Oakland native Diishan Imira noticed that the tiny hair salons and barber shops doing business in African-American communities do not tend to carry the styling gels and hair extensions that many of their customers want. Instead, salons typically refer customers to beauty supply stores rather than carry inventory that would add risk and expense to their small businesses.
In this, Imira saw one of those truly disruptive opportunities waiting to be filled. He launched Mayvenn, an e-commece beauty supplies platform that allows hair salons to sell products to their customers without taking on inventory.
Now, five months old, Mayvenn is growing revenues 40 to 60 percent a month. And some customers claim to be doubling their revenues as well.
“We have a lot of customers already, hundreds of hair stylists that use our platform to sell products,” Imira said.
Bringing the Internet into even this most people-based, neighborhood style industry opened a door: the U.S. market for hair products for African-American customers is about $6 billion annually. Why not let neighborhood salons reap those riches?
Imira and co-founder Taylor Wang built an e-commerce software platform that offers salons a way to create customized web sites to retail hair products to their customers. But they don’t need to take on inventory.
Mayvenn fulfills the orders direct from manufacturers and shares 15 percent of the revenues with the salons.
Wang estimated revenues are growing 40 to 60 percent a month.
Moreover, he said Mayvenn wants to double its staff of six in the next two months. It hopes to add coders, customer service representatives and marketing expertise.
That means jobs for Oakland, fulfilling that economists’ maxim that is is small businesses that provide most new jobs.
Talk about disrupting a market. Both Mayvenn and an industry that typically operates on shoe-string budgets, barbers and neighborhood hair salons, have a huge revenue stream.
But in case the story of Mayvenn seems like a cakewalk, Imira said that starting a business “took a lot of hustle” and perseverance.
“I had been trying to raise money for this business for two years,” Imira said. He finally was able to attract the attention of 500 Startups, a business accelerator program, and was accepted into its three month training sessions. At the end he pitched his business to investors.
“We didn’t get traction for raising money until 500 Startups. I worked two years just to penetrate a network (of investors). Once you are there, there’s all this stuff: help, money, access are given to you. But it took a lot of determination to get in there.”
It’s early investors include founding members of YouTube and early Facebook employees.
Among them was investor David Shen. “Huge market, untapped and ready for disruption,” Shen said about Mayvenn, writing on Angel List.
And he was right.
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