Today, we have with us a beautiful and very hard-working lady who has taken the Virgin Hair and Hair Extensions business by storm in the United States and now Nigeria. She is the President of My Extensionz, a leading retailer of unique and versatile virgin hair products. Join me in welcoming the beautiful Kehinde Smith.
In this interview, she provides great insights on how you can start your own business from scratch and grow it into a thriving enterprise. Do get a pen and notebook. You may need to take notes. Enjoy!
Tell us about Kehinde Smith – family, ethnicity, education…
I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, but I still count myself as a Nigerian.
My parents have 2 sets of twins and I have a twin sister named Taiwo Smith who is my business partner and although I have had an amazing childhood, nothing was ever handed to me. My mother taught us to work for everything we earned.
I studied business management at Northern Illinois University and the day I graduated from university was the same day we launched our company, MyExtensionz.com.
You are the President of My Extensionz. Please tell us about your business.
Our company is known in the U.S for supplying the highest quality of virgin hair to every day working class women, hair salons and celebrities worldwide.
Not only are we recognized for supplying premium hair extensions to our costumers but we also serve them with an outstanding platter of educational customer service with regards to the investment they make with our company.
What informed your decision to start this business?
I started this company while I was unemployed for 2 years after working with Red Bull.
I was tired of spending so much money on hair extensions that wouldn’t even last me my money’s worth every month, so I saved up some cash and began to do my own research on Virgin hair.
The search for quality hair extensions wasn’t easy and it was not cheap. We lost plenty of our savings in our hunt for quality hair fiber and it was not until we finally found a reputable vendor that we began to feel comfortable about reselling our products to clients.
My sister and I would stay up all day and night servicing customers online and over the phone. A detail many people do not know is that we “played” different characters and roles quite often at the beginning when we were trying to scale the business. For example, we were the sales associate, hair expert, general manager, shipping coordinators, HR, complaint manager, and of more importantly the CEO.
People would call us and believe that they were doing business with a full service multi-million-dollar company that had been around for years. Little did they know, we were only 6 months old at the time and were working out of our parent’s basements.
Our split personalities eventually allowed us branch off into our first actual office. Then, 2 to 3 months later we were blessed to afford an actual shipping department. After shipping out thousands of orders a month we decided to open our first showroom in Chicago.
As sales grew rapidly, so did our team. We employed around 30 staff members who worked for My Extensionz as a company and in 2014 we were finally able to open our second showroom in Chicago’s prime location.
Can you give us a peep into what your typical day looks like?
I have a typical morning ritual. Growing up as a child I was never allowed to leave from my bed without a morning prayer. So I make sure that’s one of the first things I do before I get my day started. I also read at least one business article before leaving the house and get breakfast because I might get too busy to
Later on during the day, I have 3-5 conference calls with Taiwo (my twin J), suppliers, and general managers for each showroom. I’m an email freak. So, I check my emails like every 30 minutes. I facetime or skype with my family who are currently in Chicago.
I send annoying voice notes and messages to my boyfriend Marek Zmyslowski during the day. He cracks me up when he gets annoyed with me so that actually makes each day pretty interesting. Lastly, I end with my nightly prayer then a good beauty sleep.
E-commerce is catching on in Africa. How has e-Commerce impacted your business?
We started off by selling our products online, which later became a thriving e-commerce business for us. Many people assume that we grew so fast out of luck or favoritism from celebrities wearing our extensions.
However, the truth about why My Extensionz grew so rapidly is because we were able to allow each client who ordered online feel as if she was in an actual retail showroom. Having a user friendly online shop is extremely important in the e-commerce world.
One cannot just showcase their products online and expect people to shop till they drop. You have to first make sure your clients feel welcomed the moment their server lands on your site.
What are some of the major challenges you have encountered in business thus far?
Some people find it hard to believe that a young, black woman can achieve a successful career on the merit of hard work and dedication alone. Many people believe that all the “beautiful girls” are getting things handed to them nowadays and this is not always the case.
For Ladies (even Guys) who are interested in venturing into the beauty business, what candid advice would you give them?
Research! I advise them to do a good, deep research into the business they want to go into and it has to be something that they are passionate about because in the long run it wouldn’t be all about the money; but passion for the business is what will keep it going.
Finally, they should stop worrying about their competitors but rather spend that time thinking of creative ways to make their business grow.
What do you enjoy most about being an Entrepreneur?
I love the fact that I can make my, and other people’s dreams become a reality. The fact that I’m able to help people put food on their table by creating job opportunities gives me a reason to put all of my energy into ensuring this company is successful.
Also I’m happy that I can provide legit, standard quality products to our clients and keep them satisfied at all time.
What would you say is your biggest achievement since you started out?
My biggest achievement is being able to build my brand and making sure my logo alone is unforgettable in the beauty industry.
Ranking in the top 10 for the best quality Virgin hair company in the U.S is a major blessing from God. We have proven that My Extensionz isn’t just known for selling hair because we are also known for building a reputable substantial beauty brand.
What are your plans for My Extensionz in Africa?
I am committed to educating women on their investments when it comes to purchasing any virgin hair from any company.
We have set in motion projects aimed at creating more jobs and our plans to open more showrooms in at least 10 countries in Africa have begun.
And with the large number of children who are born with great talents but because of the lack of infrastructure in many parts of the world, have no access to platforms that hone their craft, I would like to partner with charity organizations that provides educational opportunities for these less privileged children so they can develop their skills and contribute better to society.
What is your inspiration? What keeps you going?
My inspiration comes from my clients. Taiwo and I make sure we personally meet the needs of at least 10 clients a week even if we are not able to be in any of the showrooms physically. It’s very important for us not to drift away from being “sales experts or associates” just because everyone looks at us as the “CEOs”.
We enjoy speaking to our clients and hearing their feedback. They are the ones that let us know what they want or wish to have in the Virgin Hair market. Our clients keep us going. There’s nothing as wonderful as receiving great feedback and stories on purchases they have made with My Extensionz as a company.
The first would be my mother, Titilayo Odunaiya, she is my rock and has taught me almost everything I know.
Saran Kaba Jones founder of Face Africa, is another person whose opinions on business and life, in general, I truly value. Then, there’s my twin sister, my rib Taiwo Smith, who doubles as my Business Partner, then my boyfriend Marek Zmyslowski who is my greatest business consultant.
Where do you see My Extensionz in another 5 years?
We will be branching off with educational Virgin Hair showrooms throughout the world and making sure My Extensionz is one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
For you, Life is….
Living each day like it’s your last.
Africa will rise when….
We learn to appreciate our culture and respect ideas and products made in Africa.
What is that one thing you would like every African youth to know? Inspire a young African in a sentence.
Never settle for less.
Many thanks Kehinde
You are welcome.
Wow! Hope you enjoyed reading this interview as much as I did bringing it to you. You can reach Kehinde Smith via the following social media channels:
Facebook: Kehinde Naomi Smith, Facebook.com/MyExtensionz
Do you have any questions you would like to ask Kehinde Smith? You can forward them in the comments section below.
© 2015, Arise Arizechi. All rights reserved.