themselves in the company that they are supporting.

Your customers need to buy you. They’re not necessarily buying the product at all times, but they’re definitely buying you. If you look like your customer or have a similar story and lifestyle habits, your customer is likely to purchase your product.

Why? Well, because they feel a connection to you. They see that your business is helping your life get better in some way. So if it helps you and you are experiencing similar circumstances, it can help them too.

Takeaway:

Vivian has the mentality of someone who is down to earth, an everyday woman who has started a really successful brand. She is quoted saying: “I’m just like you, I’ve just figured it out. And if I can figure it out, you can figure it out!”

Lesson Six: Curate Social Media Influencers

When Kinky-Curly Yaki first started, social media influencing had not yet become a thing.

If you think about it, the whole concept of influencers and social media marketing has only picked up within the last three years. So when Vivian had her first influencer, she just asked someone that she knew in real life.

This person who also wore kinky hair, took Viviane up on her offer to try out the hair she was selling at the time. All Viviane did was ask for an opinion on the hair, and this influencer posted a message about the hair on a forum. This one act was a jumpstart and enabled the hair to take off!

Some of the more prominent influencers that Viviane works with currently helped to grow the brand to the staple that it is today. Influencers including the likes of @Nae2Curly were relatively small before they partnered with Kinky Curly Yaki

Viviane selected them because she saw that they had the same drive and passion behind their own personal influencing brand that she did behind Kinky-Curly Yaki. These types of influencers better represent her business. It is also a social media tactic that sets her apart from other brands because it is not something that a lot of brands would risk when selecting an influencer.

It is not always about the follower count. Find someone who can grow with you and has the same drive and passion that you do when it comes to their own business. This makes for a perfect partner.

Naptural Elenore curly natural hair

Why Her Influencers Make Sense

While every single relationship has not been on the up-and-up, the influencers that Viviane works with on a regular basis put in the work.

Why? Because they are a version of her end-user as well. They create natural content for both their following and the 73 thousand followers of Kinky Curly Yaki. All of the images show them as authentic users who appreciate the product.

It doesn’t come off like they’re selling something. This is what makes Kinky Curly Yaki so successful! Seeing girls representing the brand who are authentic and still wearing hair from two to three years ago makes you want to invest in the product as a customer because you can see that the hair has longevity.

Takeaway: When dealing with influencers don’t look back on people who said they were going to post and did not do what they said they were going to do. There’s always a hungry influencer waiting to use a top quality product. Don’t focus on the ones that have failed.

Just focus on what you have been able to execute because there is no point in looking back.

Who wants to buy kinky hair?

Kinky-Curly Yaki was created in part to help women of color find a safe space to embrace their natural beauty.

Slowly but surely we’re getting away from European standards of beauty being the only measure that matters. Companies like Kinky-Curly Yaki help us to do just that!

With six textures that cover a full gamut of the natural hair community Vivian Kaye’s Kinky Curly Yaki proves that there is a large audience ready and willing to invest in quality kinky hair extensions.

Seven figures large, and as we fall deeper and deeper in love with our natural features every day, it is a guarantee that that number is going to grow.

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