Deonna Monique Lewis, Founder & CEO at Boho Exotic Studio
Guts, Focus, and Social Media: Deonna Monique’s Rise to Success in the Beauty Products Game
One common trait among successful entrepreneurs is a sense of urgency—spotting a need and responding without hesitation in order to address and capitalize on it, even when that means taking a risk.
Deonna Monique is a prime example. As a consumer of hair extensions, she had long struggled with finding the right products, and what she saw as a lack of authenticity in the market. But when she realized through social media that the problem was much bigger than her own, she started a company.
“I thought I was on to something,” Monique tells Foundr. “So a week after I opened my business, I quit my job. I just went for it.”
Despite some serious tests of faith along the way, Monique stuck with her company Boho Exotic Studio, which ended up earning seven figures in that first year, she says. Now approaching three years in business, and she’s going strong, all with her chief channel of marketing being social media platforms like Instagram.
Monique’s lack of hesitation, no-nonsense approach to connecting with her customers, and faith in the quality of her product and service, have added up to a fast ascent, all in the face of serious business and personal hurdles.
Keeping it Real
Deonna Monique’s story starts pretty much like that of anyone’s first business. She felt like an entrepreneur at heart ever since she was young. But she never took that big step of actually starting a business. She worked for a number of large companies: ABC, NBC, Disney, finally ending up at Bank of America.
“I saw that I was making them lots of money, actually millions of dollars, and I wasn’t making that much. I was set on a certain dollar amount, that annual wage that they give you.”
Meanwhile, in her spare time, Monique more or less accidentally created a name for herself in a market that she hadn’t considered as a future career, hair extensions.
To those who don’t purchase them, hair extensions may not seem like a major industry to stake a claim in. But those who do will beg to differ. Extensions can be pricey, range greatly in quality, and finding a right texture match and quality product can be very difficult.
Monique had plenty of experience with this. “I am African-American, I’m European, and I’m Asian. So I have this really weird kind of hair texture, where it’s curly but it’s kind of straight. So I just really wanted someone to match hair extensions that look just like mine.”
She took to YouTube to talk about the conundrum, and she found out, fast, that she was not alone. She posted one particular video about a product she had found, and two days later it had 30,000 views.
“I was really shocked, I’m not going to lie to you. I was like, ‘What is going on here?’”
A Regular Girl with a Camera
Monique began to build a following with her YouTube videos. She’s since mostly shifted to the more popular Instagram platform, but her videos from the early days would rack up tens of thousands of views.
She didn’t have any kind of flashy editing or high production value. In retrospect, she kind of wishes she had made slicker-looking videos, but it was all DIY.
“You know the camera that’s on your computer? That’s what I used. I just turned it on,” she says. But it was that lack of veneer that really drew her audience. “What they noticed about me was that I was very real and very honest, very raw. I just said it how it was.”
Monique says that she and other consumers in the hair industry have become accustomed to being misled for years. They’re sold fake hair products that are marketed as real, and products sold as high quality that don’t last. Then there’s the difficulty of texture mentioned above, with typically limited options when it comes to getting the right match, despite the huge diversity among women’s hair.
Still working her 9-to-5, Monique’s YouTube following meant companies were always trying to get her to mention their products in her videos, but she still wasn’t satisfied with what she was getting.
“It got to the point where I was like, ‘No, I’m not going to be [promoting] any more people’s products unless someone can match my hair texture.” Someone did, but it wasn’t a big company. It was just a family who made hair products in India.
“It was like a perfect, divine intervention match. And I was like, you know what? I want to start my own business and I want to do this myself. All these other hair companies are selling hair extensions, but they’re not catering to the client.”
She saw her opening, and in March 2013, Boho Exotic Studio (BES) went live. She moved over to Instagram for marketing, and Monique’s product caught on fast. In a week, she quit her job at Bank of America. In the first month, Monique says Boho Exotic sold $40,000.
The company made tailoring products to the individual its hallmark. Rather than lumping personal textures together in just a few stock styles, Monique and her suppliers made an effort to learn how their consumers’ hair differed, matching hundreds of products to individual needs. Not long after, BES settled on 15 distinct types of hair that covered the large majority of individual textures. They had cracked the code of how to make hair extensions that honored the diversity of women’s hair, and the market responded.
She was officially a CEO. But that sense of authenticity and of being a regular person with a camera has remained central to her marketing, brand, and guiding principles.
‘This is it’
A lot of entrepreneurs, or aspiring entrepreneurs will sort of cautiously wade into the world of startups, running the shop in the late night hours after work at a day job. For Monique, that never made much sense.
“When you put your dream as your second job, it’s just like working a part-time job. Yeah, you’ll go in and you’ll do it, but you don’t put as much passion and as much drive into it, as if: This is it. This is your rent. This is how you’re going to live and if you don’t make that sale, you may be on the streets the next day. So it made me work a lot, a lot harder.”
Monique recommends the all-in approach. There’s the motivation factor, but it also forced her to learn at a rapidly accelerated pace. All of her biggest mistakes happened very early on in the first few months, forcing her to spring back quickly or fail.
Maintaining that full commitment can be risky. Even though things started off with a bang, it was extremely hard on her personal life. A lot of her family and best friends were telling her to hit the brakes and see how things unfold before starting a full-fledged business.
“I wasn’t thinking like that. I was thinking, I have something here, and if I’m going to go for my dream of being an entrepreneur, the time is right now.”
Working pretty much around the clock also put a huge strain on her friendships, as she basically had no time to give them. But the biggest challenge she would face came in the form of her old secret weapon, the YouTube video.
Monique says a customer was dissatisfied with a product, so BES sent a replacement to get it right, and they did. But the customer also wanted BES to use her in their promotions, which Monique wasn’t interested in doing. The customer posted a scathing review online in retaliation, Monique says.
It drew thousands of views. Monique had no job, a brand new business, a daughter to care for, and a customer shredding her online.
“It’s actually a worst nightmare for any entrepreneur,” she says. “This actually broke me down to the bottom of being broken down. And it also built me to becoming a millionaire.”
She did the only thing she could do—work harder and make the company as good as it could be.
“Get inside the train and keep working,” as she puts it. “Make sure that your customer service is so good that no one believes her. I just went so tunnel vision, and working so hard to make my name as credible as it was from the very beginning.”
This kind of proof—demonstrating reliability through performance and testimonials of average people, has been BES’s bread and butter.
Monique relies on social media, especially Instagram, for marketing. She’s partnered with high-profile Instagram models, working the way up the ladder of famous-but-sincere spokespeople to build credibility. But the brand also promotes the feeds of regular consumers, allowing them to be the voice of the company. Doing so over the past few years has given her perspective since the early attack video.
“Let the customer be the face of the company. If they hate the hair, let them say it. If they love the hair, let them say it.”
Deonna Monique has had a fast and furious rise to the top of her field, but she’s gained some serious insight in that time, learning huge lessons in her first few years. Her best advice for others:
- 1. Go for it. “If this is your dream and this is what you want to do, then go for it, in my opinion. I would say stop everything and channel towards your dream. Make sure that you’re able to finance your life and lifestyle, but don’t put your dream as your second job. Make it your first job.”
- Show, don’t tell. “Don’t tell people your dreams. Don’t tell people your goals. They’ll probably laugh at you and give you all these different reasons why you shouldn’t do it. I just say go for it. Don’t tell them anything. Show them; let them see your success. I wish I would have done that.”
- Take Foundr’s Instagram Domination Course. (We swear we didn’t put her up to this!) “That really is so helpful … Your ultimate goal is to gain more customers, so you want to know every detail on how you can get more followers, because more followers are more viewers, and more viewers become people that log on to the website, and that equals more sales. It’s kind of like college for Instagram.”
- How to let your customer be the face of your company
- What to do when it feels like you’ve hit rock bottom as an entrepreneur
- The best ways to hack social media marketing to further your brand and grow your audience
- The perils and benefits of diving straight into building a business as a new entrepreneur
- The importance of looking past all the doubters and believing in yourself and your dreams
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Deonna Monique
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” My name is Nathan Chan and I am your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia. Really, really excited about today’s episode. I think what’s cool about this one, and really mixing things up, is a few things. First of all, today’s guest is Deonna Monique and the first thing that’s really cool about Deonna was she’s a member of the “Foundr Magazine” community, and she’s someone that did our Instagram domination course.
Some you guys might know that we have an advanced training course on Instagram, and Instagram marketing because we’re doing some really cool stuff there. And a lot of you guys asked us how we’re doing it. So we ended up creating a course. And, you know, the next really impressive thing about Deonna is she actually took that course and absolutely ran with it, and, you know, she’s generating millions and millions of dollars over Instagram now, which is absolutely crazy.
And that’s what’s so awesome about this interview is, you know, Deonna is not an influencer in the entrepreneurship space. A lot of you guys probably wouldn’t have heard of her or her business, but, you know, what at Foundr we like to showcase the spotlight on entrepreneurs that you may never have heard of sometimes. And we also wanna [00:02:00] showcase the spotlight on our community members that are doing amazing things.
So let’s talk about today’s guest, Deonna Monique. Now Deonna is the founder of Boho Exotic Studio, and they sell hair extensions. And who would have thought that, you know, being behind social media, you could generate millions and millions of dollars especially over Instagram selling hair extensions? So in this interview, Deonna shares with us, you know, how she got started, how she identified this need, and all the hurdles she faced, you know, everything that she’s done to really crush it on Instagram. It’s a really, really in-depth interview and I know you guys are gonna absolutely love this one.
So before we jump into today’s episode, I just wanna let you guys know if you are looking to find out more about Instagram, we created this epic eBook. You know, it’s been downloaded close to 100,000 times, is so well received, and it’s “How To Get Your First 10,000 Followers on Instagram.” So if you wanna learn more about this Instagram marketing stuff and you really enjoy this interview, I know you’re gonna love this is eBook.
If you go to foundrmag.com, F-O-U-N-D-Rmag.com/free F-R-E-E foundrmag.com/free. You can download this free eBook that will really help you get your first 10,000 followers. All right. Now let’s jump into the show. Are you able to tell us how you got your job?
Deonna: I’ve always been an entrepreneur in my head, but I’ve never actually done anything entrepreneurial, if I said that correctly. You know, I’ve always worked professional from ABC, NBC, Disney, large financial companies etc. And little did I know all of that training helped me for new millennial entrepreneurs and working as a new entrepreneur at what I’m doing right now. But, yeah, my last place, I worked at a large financial company in America called Bank of America. And I was there always creating new ideas. I worked as an Assistant Vice President, you know, and helped with the transition from Countrywide to Bank of America. And I helped make them…you know, build what was a loan modification department. And I saw that I was making them lots of money, actually millions of dollars, and I wasn’t making that much. I was set on a certain dollar amount, you know, the annual wage that they give you. So, you know, I started out doing something for fun, doing YouTube videos over hair extensions and hair care products, and just playing around on the video doing YouTube videos.
And I had a following. And, you know, I saw, you know, a niche that I just wanted to take advantage of. You know, like I said, I’ve always wanted to be an entrepreneur ever since I learned what the word was as a child, but I just always thought in my head, I just need that one idea. I don’t know any entrepreneur that hasn’t done this that just creates new ideas in their head all the time, but I just need to stick with one. And once I found that there was a empty place in the market of hair extensions for every nationality and every hair texture for women, I just took up on it. And that’s exactly what I did. I found a family out in Brazil and in India and hired them on to make hair extensions that match my own hair texture, and the rest is history.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So when did you start Boho Exotic Studio?
Deonna: I started Boho Exotic Studio a little over two years ago in, I believe it was March of 2013.
Nathan: Yeah. So that’s actually when we started Foundr. That’s really cool.
Deonna: Oh really?
Deonna: That is cool.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s awesome.
Deonna: When I was on YouTube, because I started my business on YouTube really, and I noticed that the crowd was kind of heading over to Instagram. So in March, I just finally made the decision to start my business on Instagram officially and have my business license and all that. So officially started in March of 2013.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So you had your job working at Bank of America and you’re creating these YouTube videos around hair extensions. And at what point did you decide to start selling your hair extensions online, move to Instagram, identifying this gap in the market? Like, tell us a little about that and what happened.
Deonna: It was really awesome. One day, you know, just a regular consumer that buys hair extensions, and I was at my house and I was like, “Wow, these are really good extensions.” And they didn’t match my… It wasn’t my product. It was another company’s, but they didn’t match my hair texture but it was really close. So I made a YouTube video and the video… This is so funny because the video wasn’t professional.
If you look at YouTube videos now, you’ll see that they’re all professionally done, the lighting is, like, awesome, the camera is great, there’s, like, great editing, and, like, graphics everywhere. Mine was, you know the camera that’s on your computer, that’s what I used. I just turned it on. I turned it on. It was like, “Oh, my gosh, guys, you know, I found these hair extensions and they’re really great blah, blah.” And that video alone in like maybe two days, it got over 30,000 views. And I was really shocked. I’m not gonna lie to you. I was like, “Wow, what is going on here? I think I may have something here.”
So that’s when I really got into, you know, just looking at other hair extension companies, and looking at, you know, what they’re doing.
And I was noticing I’m getting these hair extensions and I’m like, “Why can’t anybody get hair extensions exactly like mine? Like, I am African-American, I’m European, and I’m Asian. So I have this really weird kind of hair texture, where it’s curly, but it’s kind of straight, but it’s, you know…” And so anyway, I just wanted someone to match hair extensions that looked just like mine.
So after getting like all these thousands of people that are following me on YouTube, you know, you get these offers from different companies of people saying, “Hey, will you post my product on your YouTube page?” And it got to the point where I was like, “No, I’m not gonna be doing any more people’s products unless someone can match my hair texture.” And there was this guy that was like, “Well, I can do it.” And so he did it and it matched, and he wasn’t with any type of company. It was just him and his family.
So it was like a perfect divine intervention match. And I was like, “Well you know what? I wanna start my own business and I wanna do this myself. Like, all these other hair companies are selling hair extensions, but they’re not, you know, catering to the client. They’re just selling what they think could sell.” I mean, and it would sell but it wasn’t catering to them.
So that’s what I did. I just started and I just started with my very own here texture. And I was like, “Look guys, but you have to understand, with my kinky curly hair texture… I don’t know if you know anything about hair extensions, but, you know, there’s not really… You either get straight hair, wavy hair, or curly hair, and that’s pretty much about it, and not really down to the detail of, like, how tight the ring lead is or anything like that.
So anyway, when I did my hair texture, apparently, there were thousands of other people that wanted it just like me. And what I noticed is that people liked me and my YouTube videos because I didn’t have great graphics. I didn’t have, you know, the big production and the hoopla. I was just a regular girl turning on the camera that had a hair texture that they liked. And what they noticed about me was that I was very real and very honest, very raw. I just said it how it was.
And the hair industry, the consumers in the hair industry have been lied to for so many years. They get fake hair and these companies tell them that it’s real hair. So they were always lied to. So it was just a fresh feeling to get someone that was real and honest. And I think that’s why I sold, I think, a little more than $40,000 in my very first month of opening. So yeah, it was a really good awesome thing, and I thought I was on to something. So a week after I opened my business, I quit my job.
Nathan: Oh, wow.
Deonna: I just went for it. But you know what Nathan? I actually would recommend if someone was wanting to go out there and be an entrepreneur, I know a lot of people… A lot of people told me when it came to family and friends, they would say, “Okay, okay. You have a good thing going. You’re your making, you know, these thousands of dollars or whatever, but you never know. It could end at any moment and you can fall off at any time. So you wanna save up and don’t quit your day job. You know, just hold on to the money.”
And I wasn’t thinking like that. I was thinking, “I have something here and if I’m gonna go for my dream of being an entrepreneur, the time is, like, right now. And if I’m gonna sit at a job that I don’t like, I might as well sit at a job, you know, doing something that I actually like.” I don’t know how to explain. I just… When I quit my job without any thought of like, “What am I gonna do for rent?” I don’t even think I thought about that. I just, like, turned on, like, tunnel vision and was like, “This is exactly what I’m gonna do. You know, I feel like I worked a lot harder” Because when you put your dream as your second job, it’s just like working a part-time job. Yeah, you’ll go in and you’ll do it but you don’t put as much passion and as much drive into it as if this is it. This is your rent. This is how you’re gonna live, and if you don’t make that sale, you may be on the streets the next day.
So, it made me work a lot harder, and I would recommend it because I learned everything so quick. I learned so much about failing customer service. I mean, even though I worked in customer service and had a job, it’s just a totally different light when you’re the actual boss than when you’re in customer service and you can just, “Yeah, yeah, whatever,” as long as you get them off the phone or give them their, you know, whatever.
It’s just a whole different lifestyle that I had to learn and since I was automatically from the start on a platform of YouTube with all these thousands of followers, I had no room to make any error. Even though I did. But I’m glad that I had all of my errors in the beginning in the first few months, so that I could be able to learn from them quickly, and, you know, just double up all my money and expand my business.
Nathan: Yeah, I know. That’s amazing. So you launched the e-commerce like your website March 2013. Is that correct?
Nathan: Okay, awesome. And what happened next? So you left your job, you know, you’re stumbling around for those couple months. I have to say, Deonna, that story is unbelievable in the sense that your first business… That’s the first product you ever sold online and you made that amount of money. Like, how did you keep that momentum? Tell us more about that.
Deonna: People can notice when you’re very passionate about something, they know when you’re real, and they know when… It’s just a no B.S. business when it comes to hair extensions. It’s totally different than buying tennis shoes or a dress. When it comes to hair extensions…and people that buy hair extensions know this. They’ve been lied to for so many years. Even now from major companies, you know, you go into a store and you’re like, “Hey, can I get these here extensions?” And they’ll be like, “Yes, this is a great product. It costs, you know, 70 bucks or 100 bucks or whatever.” And you buy the product. And within, you know, a week, it’s useless. You can’t even use the hair anymore.
So when coming to me and they see I am a regular person, you know, I probably should have done production a lot better. Hindsight is 20/20 vision, but that’s from a professional point of view. But the consumers love the fact that it was just so honest and raw, and they can see the product for themselves. They saw me dying the hair. They saw me flat iron the hair. Their questions were answered before they even had to ask, because they knew that I was once a consumer myself looking for the same type of product. So I knew what the customer was looking for. I knew what the questions were that they were gonna ask. I knew, you know, what type of shipping that they want, how long processing would be.
I would just put this in my head, and I did that in my regular work career. That’s why, you know, I say that my professions helped me in my entrepreneurial journey because that’s just what I did. I just took whatever…before the customer has to ask, I would be there already with the answer. And I think that’s what helped. I knew that the customer wanted their emails answered fast, the phone line answered fast. I knew that they wanted things, you know, done quickly. And that’s basically what I was there to do. I just wanted to make sure that the customer was satisfied 100% and I failed, but I also succeeded for the most part.
But yeah, that helped me to be able to grow. As long as I kept that tunnel vision and just gave them exactly what they wanted, they were very good to go. But how I expanded on that, I can’t tell you that this is a really big thing. What I learned from working in a business is that I learned that all I have to do is find… You were talking about this in your Instagram domination, how you were saying, you know, find people that work in your niche. And that’s what I did. I went out and looked for my local celebrity. I didn’t wanna go out to like Beyoncé and contact, you know, the Beyoncé, but I want to contact the Beyoncé in my local area who was that person?
And so I found my local Beyoncé, and her name was Kim JoHansson. If you guys don’t know who she is, definitely look her up, which I naturally think she’s… You know, she still is. She’s my Beyoncé. She helped me. Bbut I contacted her and I said, “Hey, you know, I’ve got these hair extensions. I just want you to try them out,” because, you know, she can wear anything and it just naturally fits with her. But she was like, “Well, you know, they have to be good hair extensions,” and, you know, she was all about quality herself.
But I sent them out to her and she loved them. And she had, you know, hundreds of thousands of followers back then, and it’s, you know, tripled since. But she had hundreds of thousands of followers. And she did a YouTube video and then she did it on her Instagram and it just went…
Deonna: It just went crazy after that, yeah. So then from that local celebrity, then I went to her local celebrity, and then just kind of spiraled to where I didn’t have to contact anyone anymore. People, you know, contact me, from celebrities, to movies, to TVs, you know, just magazines, everywhere.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So you think that working with influencers in your industry has been massive for the growth of your business. Is that what I’m hearing?
Deonna: Yeah, I can definitely say that that is, you know, 100% helpful as far as a beauty influencer, because they’re who… You know, on Instagram, when it comes to women, we look at other women. We like to see what make up their wearing, what eyelashes and hair extensions, what dress they’re wearing. So when it comes to a beauty influencer, it’s really important. A lot of people laugh at that. They say like, “Oh, you’re an Instagram model? Like, “Yes.” Do you understand that as a CEO, I’m looking out for them every day so yes, of course.
Nathan: Yeah, that’s really the game, hey, like, especially in your industry. So I’m curious, so tell us about the production of the hair extensions, and you mentioned that you have a family in India, you have a family in south…
Deonna: In Brazil.
Nathan: Where? Sorry, Brazil? Like, how does all that work and how do you create… Do you still, to this day, with Boho Exotic Studio create custom-tailored hair extensions for people depending on their, I guess, hair type?
Deonna: Well, the first year, it was more about studying the person’s hair extensions. So what I did since I can’t fly out to Brazil and India every single day or week, it’s a daily Skype or a weekly Skype or every two days Skype over, you know, “This is this person’s natural hair texture. This is their hair color. How can we make that and looking at different rods and just getting down to the exact detail of how we can make it work.” And, you know, they’re always very, you know, helpful. You know, they do exactly what I ask and make exactly what I need. So that’s just pretty much how it works. They give me a set price and I pay for their services, and living, and, you know, just basically take care…
Nathan: You pay for that person’s living as well?
Deonna: The one in India, yeah. Well, not as far as like their food and all that but…
Nathan: But you take good care of them.
Deonna: I do take good care of them. You know, that’s what they ask for. This family is a family of seven in one home and what they do is cater to me, and their prices which… You know, their cost of electricity, you know, it just came up to a great price to where as long as they were helping me out in my business… I don’t have to do that anymore. But as long as I was taking care of them, they were taking care of me, and yeah. And so that’s why I expanded and found a company in Brazil as well that, you know, I’m not taking care of their cost of living but I am taking… It sounds crazy actually saying it out loud
Nathan: Yeah, I know.
Deonna: But, yeah, I have a set price and that’s what happens when I pay it, they make it. So it’s really good, and I think I was gonna say about the hair texture, yeah. We custom-tailored hundreds of different people’s hair textures. And what we found is that, you know, it comes down to 15 different hair extensions that we sell the most. So we have from all the way from a naturally straight texture, all the way down to the tightest kinkiest curl which is an afro, which is a really, really tight curl that is manageable, that people can brush through, you know, that there’s no shedding or matting.
So we have these 15 different hair textures now that seem to work. And if we find a new texture, then we’re gonna take advantage of that here texture as well. But right now, we have 15 different textures that are tailored. Now, customers can still be able to customize their hair extensions down to their hair color, if they want it in a wig, or weaves, or clip-ins, you know, however they want it. So we still customize. But as far as the hair texture, we don’t necessarily need to do that unless we don’t have that texture available.
Nathan: Gotcha. So you receive an order online, and do you have to speak to the person that’s made the order, or they’ll fill that out in the forms, and then from there, that’s when you place an order with one of your suppliers?
Deonna: Well, we mostly have hair in stock. Now, see, the thing is you don’t know what a customer’s going to order. So, you know, you get… Just when you think like let’s just say Serayah, who’s on a hit new show in America called “Empire,” she’s in our hair extensions and she’s wearing the spiral curl. So I can stock up on, you know, a lot of bundles of the spiral curl because I know that’s gonna sell because she was in it and she’s wearing it on the TV show, and you get, you know, everybody wanting to wear the naturally straight hair. So you just wasted thousands of dollars in product.
So I try not to do that. I try to what’s in stock of our most frequent things that people buy. And then everything else is customized from the time the customer makes that order. So it is kind of a catch-22. I wish I could read the customer’s mind, but it’s not like that. But what I try to do is I will make an Instagram post even kind of like a meeting. I’m trying to think of the word but a meeting that you would have with a focus group, that’s the word I’m thinking of. Just having like an Instagram kind of focus group where I put a post up saying, “Hey, what kind of textures do ya’ll want me to up inside the studio?”
And so I get responses and that’s what I’ll have and I’ll remove it so I don’t get any competitor seeing what I have so that they’ll stock up on their product too. But yeah, that’s what I like to do, and I’ll keep that in stock. But the thing about our stock is once it’s in, it’s immediately gone. Because they know it’s coming and it’s there, and then they take it like within, you know, 72 hours.
Nathan: Yeah, wow. So what I’m hearing is you have a growth problem.
Deonna: And when you say that what do you mean?
Nathan: I was gonna say… You said that as soon as you put up a new color and you have a certain texture or something and it’s in stock, you’re saying within 72 it’s gone.
Deonna: It is, yeah. It definitely is. So I have to keep adding stock. But see, like, even if I add in… So let’s just say I have in stock 20 bundles of hair extensions that are in a spiral curl, and I’ll say, “Hey, they’re in stock.” They’ll be gone just like that. And so, you know, I have to gain back more. But let’s just say I add in 20 more thinking, “Okay, well I sold those 20 bundles, so we’re on a roll. Let’s get more spiral curl in.” The next three days, they’re like, “No we don’t want spiral curl. We want, you know, a looser curl.”
So I always have to stay on top of, you know, what it is that they’re wanting. And yes, you’re kinda right. Like, as far as knowing exactly what the customer wants and keeping that in stock, from the new customers that join in, no, I don’t know that. You know how let’s just say like if it was a clothing store and you have like these certain dresses, yellow dresses. And yellow dresses are in and you’re like, “Okay, let’s stock up and get 20 yellow dresses in stock.” And, you know, people will buy the yellow dresses, and there are some…you know, next season they’re out, and they don’t want yellow dresses. They want pink dresses.
And, you know, you just have to stay on top of it and know, you know… It’s hard to… I wouldn’t suggest putting a whole bunch of anything in stock unless you know that it’s gonna sell. So I try to keep a minimum amount in stock, unless I know, you know, a celebrity is in the hair extensions and then she add more of that, or something of my bestsellers and keep that in stock. So I just wanna always try to keep, you know… I wanna keep stock, but I also want to…since we are able to customize the customers’ hair extensions, I see no point in keeping hundreds of one texture in stock and just letting dust roll over it.
Nathan: You know, that’s fair enough. I just think… I guess what I was hearing was it was hard to know sometimes, right?
Deonna: Yes, yes. It is hard to know.
Nathan: So I’m curious, tell us about the hard times, Deonna. Tell us about the sacrifices you had to make. Because it sounds quite easy from where I’m listening from, it sounds like you get lots of businesses and you’re crushing it. You know, you’re going to do these amazing things. You’ve mentioned that you’ve generated over seven figures in a year, like, you’re doing some amazing things. Can you tell us about the hard times and the sacrifice you had to make? How often do you work?
Deonna: I work about maybe 19 to 20 hours a day.
Deonna: That sounds funny. All this saying out loud sounds hilarious to me because I don’t really think about it. I just do it. But it’s definitely not, you know, all giggles and laughs. But I can’t look at it like that. But I mean it’s been nothing but blood, sweat, tears, you know, depression. I mean, you have to understand when I went into this, I didn’t think, you know, you’re going to lose friends. I lost basically all of my friends. All the people that, you know, I would hang out with on my lunch break or talk to that I knew from back in high school and college, I don’t even talk to them anymore. I don’t even have time to talk to the friends that I have now. All I’m doing is working.
And then if I do have someone that, you know, contacts me they’re wanting product or they’re wanting something, so it’s like if I wanna do this then that means there’s no more friends. I mean, you don’t have time for that. You don’t have time to go out and hang out and go to different nightclubs and bars and, you know, different events that are going on. Unless it has to do with the business and then don’t drink, you know. But no, the friends are gone. The family doesn’t believe in you. I mean, you’re not gonna have people that believe… no one’s going to believing in you like you believe in you.
You know, like, I don’t have Nathan Chan’s dream. So if Nathan Chan tells me something about, “Hey, can you…” No one’s going to ride and do the things that you want them to do as much as you wanna do it for yourself. So I took that early on because I really never really had support, you know, as far as anything that I asked for. So I don’t really ask for anything unless, you know, it’s something that is truly something that I cannot do myself and I need help with. So basically, like, you know, when I went into tunnel vision, I kinda expected no friends, no family, you know, losing it all.
Like I said, I quit my job a week after I started my business. Do you know what that means? That means that I put in a couple of hundred dollars, I think maybe… I don’t wanna lie to you, but I think it was like 70 bucks to start my business. I know for a fact that I didn’t spend over $300 starting it, but I know it was something really low like that. Like, just something like a business license and a couple of bundles and a website to build. And I didn’t even know that it was going to build off of that.
So I had to set my price to be able to cover bills and cover, you know, the product and the shipping and all that. So my prices were high from the very start. But I didn’t really think like, “Okay, well how am I gonna pay the rent, and how am I…?” So yeah, there were days where, you know, I was thinking, “Oh, my God, I need a sale. Actually I need about 10 sales because it goes…” Let me tell you something, Nathan, because this actually, like, broke me down to the bottom of being broken down and it also built me to becoming a millionaire, or helped make me become a millionaire. It was the worst time that I ever had in my whole entire career. And it’s actually a worst nightmare for any entrepreneur, let me tell you.
So I had my business and I’m doing YouTube videos, right? And, you know, with a normal startup company that no one knows about, you know, if there’s a complaint, you know, people complain to you or whatever. But this person… I had a customer who did not like her product and I said, “Okay, well what I’ll do is I’ll send you out some more.” So I sent the customer out more not knowing anything about business and, you know, whatever. So I sent the customer out more without exchange or anything. I just sent it out to her overnight, and she’s like, “Oh, wow. I love this product,” or whatever, “Thank you,” and all this other great stuff.
Meanwhile, she wanted me to advertise her, but the photos that she was sending in, they weren’t high quality. So what does she do? She put up a video up saying, “I hate this hair.” This is the original…the hair that she originally got before she got the replacement. She’s, “I hate this hair. I hate this company. You know, the CEO is, you know…” I mean she’s saying every worst thing that you could say about someone, and every worst thing that you could say about your product, and, you know, just labeled the company, you know, “I hate this company,” or whatever.
And this is my only personal opinion that it was just for the fame of, you know, give out all these people that are purchasing from me. “Ooh, let’s click on this video that’s talking, you know, crap about the company. You know, let’s find this interesting.” So when she posted that video, I mean, it was thousands of views. So those thousands of views were looking at my company like, “I’m not gonna buy from you just because of this one person’s opinion.”
So I actually didn’t even feel like I needed to work as hard until I got that video that happened. And, I mean, that was like a very depressing time for me. I had anxiety. I mean, I had no idea what to do with my life or my business because it’s like I quit my job, “Oh, my God, I quit my job. I have this business. I mean, there’s this YouTube video out that’s like talking crap about my company. There’s thousands of views. I don’t know how… I mean, what am I supposed to do. I’ve got a daughter. I don’t know how I’m gonna feed my daughter.” I wasn’t getting any sales, any sales, so I didn’t know what I was gonna do, how I was gonna pay rent.
But, I mean, the answer to that was just keep on working, grind harder, find this problem on what she is talking about and fix it, even though she said in the video, “Yeah, she gave me more hair extensions blah, blah.” But, you know, I totally had to block her out. I contacted my lawyer and all that, but I just didn’t have time to… Yeah, but I didn’t have time to even do the court and do… I was just like get inside the train and keep on working, fix the problem, fix her whatever she’s talking about, make sure that your customer service is so good that no one believes her.
So I just I went so tunnel vision and working so hard to make my name as credible as it was from the very beginning before she ever made the video, and her video is actually still out there. But it doesn’t bother me because, you know, like I said, how I started in the business is basically the customer. I try to get my name and my face out of it and put the customer. You’re gonna hear… just like how I once was before I started my business and how I was doing YouTube videos, I wanted…and Instagram posts or whatever. I wanted the customer to do that, do that like that with my company instead of me being the face of the company, let the customer be the face. Let them tell you for yourself if they hate the hair, let them say it, if they love their hair let them say it.
And so that’s exactly what happened. So you’re getting Instagram posts of customers from all over the world, that are saying, you know, all this great stuff. And it kind of picked me up, and it helped me. Because the customers’ voice is a very loud one. The customer is not always right, but I make them feel like they are.
And I just put the tunnel vision on and just let them run the show as far as their opinion and what they think, because that helped me build and craft the company to where it is built around them. It’s what they want. From the hair texture to the quality. I mean, the quality is so insane right now. There’s no company that can even compete with mine. And I say this…I don’t say just because, you know, I’m like I love my business or whatever. I say this because this is what the customer tells me, and going as far as, you know, very “bigger company.” And I say bigger as far as more followers than I have because it’s the only difference that we have.
They were even mentioning me on a television show just recently and saying that I was their competition. I didn’t even think that I was their competition. I don’t see anybody as my competition. But for them to mention my name and for, you know, different hair companies to come after and say, you know, “Shut your business down. Your business looks like my…” It’s like no, it doesn’t at all. You know, I’m in my own entity. I’m in my own lane.
And I think that when I follow my own lane and listen to the customer, everything just falls into place. And so now, the company as far as, yeah, was there a hard time like that… if there was no harder time than that that was it. You don’t want the… Now, I don’t see it like that. If a customer made a video or a post or they said they hated my company, I would treat it completely differently now. But back then, it was very…it hurt me. It was like the end of the world for me. That’s what it felt like.
But I changed. It helped build me and grow me like, “Yes, I’m gonna fix this. I’m never going to, you know, do business with you ever again. But I definitely am going to change, you know, the outlook of the company and make it something that’s quite untouchable for anyone to be able to say negative things about it. And I just put that energy in the air and that’s just what comes back. I have quality and the customer sees that, and that’s what I love about it. The customer, if they love the hair, they say it.
And that’s also another thing about my Instagram page, is if you go my Instagram page, you won’t see…kinda moving subjects really quick. But you won’t see a lot of, you know, very like, professional photos with these, you know, photo shoots that were taking place. We do that but for the most part, it’s really about the customer. So I want it to be able… Because customers, I have to tell you, when it comes to hair extensions and the customer looks at the product, they don’t believe when a celebrity comes on to the page and says, “Hey, guys, look at my product. Click on their link and get 10% off.” They don’t believe stuff like that. They really don’t…
Deonna: They think, you know, “They were just getting paid to do this. How am I supposed to know that this is real?” So what I do is, you know, most of our feed is nothing but customers, because you know why? The customer can see… The person that is clicking on our page is gonna see the actual customer wearing the hair for two years, for a year, for six months. They’ve dyed the hair. And they can actually click on the customer’s picture and say, “Hey, do you like this hair?” That’s where my marketing has come from. It’s all come from the customer. It’s all come from word of mouth, you know, word of mouth from social networking.
And that is where I get my piece, because, I mean, right now, we’re a little over 90,000 followers and it’s growing, and it continues to grow because I believe that it is this word of mouth and that the customer can be able to ask the real questions to real customers and get real pictures and real video of real hair, which is not going on in the industry. I think people think that, you know, if it’s all professionally done, which is good. It looks good. But that’s not… It’s really important to listen to the customer, and I think that’s what I have got down is I listen to what they need. And it may look different but I guarantee you, it makes more sales. So yeah. Sorry for talking so much.
Nathan: No, it’s great. I think they are the best kind of conversations where you just wait for the other person talk, and I can see you’re really passionate about this stuff, Deonna, and I think it’s so spot on. Like, I think one of the biggest underlying things from our conversation is the customer doesn’t lie. If you’ve got a crappy product, they are not gonna buy it, right?
Nathan: And they’re gonna tell you what they want. And customer service is so extremely key and treating that person, like, so extremely well above and beyond people are just blown away. That’s a big one. One thing I was dying to ask you and we’re towards wrapping up is, you said that you work like 20 hours, or 19, 18 hours a day, that won’t be forever right? I think I hustle pretty hard enough and I haven’t worked that many hours.
Deonna: Yeah. And I definitely won’t be doing this forever, but I have a goal of where I want to be. And no, I’m not, you know, doing customer service and all that. But I have a business plan and a business model of where I see myself within three years. I was supposed to say five but within three years. And so with that, there’s things that I need to do and I don’t want to say, “Okay, I’ll do this next week.” I wanna get it over with, you know, that night. Because once I make my list out, the list is really long of things that I need to do. And to get there, there’s a lot of things that need to be done.
Because what I’ve noticed right now is that the customer needs to get their hair products immediately. That is the biggest thing. They want their hair right then and there. They don’t even wanna wait. So my goal is to be able to get it to the customer as soon as they want it, they can be able to go to the store and get it. And so that’s what I’m working towards doing, is to be in stores worldwide since my customers all over the world.
So that’s definitely what I’m focused on and to get there, you know, there’s a lot of things that need to be done, and there’s people that are up in different countries when America’s asleep. So there’s different hours I need to be up. I definitely take naps, you know, for like 20, 30 minutes. But for the most part, I’m pretty much up but I don’t mind it. There are just a lot of things that just need to be done, and I’m definitely gonna take care of it.
Now, do I see myself working 20 hours in the next year or so? No, I don’t. I see myself… You know, I have a balance. I have a work-life balance. But I definitely, you know, work a little bit more because there’s… I have to be in stores worldwide. That’s just it.
Nathan: Yeah, no, that’s awesome. Wrapping up, what are three actionable items that people can take away from your experience as an entrepreneur? And you can still say, like, “Yeah, I’ve been doing this stuff for that long.” What are your three biggest takeaways action, and do you want people to go and take away from you?
Deonna: No, I don’t know if a lot of people agree but my number one thing that I would say that someone should be able to take action on is if this is your dream and this is what you wanna do, then go for it. In my opinion, I would say stop everything and channel towards your dream. You know, make sure that you’re able to finance your life and lifestyle, but don’t put your dream as your second job. Make it your first job. You know, if you’re gonna go for your dream, go for it. Don’t let there be any excuses, just absolutely let that be your number one thing. Because I know a lot of people that say that they want, you know, to do certain things with their life and yet that’s on the back burner. But I definitely say make that your first thing, you know, make it your number one.
Number two, what I would say is, you know, don’t tell people your dreams, don’t tell people your goals, because they’re gonna probably laugh at you and give you all these different reasons why you shouldn’t do it. And I just say go for it. Don’t tell them anything. Show them. Let them see your success. Let them start asking about it. I wish I had done that. I wish I had not told anybody what my dream was because they all laughed at me in the beginning and now they’re wanting the products. But I definitely wouldn’t…I recommend don’t tell anybody. Just let them see what you’re doing.
And the last thing I would say is, and this isn’t just to pull a plug or anything, but I definitely would say to definitely listen to your Instagram domination, because that really is so helpful if you’re trying to gain… Your ultimate goal is to get more customers. So you want to know every detail on how you can be able to get more followers because more followers are more viewers, and more viewers become people that log on to the website, and that equals more sales. So I would definitely recommend that it’s kind of like college for Instagram…
Deonna: These are like the basics. I mean, we even go as far as, like…you just go into so much detail and different apps and things that people don’t know about that has really helped me. Like, I gained thousands of followers. I’m over a million dollars not to be technical on the dollar amount, but made so much money. And I really think that, you know, not only the beauty influencers that have helped me, but also the Instagram domination has helped me. So, yeah, I would definitely recommend that.
Nathan: Well, thank you. Look, it’s been amazing chatting with you Deonna and hearing more about your story and how you got started. And yeah, it’s really inspiring to hear how hard you’re hustling and I think everyone can learn a thing or two from you.
Deonna: Thank you so much.
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