How One Entrepreneur Raised $3 Million in Venture Capital Funding by Selling Hair Extensions

Image: File

The idea of mixing the black hair market with the ecosystems of Silicon Valley may seem like a foreign concept to many, but for 34-year-old entrepreneur Diishan Imira the idea sounded perfect.

Growing up in a family full of hair stylists and seeing first hand how black hair salons were not gaining profit off the hair extensions they were installing, Imira knew it was up to him to find a solution.

“We spend $9 billion on hair products every year, but less than 5 percent of [our salons] retail any products,” Imira told BlackEnterprise.com. “I wanted to change the way the products were sold. I wanted the hairstylists in the salons to be able to participate in the entire supply chain process.”

To solve this problem, the California native created an innovative technology platform that allows hair stylists to sell hair extensions directly to their clients without a middle man involved. With starter funding from family, friends and angel investors that totaled $50,000 Imira and his business partner, Taylor Wang, birthed the idea of Mayvenn, Inc. in 2012.

Unlike other American entrepreneurs in the hair weave business, Imira did not rely solely on his domestic contacts to build his company. With a background in international trade and a passion for building relationships with suppliers, Imira along with Wang traveled to Asia to get their first batch of inventory and build direct relationships with suppliers there. In addition to fostering relationships abroad, the two co-founders worked aggressively at home to gain funding for their start-up. But with an anti-pattern tech company in Silicon Valley, the young entrepreneurs faced many challenges with trying to get investors to understand the growing business of the black hair market.

“It took a very long time of knocking on doors trying to get people to hear us,” said Imira. “Then once the right person heard us, we got into this accelerator called 500 Startups, and once you get into that program it’s like now you have some credibility and investors start to listen in a different way.”

But getting accepted into the 500 Startups in April 2013 seemed to be only half the battle for Imira and Wang, whose target audience for its product is the African American community.

“When we came into 500 Startups, every body was looking like ‘What is this crazy thing they let in? ‘This is technology and these dudes have boxes of hair,’” said Imira. “So you have the majority of people who don’t get it and don’t care, but then there are investors who are looking for things that are weird and that they don’t quite understand. That’s their investment thesis. They want to go find the things that not everybody else is doing.”

Image: File

During the summer of 2013 Imira and Wang stayed in Mountain View where they immersed themselves into the cut throat culture of Silicon Valley and introduced their product to several investors. By August 2013, they raised $750,000 in investment funding and in October 2013 Mayvenn, Inc. was officially launched.

With just a year and a half of operational experience under its belt, Mayvenn has now raised $3 million in venture capital funding and has a network of over 25,000 stylists. With the continued mission to help ease the process of buying and selling products for both hair stylists and their clients, Imira and Wang’s goal is to eventually expand Mayvenn into an online platform that sells not only hair extensions but other hair care products on the market as well.

 

 

5 Guest Blogging Tips That Build Your Brand Successfully

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Over the years, it’s become clear that the quickest way to build a brand online is to invest in content marketing, and link up with bloggers and authoritative industry leaders. All you need to support this theory is to look at brands like HubSpot and KISSmetrics, which hit the ground running with massive guest blogging campaigns and impressive visuals.

If you’re looking to experience an equally fast start for your brand – or are looking to give an existing brand a much needed jolt – there are certain strategies you need to pursue.

Benefits of Guest Blogging

The entire blogosphere gasped when Matt Cutts told the world guest blogging was over. But what did he really mean? Was he saying that all guest blogging was bad and should be done away with?

Not quite.

What he said was that guest blogging as a primary source of link building was over. He warned companies to quit relying on guest blogging as a link-building strategy and to instead only use it for brand awareness.

While this statement should have provided more clarity for companies on how to approach guest blogging as a brand play, it instead scared many off from the practice altogether. However, the truth is that guest blogging is still very much alive and is a perfect opportunity for growing a brand. But you must understand the difference between linking up with spammy sites and using credible channels to disseminate your content.  Here are a few of the major benefits of partnering with credible bloggers:

Awareness

The primary benefit of guest blogging is that brands are able to reach entirely new segments of the market. Instead of relying on your own reach, you get to tap into someone else’s group of followers and readers.

Credibility

The more exposure your brand gets on a variety of different blogs and platforms, the more credibility you gain. Each place your name appears – assuming it’s not negative – is a virtual vouch for your brand.

Relationships

While you’re trying to reach a large audience of readers, the fact is that linking up with a guest blogger serves as an effective networking tool that could pay dividends in the future.

Link building

And while guest blogging shouldn’t be your primary form of link building, it’s certainly a form of link building. When used in conjunction with other strategies, it does add value. 

The Key to Successful Guest Blogging

What Matt Cutts warned people against was linking up with low quality blogs and using those connections to create spammy content. So, if you’re going to continue guest blogging, that means you need to find influential bloggers. Furthermore, you need a specific strategy for researching and monitoring which guest blogging opportunities provide the highest return.

Unfortunately, only six percent of B2C marketers claim their organizations are “very successful” at tracking ROI, while an incredible 30 percent either don’t track at all or aren’t successful.

Top Tips for Brand Building with Guest Blogging

If you believe guest blogging could give your brand a boost, here are some of the top tips to propel you in the right direction.

Keep Track of Your Efforts

According to Brand24, a leader in social monitoring and tracking, it’s critical that you keep track of all your guest blogging efforts so you can accurately understand whether you’re getting a valuable return. Using a proven software or online tool can make this process exponentially easier.

Implement a Closing

While many bloggers have very specific rules, some may give you more flexibility. If possible, find a way to implement a strong closing with a call-to-action. This CTA allows you to engage with your audience and may even encourage readers to click on your link or share your post.

Invest in Shelf Life

A well-written blog can realistically hang around for years and still produce results. While there is certainly a time for writing time-sensitive content regarding current issues, it’s a much more valuable long-term strategy to write content that can remain effective for a long period of time.

Find Syndicators

One thing successful brands are good at is finding syndication partners to redistribute existing content to new audiences. The huge benefit here is that you don’t have to write anything fresh. You simply have to contact these sites and make a simple request. In addition to guest blogging, consider syndication for content you own.

Invest in Research

Prior to implementing a guest blogging strategy, you should make sure you’ve done your research. Whenever considering a new blog or channel, check to make sure it’s audience would resonate with you, that the bloggers are invested in quality content, and that Google and the other search engines don’t see the site as spammy.

Guest blogging is still a great brand building strategy and can be used to garner positive traction on the internet. Use these tips to make the most out of your efforts and always remember to track and monitor your influence to ensure you’re getting the maximum return on investment.

Hotel Room Keys Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “5 Guest Blogging Tips That Build Your Brand Successfully” was first published on Small Business Trends

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