How Diishan Imira Got Silicon Valley To Invest In Hair Extensions

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Written by Ann Brown
Black startup founder Diishan Imira
Diishan Imira is the founder and CEO of Mayvenn, Inc., a tech company that reshapes how sale retail products are distributed. Photo: Anita Sanikop

Others had doubt about Silicon Valley’s interest in hair extensions marketed to Black women. But not entrepreneur Diishan Imira, who pitched his startup to Silicon Valley investors in 2013 and racked in backers. Of course, it was not easy to explain “the business of hair salons in Black communities to a bunch of white dudes,” Imira said. He and his business partner, Taylor Wang, had already bootstrapped the company with $48,000 of their own money, and investments from family and friends.

And their venture into Silicon Valley was effective. 

“His company Mayvenn has since raised a total of $36 million from firms like Andreessen Horowitz and Trinity Ventures, and from individual investors like Serena Williams and Jimmy Iovine (co-founder of Interscope Records and Beats Electronics),” CNN reported. 

The Black haircare market is worth about an estimated $2.5 billion and the Oakland-based company has carved out a niche with its unique business model. Hair stylists serve a s sales people for their product.

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 47: Diishan Imira Jamarlin talks to Diishan Imira, founder and CEO of Mayvenn, a platform that empowers hair stylists to take back ownership of the beauty market.

“Stylists sign up with Mayvenn for free and the platform creates an individual web page for them. The page features information about the stylist and directs shoppers to the company’s online store, where they can buy extensions or other products ahead of salon visits,” CNN reported. 

“If a client buys Mayvenn’s products through the stylist’s page, the stylist earns 15 percent commission per sale,” said Imira. “Hair stylists are only ever paid for their styling services, even though they are the ones routinely telling customers about what hair products and brands to buy. Yet they don’t have a way to cash in on this free advice. So we gave them the ability to do so.”

Imira started his business after receiving a call from his sister, a hair stylist and beauty salon owner who needed help finding hair extension suppliers.  

“It was 2012, I had just finished my MBA and I was working in East Africa doing an internship at Ernst & Young. I knew I wanted to start an online company, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do,” he told Essence. “I was selling hair extensions out of the back of my car and I started to understand the bigger picture of distribution of these products.” 

But he saw a different way to do things. “What we’re actually talking about is a $9 billion African-American hair products market that hasn’t been touched by technology,” he said. Mayvenn and the website concept was born.  

To date, Mayvenn has earned $80 million in sales and has a network of 50,000 stylists nationwide on its platform.