Hair is a $US5 billion market in the United States. Market research from Mintel estimates six out of 10 black women wear a weave or a wig.
But when Diishan Imira looked at the supply chain of how hair gets into a stylist’s hands, he realised it was a complete mess.
“Basically, women in India sell their hair to buyers from China, who treat and package it, then sell it to primarily Korean distributors.
Those distributors sell to Korean-owned beauty supply shops in the U.S., who then sell it to primarily African American women,” explained Ben Horowitz in a blog post, an investor from Andreessen Horowitz, who is leading a $US10 million investment round in Imira’s company, Mayvenn.
Imira grew up around hairstylists, so he had heard their frustrations with the complicated process. Women who want hair extensions can’t typically walk into a salon and pick out the the hair they want, having to go to a beauty supply store instead.
Imira said 95 per cent of African-American hair stylists can’t afford to keep the inventory on hand because of how expensive the natural hair is and the low amount of cash they have on hand to spend on it.
This is where Mayvenn steps in.
Mayvenn, which is Yiddish for trusted expert, lets hair stylists set up their own ecommerce sites and sell hair directly instead of referring customers to other beauty supply stores or distributors. The stylist doesn’t have to keep any of the hair on hand because Mayvenn ships it to them in two to three days, then offers a 30-day return window if the stylist or the client doesn’t like it.
“They can wear the product, and they get better prices from us,” Imira explained.
What has attracted Horowitz and other investors to the company is not the fact that it sells hair, but how it helps the stylists it works with.
The company is already working with more than 30,000 hair stylists and has done eight-figure revenue in the year-and-a-half since it’s launched, Imira said.
“The most successful of these have more than doubled their income via Mayvenn while dramatically improving life for their customers,” Horowitz said in a blog post announcing the investment. “Even more exciting, Mayvenn’s methods and platform can easily be extended to trusted experts in many fields, enabling gifted craftspeople to become economically empowered.”
The company has raised $US13 million in funding, including Friday’s $US10 million Series A round of funding led by Andreessen Horowitz. Also participating in the round are Trinity Ventures, Core Innovation Capital, Cross Culture Ventures, Impact America, Jimmy Iovine, Serena Williams and Steve Stoute.
Disclosure: Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz, is an investor in Business Insider.