Tuesday 17 June 2014

2Inspire Business Network Profile: Mane Divas

In this profile interview we meet Trina and Tamara, the phenomenal team behind the Mane Divas hair retail business.


Please tell us what is a typical business day for you?
A typical business day for us is very hectic. Trina and I both have full time jobs, so juggling Mane Divas, motherhood and our "9-5's" means that we make 25 hours out of a 24 hour day. On days that we don't have events, we mainly concentrate on sending out orders that have been placed either directly on the site or via our Amazon shop. 
Our customers are constantly getting in touch with us with enquiries and queries about products, so a lot of time is spent replying to them, and ensuring that they are 100% happy with any and all purchases that they make. 

What made you start the business and what steps did you take to start operating as a business?

We started the company as we were dissatisfied with the current state of the UK hair industry and the very apparent segregation between naturals and other hair types. Our main aim was to educate and enlist women with the tools to enable them to have a healthy mane of hair; Natural, relaxed or wearing a protective style we wanted to promote the hair within. Our anecdotal research found that 80% of women wearing weave do so with natural hair underneath. Surely their needs mirror those of a naturalista so why not help each other out? A weave is just another form of a protective style. In our opinion the term 'natural' is a just how you wear your hair. The most important thing is knowing how to care for your mane, there are no hard fast rules. Which is what bought about our company slogan; Just remember; Executive Extensions or Naturalista, we're the MANE Divas for you!

Our main gripe with the current industry was information! There may be products but entering a ‘black retailer’ would not get you the explanations you required behind the item. This made us decide that Mane Divas should be a 'hair experience' company which would offer a range of 'extra mane' facilities. We would provide our clients with not only the highest quality products to get the most out if their chosen style, but the advice and personal experience attached from a brand they can trust. We use the word clients rather than customers as we believe we are offering a service to improve the black female hair regime rather than a product to generate income.

Before registration the company name we researched our target audience for a year before hand visiting salons and shops collating information on what our clients needed. We then looked at what products we would like to sell. Being religious users of their Jamaican Black Castor Oil we felt it was paramount to supply this brand onto our customers as it is not something readily available in shops, especially in our home town of Essex. Personal research has shown that Essex as a county have limited exposure for ethnic hair care products. We were frequently approached asking where we purchase such items. We flew to the head office in Jamaica to test and set up connections with the islands leading brand, Tropic Isle Living top source our Black Castor Oil. We don't sell anything that we haven't personally tested including our hair pieces! Our images are us with friends and family, no paid models. They have all shared their hair experiences with us so we could provide our clients with the best products. When we launched 1 year later we were proud to be the face behind the brand.

What would you say has been your greatest accomplishment in the business world to date?
It's hard to pinpoint our greatest accomplishment so far, because there have been so many moments that we have been proud of. I would say our most recent accomplishment was being invited by the BBC to be on the panel of a "weave vs natural" debate.  
To be recognised by such a large media corporation, and included in such a controversial topic, really highlighted our place in the hair community and showed us that all of our hard work was really paying off.

What has been your biggest challenge in business so far?
I would say that our biggest challenge so far has been trying to combat hair stereotypes. Mane Divas is a company that does not solely promote  #teamnatural or #teamweave but we are all about #teamhealthyhair. That means that no matter what style we are choosing to wear on any given day, we are far more concerned with the healthiness of your natural hair underneath. 
This becomes quite a challenge to convey to the #teannatural fans when we are wearing/selling weave, and equally the #teamweave fans when they see our natural hair being worn proudly. 
It's an ongoing challenge that we are trying to combat every day.

What are your future plans for the business?
The business is in a very exciting phase at the moment. On the 6th July we will be launching a new aspect of the company called Divas on the Grow. This will be a mobile service offering a variety of topics for the customer to choose from. 
The launch party will be held in the prestigious Water Lily Banqueting Suite in Mile End (tickets are available now). It will be an interactive session, for customers to rotate between the four workstations offering Diva consultations, mini diva styling, diva kitchens and hair loss seminars. These are just some of the topics that will be available in the mobile sessions. 
Launching Divas on the Grow and making it a success is our primary goal at the moment.

If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
I think that there is very little that Trina and I would change if we had to start again, because even with every failure and set back that we have had along the way has been a valuable learning curve and provided us with invaluable experience. 

Some of our most significant successes have been born from failures or accidents.  

What’s the best compliment you could receive in business?
The best compliment that we ever receive in business is from grateful customers and their recommendations to their friends and family. To know that someone is so happy with the service and products that they have received from us that they are willing to take the time out to remember us and pass on our information, shows that we are obviously doing something right. 

We absolutely love customers that take the time out to create, write and publish blogs and reviews on our products, we appreciate that everyone's time is precious, so to know that they have felt strongly and passionately enough to tell their followers (and the world) really does mean everything to us.

Why is it so important to inspire young women in particular to follow their dreams?
It is very sad to say, but the world that we live in today is not one designed for the younger generation. Even with all of the resources and potential that young women have at their fingertips, it can still be difficult to find the opportunities.
Young women of today probably have more drive and motivation than any other generation, but without the proper positive inspiration, it runs the risk of being wasted and their talents never being realised.
Not all dreams are monetary; based on wealth and fame, some aspirations are personal and the achievement of goals will provide a sense of inner wellbeing and fulfilment which will trickle down the generations into their children and their children’s children.
I know that for me my mum was a great inspiration, without her, and seeing her drive, I never would have thought Mane Divas was possible.
A strong positive female role model, has the power to change a nation eventually.

What advice would you give to somebody who wants to start a business in your industry?
If someone was interested in starting a business within the hair industry, my one main piece of advice would be to do your research! The natural black hair industry is slowly becoming a saturated one, and the thing that will differentiate you from your competitor is the knowledge that you can provide your customers with, and the sense of security that they will get from your expertise.
There are many companies out there that are purely in it for the financial gain, and those are the companies that eventually customers will avoid because they know that their best interests are not being taken into account.

What or who inspires you in business and why?
On a personal level I am inspired by my parents. They have now retired and have given up the fast paced lifestyle, however throughout their careers, my mum was a leading IT programmer for Cable & Wireless and my dad a Lead Engineer for BT, whilst also running a number of companies, as well as raising me and maintaining a household. They are my true inspiration and proof that if you work hard enough and have the right support structure around you, then any and everything is possible, and nothing has to be sacrificed.
On more of a business level, Trina and I get inspiration from all of the women and vendors around us on a daily basis. Every business woman that we come into contact with has their own story, their own reason for starting the company and their motivation to keep it going. No-one is in this business purely to make money, but are more interested in providing a stable and positive image for their families. To see that they are able to make a success of themselves and their business inspires us every day.

What is your favourite inspirational quote?
There are several quotes that I like to draw inspiration from whenever the need may arise, but in respect for the passing of the great Maya Angelou, I would like to quote two of hers that always make chuckle and think.

The first: “There is an African saying – Never trust a naked man that offers you a shirt”
The second: “I do not trust people who do not love themselves yet tell me “I love you”…”  

I hope that this answers all of your questions as hoped, if you need anything else from us, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

Mane Divas Ltd
T: 0208 214 1390
Twitter/Instagram/Facebook: @manedivas

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