Meet Diishan Imira. He is the co-founder of Mayvenn, a Black-owned beauty and tech company. He started the company to empower Blacks to have more ownership over the beauty market worth over $9 billion.
Mayvenn provides a platform for stylists to earn money by selling beauty products in addition to salon services through its curated network of beauty pros. The company combines an e-commerce platform with services and is now home to over 50,000 hair stylists across the U.S.
Over 65% of the company’s revenue is driven by its stylist partnerships, according to Mayvenn. For instance, stylists who direct clients to buy from the company’s site receive a $15 commission. Forbes reported in 2018 that the company had sold a cumulative $80 million in hair extensions. Mayvenn has paid out $35 million to stylists to date.
“[There] now is a mainstream acknowledgement in the business and corporate community around the significance of [extension] products but also African-American women [as consumers],” said Imira. “And [hair extensions] is one of the last segments in beauty that has not been touched by big box retailers.”
Imira, an Oakland native and HBCU graduate, was inspired to venture into entrepreneurship after his stay in China. He went to China to teach English for a year to middle schoolers. “Everywhere you looked, someone was hustling, selling something. It was unbridled entrepreneurism,” he told CNN.
He started his business journey exporting sneakers. “I see these Jordan sneakers selling for $20 on the street. I’m 23 at the time, from Oakland. I think, Holy sh*t! I can make a lot more money on these back home,” he said. He later sold furniture after returning to the U.S.
However, Imira wanted something bigger. He wanted to be a big player in Silicon Valley. This led him to enroll in business school at Georgia State University and earn an MBA. His hair extension business started when his sister asked him if he could use his connections in China to help her import quality hair extensions for a cheaper price.
And that was how Mayvenn began, he said. “It’s the beauty supply stores that make millions of dollars selling extensions and weaves because salons don’t sell these products. But why should stylists be cut out of the action?”
In 2013, he pitched his startup to Silicon Valley investors and feared they might not be interested. “Some were uninterested. A smaller group found it so outside of their comfort zone that they listened. This is the group we attracted,” Imira told CNN in 2019. “Today, we have some of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley.”
In June this year, the company raised $40 million in a Series C funding round, bringing its total funding to $76 million. The round was led by Cleveland Ave, with participation from the Growth Equity business within Goldman Sachs Asset Management and Andreesen Horowitz’s a16z fund.
Forbes reported that Mayvenn will use the money to expand its partnership with Walmart, creating more in-store Mayvenn Beauty Loungs within Walmart nationwide.