Imani Johnson, Mimi’s Mane Tease
My Story: Funny enough I wanted to be a barber when I was choosing my classes but the program was full and I had to pick cosmetology. I went straight to work at a salon after high school, while all my friends went straight to college. I told my mother I didn’t want to go and I would take my cosmetology career serious and so that’s how it started. I was a shampoo assistant first, then I started styling. That came about when I was at work one Saturday and walk ins were coming in but no other stylist was there to service them and my boss at the time told me to start taking walk ins. My biggest challenge was staying focused, being a 17 year old stylist comes with a lot of freedom, I over came that when I realized, I’m responsible for my own pay! One thing I’m really good at is weaving, my sew ins are flawless!
3-5 Business Tips for new entrepreneurs:
1. ALWAYS be on time. It sets the tone for you as a business person.
2.Be aware of your consumers and meet their needs before they get a chance to ask
3. Check your feelings at the DOOR. Emotions and paycheck a DON’T mix.
4. Never wait on anyone to teach you about your market, go and learn it. Learning is free (books)
5. If it’s your passion, eat, sleep and breathe it, it’s ruff but the money comes. Keep your heart in it
What inspires me to do what I do is seeing my clients happy about a transformation I can make styling their hair. Knowing that is enough, your hair is an adornment and when women feel and look good, life is good.
The problem I solve for customers in my industry is being everything they need. Meaning, I take my brand seriously, I do everything I’m doing with a pure heart and my clients appreciate that. Also, I’m always on time for my appointments!
MiMi’s Mane Tease
Location: Personal Touch Salon, Hyattsville, MD
Facebook: Imani Johnson (MiMi)
Emily Romig, Cactus Crate
My story: In college, you could pretty much guarantee that I had at least a dozen cacti and succulents lined up along my windowsill, lovingly planted in teacups that I got from Goodwill. As the years went on, I ran out of space for cacti, but noticed that I always got compliments on my collection. Instead of continuing to expand my own collection, I started thinking. In this current climate of subscription box services and southwestern aesthetic enthusiasm, I got the idea to send plants (and other themed accessories) right to cactus lovers! A huge challenge has been figuring out how to actually ship live plants with the least mess (and stress to the plant) possible. However, I’ve learned a lot simply from observing the practices of online garden wholesalers. Remember the shredded paper you get in your Easter basket? That stuff is perfect for keeping prickly little plants tidy and comfortable! My biggest strength is that I’m a really fabulous bargain-hunter, which really comes in handy when you’re just starting out with only a couple subscribers that you want to give the most bang for their buck.
3 Tips for inspiring entrepreneurs:
1. Go for it. Really. Take the plunge. Whatever that means to you, do it.
2. It’s okay to start out slow. That’s what I’m doing right now. It gives you the opportunity to work out a lot of bugs, take a lot of humbling advice, and intimately get to know your targeted customer base.
3. Your customer is smarter than you think. There’s a sweet spot right in between the right amount of engagement via social media, and just badgering them way too hard.
4. Your friends, family, and partner are all really great sounding boards for ideas. Make use of it.
What inspires you to do what you do? The incredibly popular kawaii culture and aesthetic, my late grandmother’s love for plants, and the fact that cacti are just so darn cute. (And hard to kill.) I’m just very passionate about plants, and I want to share that passion with my customers!
What problem do you solve for your customers? I think a huge roadblock for a lot of my customers is that they don’t know how to choose or care for a cactus. They don’t know where to go to find one, and they certainly don’t know what to do with it. I make it fun and easy by including a curated, healthy plant as well as a care sheet along with the other cactus-themed accessories. I help them realize that it’s not hard at all to start your own little apartment garden.
Stephanie Nolan, XOXO Virgin Hair
My Story: Before the inception of XOXO Virgin Hair, I was a fashion model, working with major brands such as Adidas, and Black Entertainment Television, and Lusters Hair Products. Thru my experience, I noticed that there was a great demand for hair extensions that could withstand frequent styling, thermal tools, and chemical alterations. I began to search for authentic origins of hair, as I wanted to honestly market my brand in an industry full of misconceptions. In December 2013, I launched XOXO Virgin Hair with quality, and longevity in mind. To be honest, one of the biggest challenges that I have faced was finding an authentic source, which took lots of late nights, and questions, staying up into the wee hours to communicate with sources who operated on a 12 hour difference! What I can definitely say I’m great at is noticing hair quality at the drop of a dime, I’m pretty great at predicting how hair will behave, and so far I have not been wrong lol. I’m also great at customer service, as my brand is an investment, and I want to ensure that new customers are comfortable in making their purchase by answering questions, and offering product education, which is also missing in the hair industry.
What inspires you to do what you do? What problem do you solve for your customers? Seeing most of the industry provide a sub-standard quality, and/or dishonestly marketing their products inspire me to continue the path that my business is on. I want to make it easier for everyone to wear and style hair extensions. High quality hair saves money, time, and labor for everyone involved!
My advice to an aspiring or current brand owner is to make sure you have contracts in place with ANYONE you will potentially be working with. I learned this from a business man turned friend, Antonio Velaz. If they have a problem in signing any agreements, diplomatically move forward, you have to protect your brand at all costs. My other advice is to also be attentive to customers, before the sale, during the sale, and after the sale! It’s how you develop loyal customers, in accordance with the high quality product(s) that you distribute!
Jakiera Daniels, Jakiera’s Eye Photography
My story: I got started with photography at 8, when my mom bought me my first 2-eyed point & shoot, next was a 110 film camera. At age 16 she bought me my first professional SLR camera and I’ve been shooting ever since!
My biggest challenge as an entrepreneur: self doubt, convincing myself that I’m not good enough compared to others. It takes constant reinforcement, but I overcome that challenge by consistently perfecting my craft, working through my self-doubts, tuning out others’ opinions and by pushing my own limits.
I’m really, really good at: Capturing the raw authenticity of a person and creating an emotion through my photos.
What inspires you to do what you do? Capturing art that shows the depth and authenticity of the people of the world (we’re kinder and braver than the daily perception) and being able to create an image that validates their significance and oneness, and promotes self-love.
What problem do you solve for customers in your industry? To allow people to live in the moment instead of missing it in order to take a photo (more specifically, while on vacations). To creatively capture the essence of an event, wedding, ceremony, or performance in a way that allows you to share and relive the occasion while viewing the images. I offer peace of mind, knowing that a dependable photographer with consistent, professional skills will be seizing precious memories for you.
3 Tips I’d give to an aspiring entrepreneur: 1) Continue to learn and perfect your craft 2) Use your intuition as much as your skill 3) Be innovative 4) Do it with a purpose greater than you!
Your go to photographer,
Jakiera’s Eye Photography
Twitter/ Tumblr/ Facebook/ Instagram/ LinkedIn @JakierasEye