Madame Noire: How would you describe Amizade Hair to someone who is hearing about your company for the very first time?
Kendra Austin: Amizade provides quality, affordable, and luxurious virgin hair extensions from around the world, in a range of textures, styles, and lengths. [We] work closely with international manufacturers and test every product to ensure that our clients are receiving a great bundle of hair every single time.
MN: How many employees do you have?
Michelle Morant: Kendra and I currently handle all of the day-to-day operations (importing, marketing, order processing, etc) with the help of a small support staff of two people.
MN: Was there a specific catalyst that made you decide to launch Amizade Hair?
KA: Michelle has always had an entrepreneurial spirit and has experience working with independently-owned businesses. One day we had an intense conversation about the difficulty to obtain high quality hair and we instantly knew we wanted to create a business that would provide the hair link that was missing in the market.
We discussed several naming options until Michelle provided the suggestion of Amizade Hair. Amizade means friendship in Portuguese, and we have been best friends for years and Brazilian hair is one of the most popular brands of hair on the market.
MN: Did either of you have beauty industry experience prior to launching Amizade Hair?
MM: Professionally, no. But we’ve always been the go-to “hairnista” in our respective circles. The bulk of our experience comes from several years of wearing weaves and trying new products. So we’re able to provide guidance when it comes to purchasing, installing, styling and maintaining hair extensions.
MN: Do you have investors? Was it easy to convince them to invest in your company?
MM: We have started to raise capital, mainly amongst our friends and family. We hadn’t gotten to the point in our business plan where we’ll begin to seek funding, but in just sharing our vision with a few key people in our network, we were able to purchase our first round of inventory without reaching into our own pockets.
MN: The extension/hair care product business is disproportionately owned my Asians. Did you find it hard to launch Amizade in a market that is less than 10 percent black-owned?
MM: We want to change the dynamic of the industry.
KA: It was not difficult because we educate our consumers on the hair that they are purchasing which is something that has been missing by many of our competitors outside of the black-owned market.
MN: What have been some of the major barriers to entry in this business?
Both: Finding suppliers.
MN: Speaking of suppliers, your product comes from around the world. How were you able to build relationships with manufacturers that were outside of the US?
MM: We poured thousands of our own money into research, trial and error. We did rigorous product testing among our friends and family. And, we’ve worked tirelessly with our suppliers to ensure that every strand meets our requirements.
KA: Also, we receive feedback from experienced cosmetologists and take it into consideration before selling the product to our customers.