Vivian Kaye: Founder of KinkyCurlyYaki
Republished with permission from Make Lemonade an Evio Community Partner
Vivian Kaye’s personal and professional journey has several ups and downs - but one thing has always remained constant: her desire to be her true, natural self.
A creative at heart, Vivian’s entrepreneurial journey began with running a wedding decor company, helping brides bring their vision to life. (Fun fact: She decorated a wedding that competed on the show Four Weddings - and they won!)
However, in 2012, she found herself faced with a new creative challenge: How can I help black women show up in the world as their natural, confident selves?
With most hair extensions available boasting erotic textures like “Brazilian” or “Malaysian”, Vivian (and the many black women she spoke to as she began to test her market), felt challenged to find extensions that looked natural and blended seamlessly with their hair - often subjecting them to inquisitive, uncomfortable commentary from coworkers and strangers alike.
Seeing a gap in the hair extensions market, Vivian took on the challenge to create KinkyCurlyYaki, which is now the premium provider of handcrafted textured hair extensions. However, as things began to quickly accelerate in Vivian’s professional world, unfortunately, things took quite an unexpected turn in her personal life: she found herself single with her newborn baby.
Through what we can only imagine was (and continues to be) a tricky feat of jugging business and motherhood - Vivian has built KCY into a million-dollar company and it continues to transform the lives of black women worldwide not just through selling hair - but selling confidence.
In addition to being an incredibly successful entrepreneur - what we also love about Vivian is her infectious laugh and big personality (and if you don’t believe us, follow her on Instagram to see for yourself!) that continues to remind us that we can work hard but live our best lives at the very same time. Here’s Vivian:
Tell us about a time that life handed you lemons. Did you make lemonade?
When my son's father and business partner decided to have a mid-life crisis and left us and the business. I was a new mom, running a rapidly growing business. I was not in the best place to be/do either, to be honest. But I let myself go through the range of emotions - sad, angry and depressed. After I grew tired of all the lemons, I realized that all that same energy could be put into making mine and my son's life better. So I put on my big girl panties, poured some bourbon into my lemonade and got to work. All the work I put in help me achieve my first $1million in sales 6 months after he left.
After that first year, how did you scale your business and continue to grow?
After the first year, I had a baby, so I had to take scale in a way that was manageable with a newborn. Shortly after my son was born, I purchased my first house. With the profits from the business, I renovated my basement so I could work from home and take care of my baby. Once that was all settled and I came off "mat leave", I hit the ground running by using vloggers to help spread the KCY message. They were the best tool to grow my business.
How do you measure success in your career?
My quality of life and how I feel when I wake up in the morning. I truly feel blessed that I have some measure of control over my own destiny.
“I TRULY FEEL BLESSED THAT I HAVE SOME MEASURE OF CONTROL OVER MY OWN DESTINY.”
How much of your success as an entrepreneur has come from taking risks versus playing it safe?
Definitely from taking risks. My whole life has been one risk after another. Nothing super awesome has ever come from me playing it safe.
If you could attend a dinner party with 3 women of your choice - past or present - who would they be?
These three badass ladies: Mel Robbins, Bozoma Saint John and Michelle Obama.
You're 30 minutes away from walking into an important meeting. What do you do to get yourself in the right headspace?
I ask God to order my thoughts, my words and my actions and let it go. The outcome of the meeting will be what it will be.
What excites you most about your career?
I love showing other women that being an entrepreneur, though not easy, is doable. I love sharing my story of how I overcame many obstacles, failures and false starts and still managed to succeed. Also having my now 4 year old son watch me build my business. He's shown interest in being an entrepreneur so all the hard work mommy is doing is rubbing off on him.
Remaining fresh and innovative as a business owner can be hard. How do you stay creative and where do you look for inspiration?
It can be hard to stay fresh and innovative, especially with technology. Since I like to geek out on technology, that's where I try to get creative and stay up to date. I'm inspired by woman led brands that do dope things such as The Doux and curlBox.
Give us the play-by-play of your typical morning routine.
Wake up with the sun, resist the urge to back to bed and/or check social media, write out my tasks for the day, get my son up and ready for school, do a goodbye dance when I drop him off. I used to go to the gym, but I fell off. :( I'll be back though. So I head to the office and plot on how to leave my mark on the world.
What's something in your bag that would surprise us?
Lotion & headphones. I have a set of headphones and a bottle of lotion in EVERY purse I have.