Ericka Winters Discusses Starting Up and Standing Out

This human hair retailer talks business strategy

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Less than 10 years ago it was commonplace for women to stroll right into the nearest beauty supply store to purchase hair extensions from Asian or Arab-owned retailers. However, the current landscape of hair extensions is flushed with black businesswomen, many of which have turned from customer to distributor of these must-have long locks.

[Related: How One Entrepreneur Raised $3 Million in Venture Capital Funding by Selling Hair Extensions]

With so many African American businesswomen jumping into this multimillion-dollar beauty market, the industry is becoming increasingly saturated and standing out is necessary for survival.

Enter Ericka Winters, owner of Valley Girl Hair Extensions, a 100% Virgin Human Hair company headquartered in Detroit. After joining the hair extension industry in 2011, Ericka knew in order to stand out and stay relevant, she had to keep things fresh. How did you get your start?
Winters: I started the company in 2011. Detroit has tons of hair companies, but the one thing I brought to the table was good customer service and providing the customer with a good product; other companies were lacking that. So I started with $500. I knew I had to spend that $500 on whatever hair I could buy and I also knew I needed packaging, so I started small. At the time I had a full-time job, so every two weeks I had to invest in my business. One paycheck I would use to pay all of my bills, and my next paycheck went all to Valley Girl. In October 2013 I actually quit my job and went to Valley Girl full-time.

Can you tell us about Valley Girl Hair Extensions?
Valley Girl Hair collection is a very popular hair extension brand here in Detroit. Our company provides 12 different types of hair. One of the most popular is the Brazilian hair. It’s [a] 7/8 grade of hair, which is a really good grade. My bundle count is 4oz, so a lot of competitors don’t sell that high of a grade or that high of a bundle count.

With such a saturated market, how does your brand stand out?
Valley Girl likes to invent stuff. We invented a patent-pending back closure piece, which is how we got noticed. Well, we first became popular because of our blonde hair. We were the only ones that came out with the color 613 blonde hair extensions because nobody wanted to mess with that hair in Detroit, primarily because it’s very hard to find a good grade. So we were first noticed for the blonde hair. After the blonde hair came our back closure piece, which allowed the customer to wear her hair straight up in a ponytail with the highest bun, and provided a smooth finish without all the bumps. You don’t want to have the tracks in your head visible, so the black closure piece was created.  We also offer different types of waves for our customers. We work with our manufacturer to combine different waves to create new looks. In addition, instead of providing a storefront, our extensions are sold in a showroom, providing a different experience for our customer.

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