Selling products online is nothing new. Many businesses function 100% from online sales. But how do they make it happen? What are the first steps they take? Keziah Dhamma started her business by solving a problem. It was a problem she had herself and realized other women were facing the same thing.
Selling Products Online: The Inspiration
SwirlyCurlyHair.com caters to African-American women that have naturally curly Hair. And the problem that this company solves for these women is that they make it easy to do their natural hair. Curly, Afro-texture hair has had a hard time being represented well in the beauty industry. And this has caused many women to straighten their hair with flat irons and relaxers. Recently, there have been more and more women who have decided not to do this anymore. The feeling has been: "I want to embrace my natural curls. But how the heck do I do that?"
Keziah was one of those women. So her products make it easy for women to take care of their hair in its natural state.
The very first product that really launched the brand was the Snappee hair ties. Back in the day, the company was actually called Snappee, named after the product. But after some time they realized that the company was going to be bigger than just the one product.
Original hair ties are really small and don't easily fit (or fit at all) around this texture of natural hair. The Snappees are made to unsnap: You can snap multiple ones together to create a size that fits your Afro-textured hair. And they also make headbands for women as well. Because for the same reason, putting a headband over this type of hair can be a problem. The headbands also unsnap and they're adjustable, too.
Keziah was acting and modeling in Hollywood and also working at a restaurant. In her free time, she'd go to the gym and that's when she most commonly wanted to put her hair back and out of her face. But the problem was that she couldn't find the right hair accessories to do what she needed.
"So one day I was literally trying to put my hair up in a hair tie and it broke, flew across the room. And I was like, 'Dang, I don't have anymore. I really wish I just had something that snapped on and snapped off.' And I just stopped for a moment. And I was like, 'Oh, that's a great idea. I'm just going to write it down.' So I just wrote it down on a little yellow Post-it note."
Then months went by. And the Post-it note sat on her desk.
And Time Passed
Then Keziah's brother came to visit. And right before he was leaving to go back to Sacramento, he said, "Hey, what's that idea on that Post-it that you had?" So Keziah told him. Her brother has his own online business within the barber industry and urged her to make this product. But another year so goes by. And still, she doesn't do anything with the idea.
"I was out one day and I was just kind of reflecting on my life. I'm thinking, I'm doing the same thing I was doing a year ago. And I probably could have started that business, and who knows what would have happened."
So Keziah ended up making the product. But that was it — it was a moment and a decision. A decision to see what could happen.
Making the Prototype and Product
Keziah started by sketching her ideas out. Before selling products online, having a clear image is necessary. She wanted the product to be long in length and resemble a hair tie. She also wanted there to be a snap function on the sides. Then came making a prototype.
Keziah found a sewing class in LA and took a private class. Together, her and her teacher figured out how to best create the first product. Then came mass production.
"It literally was like a treasure hunt. I had to just ask, and then somebody would just give me a term. Because I knew nothing about fabrics and textiles. I knew nothing about product production. But every time somebody gave me a term I would look online and find what company was connected to it."
Now, because Keziah understands the industry a bit more, she sources through Alibaba, which she highly recommends to people.
One thing that has set Swirly Curly Hair apart when selling products online is that they have a female-founder who looks like their exact client. Many other brands have a large company behind them, or they're a smaller company and they don't put themselves forward. And that wasn't something Keziah wanted to do in the beginning.
But people kept coming to them asking for help with their hair. So they started giving away free education on YouTube. They started creating YouTube videos to educate customers on how they can use the products in their hair, plus all the other obstacles that they're trying to get past so they could love and embrace their hair.
With that came an educational community called Curl College. Users can check out Curl College to get a more in-depth how-to on maintaining healthy hair.
You can start with a 14-day free trial to try out the classes. There is even a live call once a month where Keziah helps women directly with their hair. After the two weeks is up it costs $10 a month.
The Importance of the Right Team
"Man, your team is everything. It's everything. It's the most important part to actually make the vision come true."
Keziah started out with just her and an assistant and everyone else was a contractor. About two and a half years ago her husband came on board and since then the team has continued to grow to about seven people.
Getting a Salesforce Grant
Keziah was the recipient of a Salesforce Grant. Keziah and her team decided they wanted to use the money to do something for women in their community.
"With products, they can just put it in their hair, but with education then they're empowered. So we decided that we're basically writing a book."
This book takes women through the whole weekly process of how to care for their natural hair. What products they need, troubleshooting, all of it. Now they can educate themselves and then focus on other things in their lives so that they're not stuck worrying about how to care for their natural hair.
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