Dianne Austin went through being diagnosed with breast cancer and losing her hair. Things became worse when she couldn’t find a medical wig for hair loss that fit her own hair type. She was determined to rewrite the narrative for other women who might find themselves in her shoes one day.
She told WCVB “I was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, breast cancer, and I learned through my oncologist that I would lose all of my hair. So it was really shocking for me took me for a loop.”
Austin had surgery and then chemotherapy. She recalled how, at the time, her daughter was set to graduate from high school while she was in the middle of treatments. Austin added that she wanted to look as much like herself as possible so that her daughter’s education would not be impacted by her illness.
Even though her doctor proposed medical hair loss wigs and prescribed one that was covered by insurance, she didn’t think it looked like her hair. She said, “When I walked into like three different spaces and didn’t see anything that reflected my hair preferences, it just felt like it made me feel almost invisible.
Austin contacted hospitals around the nation in an attempt to find a medical hair loss wig that would make her feel whole, but she was unsuccessful in her search despite learning that other patients had made similar requests.
In the end, the entrepreneur recreated a wig she had found at a beauty supply store, but she was unable to use her health insurance and was forced to forego the seclusion that a hospital could offer.
“I remember just being so frustrated and angry and I was like, ‘Well, Diane, stop being angry. Do something about it.’ And that’s how the business was born.”
She and her sister, Pamela Shaddock, founded Coils to Locs in 2019. She told the news outlet that she spent nearly four years researching and understanding the market before launching the company. They next located a manufacturer, after which the wigs had to pass a wig fitter exam.
“She took the wig and she started stretching it and turning it inside out and she said, this is really good quality. I remember having a sigh of relief,” Austin recounted to CBS News.
Her online business offers a variety of black textured wigs, ranging from coily curls to ringlets, that can be bought with health insurance through prescriptions at cancer centers across the nation, such as Dana Farber Cancer Institute.
Coils to Locs is currently available in 16 hospitals and is gaining national popularity. The sisters were even featured on “The Jennifer Hudson Show.”
“I think what people don’t recognize is that hair loss and wanting a wig because of hair loss is not, you know, someone who’s being vain and wants a product for, you know, vanity purposes. It’s it’s a lifeline. It allows you sort of a sense of control; a sense of self helps you to maintain your dignity during what is a very difficult time,” Austin remarked.
She expressed that many people have praised the innovative thinking in tackling this challenge. She and her sister have recently expanded their hairline to include braids and, soon, locs.
Austin and her sister Shaddock also intend to develop their business and offer medical hair loss wigs to men and children.
Looking at how successful her company has been, Austin told CBS News, “Sometimes we are like pinching ourselves. We look at each other and think, we actually did this. We created this business from scratch.”