Diishan Imira went from teaching English in China to building a multi-million dollar company in Silicon Valley, which is shifting the power of the billion dollar hair extension industry to black communities and stylists!

Coming from a single parent household, the 37-year-old entrepreneur left his hometown of Oakland, CA at the age of 18 to attend Hampton University. Still unsure of what he wanted to venture in, Imira moved to China to teach English to 4th and 5th graders.

He started importing sneakers and sent them back home to Oakland to make money. When he saw how much money he could make, he moved to Miami and would travel back and forth to China to import furniture. He turned his condo into a showroom where he would sell couches and sofas to people off of Craigslist. His business took a hit when the market crashed and he found himself back home, living with his mom.

During that time he had an eye for Silicon Valley and went back to school to get his MBA and learn about the business. It wasn’t until a family member asked him to get hair extensions from China that he dabbled into the hair industry. He started buying hair from China and selling it out of the trunk of his car. He visited various salons and formed a partnership with stylists by creating them their own websites to sell the hair.

He noticed that 95% of black salons did not sell any products, including hair. The vast majority of consumers were going to buy the hair online and from beauty supplies. There was a major gap for how hair was being installed and Imira filled that gap when he launched Mayvenn hair back in 2013 alongside COO Taylor Wang. Mayvenn, which is an Oakland based provider of real human hair, partners with hair stylists, especially the ones that rely on styling with extensions. The stylists direct their consumers to purchase hair from the company which essentially utilizes the stylist to leverage sales. To date, Mayvenn has grown a network of over 50,000 stylists and has a net worth of $100 million. They have also raised over $36 million dollars. Some of their prominent investors include Serena Williams, Andreesen Horowitz, Essence Ventures, Jimmy Lovine, Steve Stoute, Andre Iguodala (of the Warriors), Cross Culture Ventures and Impact America Fund.

Mayvenn continues to flourish as they introduce a new and convenient feature for the business. Their new business model allows women to get their hair installed for FREE. In the competitive market of hair, Mayvenn is doing something unprecedented which is cutting the total cost of getting your hair done in half. They teamed up with top-notch stylists who benefit from their partnership with Mayvenn because they’re getting new clients. Customers will be able to choose their own stylist out of a network of the best stylists around the world. Once you buy the hair, everything else will be taken care of, essentially making it a one-stop shop for hair and styling needs!

What made you say “I know Entrepreneurship is for me and I’m determined to make it in the midst of one failed hustle”?

Honestly, to me, entrepreneurship is a lifestyle.  If you are truly an entrepreneur, in my opinion, it’s not your desire for money that drives you – it’s the process of getting it that is addictive.  Part of that process is the failures that you have to go through on your way. It may be the case that what makes someone truly an entrepreneur is whether they are motivated, or demotivated by failure.  I’m motivated by failure. I take lessons each time and am even more convinced that with that new knowledge I will succeed the next time. Entrepreneurship can hurt, but its like someone who’s lifestyle is built around working out – you learn to love the pain, and be motivated by it.

What top three keys would you say are important in order to be successful in business?

  1. Self-Awareness – knowing what you are good at, and what you suck at.  Be honest with yourself about that. Fill gaps in your skill-set with others who are better at those things.  Always keep assessing yourself and trying to learn.
  2.    Patience – Unless you want to always be “hustling”, to build a business that will feed you for the rest of your life, you need to be patient.  It takes time to build foundations. When you are patient, you will do the right things in the right order. When you are not patient, at best, you will do the right things in the wrong order – which will have the same result as doing all the wrong things.  
  3.    Passion/Persistence – I use Passion and Persistence interchangeably here.  Both are a fire that burns that don’t let you stop. Find the thing that creates that fire for you.  Then shoot your shot.

What are some key tips on getting prominent investors?

Raising money is its own beast entirely.  You should approach it very deliberately, and be willing to learn a lot during the process.  Raising money is SALES. You are selling a piece of your vision. Sales are not about you, it’s about the customer.  Learn as much as you can about the customers. What are they looking for? What excites them? Based on these types of questions, figure out which investors are the best fit for your business.  


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All images provided by Diishan Imira