Name: Vivian Kaye
Tanya: Because your time is money, let’s get going. So, what was your journey to entrepreneurship?
Vivian: Well, it wasn’t a straight one that’s for sure. I wasn’t surrounded by entrepreneurs. But my mother was one. And you know, as a woman who I’m originally from Ghana, came over here as a baby, with my mother, to support us, she was an entrepreneur.
But people from African or Caribbean countries do it out of necessity not because it’s something on your bucket list thing that they need to cross off. I remember when I was announcing that I was going to start my own business. Even my family thought I was crazy. They were like what do you mean? It wasn’t as sexy as it is now. So, I didn’t have those same connotations that people have now.
Tanya: What would you say has been your boldest business move to date?
Vivian: I actually do not know the answer to that question only because it’s like, well, what is considered bold, right? Especially as a black woman in an industry where it’s mostly targeting Black women. I think the fact that I am a Black woman who owns a Black serving business is pretty bold, because there were a lot of people who don’t look like me who own these businesses, and they’re the ones dictating what we should want and what beauty means. So, I think it’s a pretty bold move especially back in 2012 and people were still afraid to put their credit card on the internet.
Just starting and having the audacity to start a business and serve people who look like me exclusively, was pretty bold. People would say why don’t you sell hair extensions for me. And I would say why would I when you can buy them over there, I made these to solve my own problem. Therefore, I’m sharing my solution with the people who also have the same problem.
Tanya: I love that your existence is your boldest, biggest move. I would wholeheartedly agree with that. What was the biggest financial turning point for your company? Your ‘I made it moment’?
Vivian: When I hit a million dollars, and I didn’t realize it.
Tanya: Listen, you’re giving me very Simone Biles vibes.
Vivian: I didn’t start the business to make money, I started to solve a problem. And so, then my goal wasn’t to make a million dollars, just the fact that I did. I was like I wonder what number I would be at, so I went to check my Shopify numbers. At that time, I got into $1,000,060. I ran the report again and I was like I made $1 million. One thing people always think because you made $1 million that makes you a millionaire.
Tanya: How has being a woman in your industry helped you?
Vivian: Because I was my own customer. I got high on my own supply and I understood what my customers needed. I understood how my product was supposed to work because I would use it myself. I think being a woman and being a black woman on top of that, especially when I was ready to tell my brand story, because at first no one really knew it was me. I realized that being a black woman is just so powerful.
Tanya: What is your business’s greatest triumph, besides the million-dollar number?
Vivian: Honestly, I started the business to give black women the confidence to show up as themselves in the world. So, I think my biggest triumph is just having a hand in that. Like when I get emails from cancer patients who are like I finally got a wig that looks like my hair so I can look beautiful. And the women that are applying for corporate jobs and are wearing our hair. So, they can feel like themselves. But for me, it’s the fact that I’ve given my sister the tool to go and do great things.
Tanya: That’s so powerful. I’m glad that these emails come to you so that people can remind you of the impact of your business beyond, because it’s not just that one woman she’s getting ready to go to work. She’s getting her daughter ready for school, and her daughter’s going to look like her and her because like mommy – you and I have the same hair. That little girl is gonna grow up in such a different world than her mother inherited like that. Your impact is generational.
Vivian: I never thought about it that way.
Tanya: Last question before we go – how do you find a balance between your personal and professional?
Vivian: (Vivian laughs)
Tanya: I love that the answer to that question is loud, boisterous laughter.
Vivian: There is no such thing as balance. When I was growing my business – all I focused on was my business and my baby. Which meant my personal life took a back burner. I tried to revise my personal life in February but Covid took over. Covid told me to go back inside and go and focus on your business. Who can balance that? You can’t keep all the balls in the air. There is going to be sometimes where your kids take priority, or your business takes priority. And honestly that is OK if you keep trying to make sure all of those fires are going, you’re just going to burn out. Just focus on the fire that is going on right now in order to get to the next level and everything else can take the backseat.
Bold & Black is a monthly interview series conducted by entrepreneur and 2018 Celebrating Women Honouree Tanya Hayles. Tanya is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of almost 20,000 and non-profit providing financial tools through grant programs generously funded by BMO.