By Victor O.
Most people who have ever tried to raise capital to execute a project or carry out a business have often found themselves incapacitated when it comes to sourcing for needed capital. If you happen to find yourself in such a situation, stories like that of an African-American entrepreneur who managed to raise $3 million in venture capital to support an innovative business concept will no doubt help to get you motivated and get ideas flowing.
A recent piece by Courtney Connley of Black Enterprise tells the story of a young businessman, Diishan Imira, who was able to raise $3 million in venture capital funding to introduce hair extensions to Silicon Valley.
Imira, who grew up in a family with several hair stylists, observed that Black hair salons were leaving money on the table and not making as much profit as they ought to due to inefficient means of selling hair. Hairstylists play a very limited role in the sale of hair products, with less than 5 percent of Black salons engaging in the sale of these products, according to Imira.
The 34-year-old became interested in making salons more involved in the supply of hair products. This led to his creation of a unique technology platform along with a partner, Taylor Wang, to eliminate the middle men from the supply chain of hair extensions and enable hair stylists to play a greater role in the sales process.
Imira and Wang came up with the idea of setting up Mayvenn, Inc. in 2012 after managing to raise a total of $50,000 from family, friends and “angel investors.” They traveled to Asia to order their first inventory of products and make useful contacts there. But the partners found it difficult trying to convince Silicon Valley investors to buy into what they considered a strange concept for a tech startup.
Mayvenn took a big step forward in April 2013 when it got accepted into 500 Startups, a platform which brings innovative startups to the attention of investors looking toward Silicon Valley for investment.
“When we came into 500 Startups, everybody was looking like ‘What is this crazy thing they let in? This is technology and these dudes have boxes of hair,’” Imira told Black Enterprise. “So you have the majority of people who don’t get it and don’t care, but then there are investors who are looking for things that are weird and that they don’t quite understand.”
Imira and Wang were able to raise $700,000 in venture capital by August of that year, and Mayvenn was officially launched in October. Today, $3 million has been raised in venture capital funding in less than one and a half years of being in business, and the business already has a network of more than 25,000 hair stylists.