Vivian Kaye is an entrepreneur and Founder of the highly successful KinkyCurlyYaki, a premium textured hair extensions brand for black women founded back in 2012. In her own words, she bootstrapped the company into a multimillion dollar business. Kaye is also a business and empowerment expert, a TV and podcast personality, and a content creator, working with a lot of brands as a brand ambassador. She likes to introduce herself as an entrepreneur personality, and an all round dope lady.
We had a chat with her recently to find out what she’s been up to in the business world and life in general.
I suppose it’s safe to refer to you as a serial entrepreneur. Can you run us through some of your innovations and establishments and the story behind them?
KinkyCurlyYaki is a business I actually started while I was running another business. I was a wedding decorator, and I needed something that looked quote unquote “professional.” So, you know, as black women, we know what that means. It means bone straight, relaxed looking, textured hair. But at the time, I wasn’t at all interested in having that silky Brazilian Malaysian hair that didn’t look like hair that grew out of my head. I didn’t really actually mean to start a business, I just wanted to solve my own problem.
Once I found the solution to my problem, I just wore it. Then, I went to a networking event, and a black woman pulled me aside to ask me what my regimen was for getting my hair to look the way it did, and who my hairdresser was. When I told her that it was a weave, she said I would buy that. And, you know, that’s when the light bulb went off for me. I launched KinkyCurlyYaki in December of 2012, and it immediately took off.
Founding and growing KinkyCurlyYaki into a seven-figure establishment must have been very challenging at first. What were some of the challenges you encountered? Did you undertake any business training?
The challenges were mainly the typical challenges anyone would face starting a business. Things like time management, finances, scaling and growing your business, whether or not to hire employees. But then I had an additional challenge because a year after I started the business, I had a baby. When I hit my first million, I had an 18-month old baby at the time. I faced a lot of challenges, but managed to overcome those obstacles just by focusing not necessarily on what I didn’t know, but on what I did know. I didn’t have any business training, even when I started my first business. I literally just learned as I was going along. I would say that was all lessons learned along the way.
What’s the number of products in the KinkyCurlyYaki hair collection, and how did you go about their production?
It started out because again, I was trying to solve my problems. I first started out with bundles, and then it became bundles and closures, and then it turned into clip-ins, and then it turned into ponytails and now wigs. We carry six different textures and seven different lengths, and then as the business grew, I added complimentary products that my customers said that they needed. So, we’ve got six or seven different products. So really, we just go based on what the market and our customers are asking for.
How did you go about financing, also, what resources are available out there for newbie entrepreneurs struggling to raise capital to fund their innovations and ideas?
I bootstrapped the business. Literally, someone would buy two bundles, I would take the money from the two bundles and then go and buy four. That’s how I started and grew the business. I didn’t take outside financing until six years into the business, but by then, I was already a million-dollar business. All I kept doing in the first few years was to focus on growing the business and our skills. Now, there are lots of funds and grants to help people fund their businesses.
Also, what advice do you have for the young women (especially of colour) out there doubting themselves about taking on such huge steps like you did?
I came up with this phrase called, “what would Chad do?” And “what would Chad do” is meant to help you to overcome those self-limiting beliefs that pop up in your head. Chad is more of an energy or a mindset. A lot of times we as women, and especially as black women, we’re starting businesses to serve our own needs. So, we understand the demographic of people that we’re serving, but we don’t necessarily have the confidence in order to take the huge steps to start or grow the business. There’s all a bunch of people out there doing it confidently, and they’re doing it wrong. But if you actually know what you’re doing, then all you need to do is match your confidence with your expertise.
Finally, what’s next in line for Vivian Kaye?
Well, I’m not sure what’s next in line. If you asked me 10 years ago what my next 10 years would look like, I wouldn’t have predicted the last decade and what actually took place. So, for me, I’m open-minded as to what will happen. I’m grateful for all the abundance that flows into my life and, and I wish for more of it. So, what’s next in line? I would say just more abundance and, and a more soft life. Yes.
Chinenye Emezie | Assistant Editor