Diishan Imira is the co-founder/CEO of Mayvenn Inc., a VC-backed innovative technology platform that has re-shaped the distribution of retail products and afforded hair stylists an opportunity to earn a direct profit from selling hair extensions and other beauty products to their clients. Here, Imira gives us the scoop on the future of innovative retail distribution in the hair industry.
ESSENCE.com: How did you get into this business?
Diishan Imira: I have hair stylists in my family and had exposure to this world growing up. My professional career was primarily in international trade and supply chain. I lived in China for several years, as well as other places around the world, making money by importing products back to the U.S. A family member asked me to help her get some hair-extensions from overseas. In the process of helping her I discovered I had a lucrative product and began selling hair to salons in east and west Oakland. As I began learning more about the economics of the products, and especially the nature of the existing distribution, I thought it was crazy that the salons were not the ones selling the products. I had my “ah ha” moment, and the rest is history.
ESSENCE.com: Mayvenn’s goal is to create a new distribution channel for beauty entrepreneurs to increase their profits. Can you tell us why this is so needed in the beauty industry?
Imira: Our position at Mayvenn is that hair stylists and beauty professionals are the some of the most important people we have in society. Everyone wants to look and feel their best, and go to either a stylist, barber or beauty professional to help them do this. They bring out the beauty and confidence in all of us, and we think that’s very important. We think it’s time that stylists get both the recognition they deserve, AND earn incomes that reflect their true value.
ESSENCE.com: Why is there such a barrier for hairstylists, salons and beauty entrepreneurs to profit from the retail distribution arm of the beauty industry when so many of their clients look to them for suggestions on what to buy, where to buy, etc.
Imira: The main reason is that participating in retail is capital intensive, and most hair salons are very small businesses without a lot of working capital to buy a lot of inventory. It’s also a lot to manage, especially for hairstylists that may not be as business-oriented as they are focused on their craft. So they end up just sending their customers elsewhere for products.
ESSENCE.com: Aside from increasing their revenue, what are the other benefits of hairstylists selling products directly to their clients?
Imira: It adds to your professionalism. It becomes another service that you can offer your clients—the convenience of buying without having to go the beauty supply store and getting a better customer service experience. This reflects well on you as a professional and your clients appreciate it. Also, as we expand our product offerings, stylists will be able to recommend and sell better products that may not even be available at beauty supply stores. The goal is to help you generate even more value for yourself and your clients.
ESSENCE.com: What do you attribute to Mayvenn’s rapid growth?
Imira: It’s simple. We have a real solution to a real problem. When you have a great product, people talk about it, and it spreads. We have a tremendous amount of word of mouth. What would you do if you saw the stylist next to you making an extra $1,000 a month?
ESSENCE.com: We see more and more investors betting on minority tech founders. Why do you think we are seeing this trend in technology right now?
Imira: There are more of us coming to Silicon Valley every day, so I think just in terms of volume we’ll see more of it. Investors are also beginning to realize there may be advantage in finding and investing in people who come from different places than what’s typical. Unique perspectives tend to lead to unique ideas, and that’s where opportunity exists.