Being Fired Inspired This Founder to Start Her Entrepreneurial Journey: A Chat with Vivian Kaye, Founder of KinkyCurlyYaki
In our monthly series, Now Is Female, we chat with female founders and game changers who are re-defining the face of business and entrepreneurship, 24 hours at a time. Women who have been able to navigate and break glass ceilings, self-imposed and external, in order to achieve the life of their dreams. These women certainly hit roadblocks on their journey but did not let that deter them once and are now living in their purpose.
Today, we chat with Vivian Kaye, founder of KinkyCurlyYaki, a company that sells high quality, kinky, curly and natural-looking textured hair extensions. After being laid off from her job, this inspired Vivian to start her entrepreneurial journey. She got her start in 2005 by creating Vivian’s Decor after a bad experience with a decorator during her sister’s wedding. At the time, she noticed just how difficult it was to find transparent pricing and packages for decor services. It was either too expensive or didn’t match what you paid for it. With Vivian’s Decor, she offered simple but fabulous decor that wouldn’t break the bank!
One thing that Vivian is true to, is starting businesses that solve a problem she has encountered in one way or another. With KinkyCurlyYaki, this was no different. In an effort to find protective styling that matched her natural hair, she came up short. Instead, she found styling that did more damage than protect - women unintentionally damaging their own natural hair in an attempt to blend it with exotic textures. Thus was discovered, a grossly underserved market.
A need for herself drove her to create a solution for thousands of women. Although entrepreneurship was never a path she saw for herself, she has been able to build one of the fastest growing hair brands serving women of colour to over 1 million in annual revenue.
Learn more about her story below:
Victory: As a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Vivian: As a child, I had no idea what I wanted to be. People always thought I should be an actor, comedian or radio DJ, but I always knew that none of them quite fit.
Victory: Did you see entrepreneurship as a path for your life? If no, why not?
Vivian: No I didn’t. At that time, being an entrepreneur was for people who couldn’t get a steady and secure job and so I never pictured it as a path for myself. When I became an entrepreneur 13 years ago, it fit like a glove.
Victory: Tell us about your journey, KinkyCurlyYaki and how it was created.
Vivian: In 2010, after watching tons of videos of women unintentionally damaging their own natural hair in an attempt to blend it with exotic textures like "Brazilian", "Peruvian" & "Malaysian", I began searching for textures that looked more like my own. I was so ready to say goodbye to that whole "African in the front, Indian in the back" thing. But my search came up empty. I found that most hair extension companies carried mostly straight or synthetic curl textures that were not versatile or easy to maintain; not to mention the available textures weren’t so cute either. So in late 2012, I decided to create a company that not only sold high quality, kinky, curly and natural-looking textured hair extensions but one that also celebrates the Black women who wear it.
Victory: When was the moment you decided to make KinkyCurlyYaki a full-time hustle?
Vivian: After being let go from my job at the time, I decided to start Vivian’s Decor. While running this, I noticed that KinkyCurlyYaki was starting to pick up and was doing really well. However, I wasn’t putting my full energy into it. I thought that if it was doing this well while working on it on a part time basis, imagine what would happen if I solely focused on it? That's when it really took off.
Victory: Was there any moment where you doubted yourself, and what motivated you to keep going?
Vivian: When I first started, there weren't other brands on the market that focused on just kinky hair. Then when I had my son, I took some time off to care for him. When I returned, the market was flooded with companies that were mimicking my products. I was of course frustrated, but then I realized that I couldn't give up that easily. I was the pioneer in the space and the creator of the kinky textured protective styling niche. That keeps me motivated to stay on top of the game.
Victory: How do you aim to empower other women through your work?
Vivian: With KinkyCurlyYaki, I aim to empower women to be their own beautiful and be confident in who we are, whether you wear hair extensions or not. We as Black women are the most criticized when it comes to our beauty and style. And as a black owned business, I want us to reclaim our confidence and rock our hair however we like.
Victory: What do you think is the most important trait a woman needs when navigating the entrepreneurship world?
Vivian: Consistency. If you don't have a consistent, patient bone in your body, you'll be a ship lost at sea in entrepreneurship. The small every day steps that you make over the course of time is really what will be the main indicator of your success. There's no magic pill, webinar or course that will get you there without consistency.
Victory: Do you have other female entrepreneurs who inspire you? Please list them.
Vivian: Sara Blakely, Bozoma Saint John (although I would consider her an intrapreneur), and Lisa Price.