Marcella Ellis Wants To Revolutionize The Black Hair Industry With Her Vending Machine

August 12, 2013  |  

Virginia businesswoman Marcella Ellis came up with a unique way to sell hair extensions — a vending machine. The idea behind The Mane Vendor is that it will not only make it easier for consumers but also drive more business to black hair salons.

Hair weaving and extension specialist Ellis, who is CEO of Marcella Ellis Hair Studio and Marcella Ellis School of Cosmetic Arts, initially got the idea (along with a business partner) as a way to compete with beauty supply stores. Now, she’s readying the for the nationwide debut of the machines in September. After reporting on the story earlier, we were so intrigued by the idea, we thought we’d get a little more detail from Ellis.

MadameNoire: How did you fund the startup?

Marcella Ellis: I used my own funds from my other businesses, and had assistance from my mother’s business to fund the trial phase. We tested the market by setting up kiosks in a few salons as a representation of the machine to determine if salon owners would want this method of distribution in their salon. We called the concept the Hair Bar. As a salon owner I knew that most salons would retail different types of hair if they had the capital to invest and stock the hair. However, in most instances that was not the case. On top of the upfront costs involved with retailing different varieties of hair, salons would also have to hire a person or a clerk to secure the hair and perform the transactions, adding more expenses to their business. With using the vending machine it does it all, avoiding some of these expenses.

MN: Do you think women will want to buy extensions from a vending machine?
ME: Absolutely. Look at the market today. You have people selling virgin Brazilian hair online, independent sellers even selling it out of their trunk. As long as the product is superb quality, the price point is good, and it’s readily available… the machine is just a host, it really doesn’t matter. We have 100 percent raw Virgin Remy Hair in Indian, Brazilian, Peruvian, Malaysian and even Grade 5A Remy Yaki Hair.

I am very particular when it comes to hair. I know quality and I will never put out a product that does not perform. I blog about the best products on the market and you have my word the products that are put in these machines are top of the line.

MN:  How much are the pieces? 
ME: The machine is a smart machine which will take credit card payments. It will send a text message to the owner if inventory is getting low, and it will produce real-time reports. The machine also has security surveillance and alarm system capabilities. The prices range from $80 to $150 per pack which is the going rate for Brazilian hair.

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