How Vivian Kaye earned her first million with KinkyCurlyYaki

Vivian Kaye noticed early on that black women in Canada weren’t being served in the hair-extensions industry. Conventional wigs and weaves didn’t embrace textured hair, until Vivian developed KinkyCurlyYaki, her best selling brand of premium hair extensions.

She has single-handedly built the company to over $1-million in revenue, and is a business coach to other e-commerce companies. We chat with the vivacious Vivian Kaye, the founder and CEO of KinkyCurlyYaki about her passion for business, and her secret sauce for success.

Q1: Vivian, how did the idea of a hair extensions brand come to you?

I was running my first business, Vivian’s Decor, and I wanted my hair to look ‘presentable’ in meetings. But there was nothing in the beauty supply stores that looked authentic on me or suited my busy lifestyle.

I wanted it to look like it grew out of my head. But most hair extensions are in silkier textures, and don’t blend with kinky or curly hair. That’s when I had a lightbulb moment. I realized, there’s an entire market of black women who would buy kinky textured hair. And that’s how KinkyCurlyYaki was born.

Q2: What were your hopes for KinkyCurlyYaki when you launched it in 2012?

I didn’t start the business because I wanted to make money. I started it because I had a passion for solving my problem. And then I thought, if I could solve my own, then I can help other women too.

The business took off immediately after I launched, because there was nobody else back then selling kinky textures. In the first year, I had made about just under half a million. I hit the ground running. I didn’t realize that the market was that hungry. Today, this is a seven-figure business that I built from the ground up.

Q3: You worked solo on KinkyCurlyYaki for many years. What did you learn from that experience?  

You need systems and processes! When I hired my first employee in June of 2016, I had to offload everything in my head. And that was really tough. I tell everyone who is starting a business to document everything, so that when you do scale, it’s all written down.

Vivian Kaye visiting factory in China

Q4: Along with two successful businesses under your belt, you’re also a business coach for other entrepreneurs. What do you advise them?

I don’t have a college education or industry experience. I grew this business from nothing, and I figured it all out as I was going along. This is not a sprint. Running a sustainable business is a marathon. Take small steps for big results. Also, work on something you are passionate about. I found success twice focusing on my passions.

Q5: You’ve used Ownr to incorporate your consulting business. How would you describe that experience?

I saw an ad for Ownr on the web, and I wondered, was this even available in Canada? I click on it to discover, ‘Oh! This is a Canadian service!’. I’d been through the government process previously, but Ownr made it super easy. I was really surprised at how simple it was. I remember thinking, ‘This can’t be real. Oh, but it is!’

Q6: How conscious are you of being a female entrepreneur?

I wear that badge with pride. There’s a very small group of female entrepreneurs in Canada, and this number is even smaller for women of colour. And that’s one of the reasons why I started my coaching business. It doesn’t matter what your race, background or gender is. Or who you identify with. You too can be successful.

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