There are times in one’s life where you feel like the stars just align in your favor and everything falls into its place. For Ngozi Opara, 25, that “perfect time” came last December when, after over a year of research and preparation, she launched the Heat-Free Hair Movement.
Over the last few years, women of color have been embracing their natural beauty and natural hair textures en masse. And Ngozi, who owns a natural hair studio in Washington, D.C. called NZO Hair Studios that specializes in hair weaves, extensions and other protective styles, has been working alongside her clients to help them with the challenges they’ve faced as they made the transition from relaxed to natural hair.
One of the things that kept coming up was the question of protective styling and the options that existed for women in transition. This is when Ngozi’s wheels started turning and she began to envision a product that more closely matched her client’s multi-textured hair without using any heat. Thus, the concept for Heat-Free Hair was born.
Now with eight months of business operations under her belt, Ngozi opens up about how she launched the Heat-Free Hair movement.
Madame Noire (MN): Can you describe Heat-Free Hair to someone who is hearing about the business for the first time?
Ngozi Opara (NGO): Heat-Free Hair is a movement that encourages women to embrace protective styling in the form of weaves and extensions because of the benefits it provides.
MN: What was the inspiration behind Heat-Free Hair?
NGO: As a natural hair stylist, I’ve seen the benefits of weaving from working with all of my clients. So the inspiration came from me wanting my clients and other women to embrace hair that matches their texture. This way you can go heat-free and have a protective style with hair that looks like yours which allows you to transition the way you want to transition.
MN: You launched Heat-Free Hair at a time when women of color were all starting to embrace and celebrate their natural hair textures en masse. Had you been thinking about this idea for a long time? Or did you see what was going on and say, “I need to do this?”
NGO: Both. I believe God’s time is the best time because I came up with the concept for Heat-Free Hair well over a year before we launched. But there were some days that I woke up thinking, “Oh my gosh, there has to be a way for women to go heat free. That could be so cool.” But when I kept trying to make things happen, nothing did. For instance, we were supposed to launch Heat-Free Hair six or seven months before we actually launched. But I’m so happy that we launched when we did because it did seem like perfect timing and it’s been amazing watching something that began with a vision come into fruition.
MN: How did you finance the business?
NGO: Personal funds. [As I mentioned above,] I own a hair studio but I also have a background in finance and accounting, so I was working as a financial analyst for the government. While I was at that job, I was like, “You know what I hate this. So I’m going to just stack [my money] up.”
I literally saved every single paycheck. I never spent a penny when I worked there. In my mind, I was thinking that this [money] is going to go toward something great. And as soon as Heat-Free took off and started to do well, I quit that job.
MN: So NZO Hair Studio was your side gig?
NGO: No, the hair studio was actually a full-time situation and I picked up the [finance] job to supplement that, plus I had other people working in my hair studio while I was away. During that time, I was literally not sleeping because I was working at least one of those jobs every day.
MN: What were some of the biggest obstacles/challenges you encountered while trying to launch this business?
NGO: Well first and foremost when you’re coming out with something that’s somewhat of a new concept you’re going to go under a lot of scrutiny and criticism. And then on top of that there was a high price tag attached to the [Heat-Free Hair] product.