Diishan Imira

Mayvenn Hair Extensions is on a roll. The company just closed on a Series B funding round totaling $23 million, and has generated more than $80 million sales. So far, Mayvenn raised $36 million in funding, which was led by Andreessen Horowitz and Essence Ventures and included investments from Serena Williams, Steve Stoute, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Irvine, Cross Culture Ventures, Trinity Ventures, Impact America and Core VC.

The company, founded in 2013, differentiates itself by offering a high level of service — clients are attended by certified stylists — with products that are at “consumer-friendly” price points. This summer, Mayvenn launched the “install program” where if a customer buys hair, the install is free of charge. Here, Diishan Imira, chief executive officer and founder, discusses the company’s brand positioning and its growth plans as well as what he sees as trends evolving in the market.

WWD: How is the brand and product positioned in the market?

Diishan Imira: The hair extension market, although being a more than $6 billion industry, has been pretty archaic. A large number of non-differentiated brands have always been sold through brick-and-mortar stores at non-consumer friendly prices. Mayvenn is not only a high-quality, affordable, online hair extension brand; it’s also a marketplace for customers to find amazing stylists in their area — who will do their hair for free when they buy Mayvenn products. We make buying hair extensions and getting them installed extremely simple and super affordable. We also empower our community of hairstylists by increasing their clientele and helping them manage their businesses. It’s truly a win-win for both consumers and stylists.

WWD: How would you describe the target consumer? What are their needs?

D.I.: We cater to women who want to express themselves and wear protective styles by using hair extensions, but are tired of the hassle of booking and the cost of overpaying for the hair and service. Right now, our target customers are African-American women, but we will soon be expanding our product and service offering to serve the wider market as well.

WWD: What were some of the challenges in raising funds? What was your pitch to VCs? And how would you describe your success so far?

Early on, raising money was difficult. The primary challenge was simply explaining what hair extensions were and how large the market was to a largely white, male audience in Silicon Valley. Most of these investors had no experience with the product or the needs and nuances of our customers, namely black women. To tackle this problem, I took investors on “field trips” to beauty supply stores in the neighborhoods where our customers were. They had no idea that there were more than 10,000 of these small, independent shops in almost every African-American neighborhood. Seeing was believing; that ultimately led to our first couple of checks.

hair extensions

A certified stylist helping a customer. 

Once we got past the initial “What is a hair extension?” question, the pitch to investors was actually pretty simple. Billions of dollars are being spent on these products through local brick-and-mortar shops. Customers are buying them for hundreds of dollars and then bringing the products to hairstylists to get them installed. Stylists should be selling these products directly, but they don’t have money for inventory. I explained that we’d create online stores for every stylist and drop ship for them. Using this model, Mayvenn would be able to — and has since successfully — turn thousands of stylists into a nationwide network of sellers who earn money distributing these products.

Mayvenn has been very successful with this model. We’ve grown to more than 50,000 stylists nationwide in just five years. Stylists on our platform have earned millions of dollars in commissions, and we have tons of social proof via happy customers.

WWD: How are you deploying the most recent round of funding? The series B?

Our latest B round funds are going toward the launch of our newest and most exciting platform offering. If customers buy their hair extensions from Mayvenn, we’ll pay for 100 percent of the cost of the service. Now, stylists in 250 cities nationwide are searchable by zip code on our platform. We’ve got portfolio pictures, star ratings, and client reviews that make choosing the perfect stylist super easy, and best of all — the service will be completely free.

WWD: What are some of the trends that you see in the market right now? What’s driving business?

As far as trends, wigs are big right now and we see an opportunity to include customized wigs into our free install offering. That will be available soon. Different colors are popping, too, clients love to experiment and switch up their look. There’s been an influx of poor quality hair extension products coming from China, which have cluttered the market a bit and created a headache for consumers looking for good value. I think extension customers are getting smarter about who to buy from and demanding excellent customer service, which is awesome. Mayvenn has always put customer service as one of our top values and we’re seeing more consumers come to us as the rest of the market is getting messier.