This week’s DREAM JOB Interview features Folake Oguntebi, an entrepreneur who plans to revolutionize the way you go to the salon. Her business GoodHair is a “quick service” salon that specializes in natural hair. You’ll learn two things from Folake after reading her interview: (1) she’s not afraid of a challenge, and (2) she approaches entrepreneurship with a healthy dose of reality and honesty—not something you find in a lot of new entrepreneurs…
Dream Job Interview //
Folake Oguntebi of GoodHair
Folake Oguntebi // Founder // Year Launched: 2015
Can you tell us a little bit about your company?
GoodHair is a quick service hair salon chain focused on delivering healthy, fast and affordable hair care to women with kinky, curly, and wavy hair.
How did you get started in hair care?
I got started with launching this venture last January. I had aspired to start my own business for several years, having been raised by two entrepreneurs, spent time studying entrepreneurship in college and grad school, and having worked for a few startups. And I’d had the idea of a Black hair salon chain for years—ever since I’d worked in corporate America and needed, but couldn’t find, a reliable hair salon option that worked for my busy schedule AND didn’t damage my hair AND didn’t break the bank. I finally made the decision to go for it in August 2013. I had been working as the head of marketing for a nonprofit and needed a new challenge. I decided 2014 was going to be the year I finally pursued my dream of starting my own business.
How did you know this is what you wanted to do?
Gosh, that’s a tough question. I knew I wanted to start my own business because some of the people I respect and admire most in the world (including my parents) are entrepreneurs. I felt it was, as cheesy as it may sound, the best way I could use my skills and experience to make a positive impact in the world. And I knew this particular venture, [which] focused on textured hair care, was something I was uniquely suited to work on—not because of my technical hair care expertise (as I have no hair care training), but because of my understanding of the target customer (me and my friends!) combined with my solid business and social enterprise background. I knew I had to use those assets to change an unnecessarily frustrating experience for so many women like me all over the world!
What were you doing before you launched GoodHair?
I was working as the head of marketing for a nonprofit impact investment firm called ImpactAssets. The organization facilitates impact investments, investments that generate both a financial AND social or environmental return.
How did you make the transition to entrepreneur?
I’d say my transition is still a work in progress, but the first big step was to leave my full time position and take on a more flexible consulting engagement (I’ve still got bills to pay!) which I’m still doing. So my professional life these days is a major balancing act.
How have you funded your business? How long has it taken you to see a profit?
Personal investment, then a crowdfunding campaign and most recently I raised a small round from friends and family. We aren’t seeing a profit yet as we are still in the concept phase.
What do you enjoy the most about owning your own business?
The creative process. Watching [GoodHair] go from an idea in my head to something I talked about with friends, to a plan on paper and now, actually delivering services—it’s just so cool to plant a seed, nurture it and watch it grow.
What do you enjoy the least about owning your own business?
It’s not quite accurate to say I enjoy this “the least,” but the emotional roller coaster of being an entrepreneur is tough. One day you’re on cloud nine because you reached a customer acquisition milestone; two days later you find out an investment you were hoping for has fallen through. It’s a real test of mental toughness.
Was there ever a point when you wanted to give up?
Not actually wanted to give up, but I definitely have lots of moments where I question the sanity of this path. It’s way way way way harder than I expected, particularly balancing entrepreneurship with family responsibilities. And there are a lot of easier, less risky, while still lucrative career paths I could have chosen. But I’ve had this desire for so long that I would have regretted it forever if I didn’t at least give it my best shot. So here I am, crazy as the whole thing seems (is?) a lot of the time.
How are you getting the word out about GoodHair?
Word of mouth and social media.
How are you establishing your social media presence?
I’m personally not the most active on social media, but I have a decent number of friends who are so that helps a lot. I’ve also leveraged my alumni and professional networks.
What’ a typical day like for you?
My human alarm clock of a toddler son, Wale, usually wakes me up around 6:00 AM. I pretend sleep for a little while [longer] before getting up and beginning the morning routine—shower, get dressed, eat breakfast, etc. Our nanny arrives at 9:00 AM, which is when my workday begins. I have a pretty demanding consulting gig, so I often juggle between project work and GoodHair. I may spend the morning doing consulting work, take a lunch meeting for GoodHair and spend the afternoon finishing my project work for the day with intermittent tasks for GoodHair sprinkled in between. I come home (this often means out of my home office) around 6:30 PM, and then it’s family time till 9:00-ish, [which includes] dinner (usually prepared by my amazing chef of a husband, Joe) and “baby bath time,” followed by “baby bedtime.” I break out my computer again around 10:00 PM, often while watching mindless TV with Joe. And then I hit the sheets around 11:00 or midnight.
How do you use creativity in your business? When are you most creative?
I think the whole endeavor is a creative process because we are building something that’s never existed before, [and] pretty much from scratch. While there are other businesses to draw inspiration from, no other ventures are doing exactly what we plan to do in the same way. So I use creativity all the time—from writing planning documents to prepping marketing materials to deciding exactly what services we will offer and what kind of team we need to deliver against our promises.
What’s been the most amazing moment for GoodHair so far?
There have been several amazing moments, but Day 1 of our stylist orientation, [which was] just a few days ago, was pretty amazing. After several months of brainstorming, thinking and prepping, it was awesome to get the styling team together for the first time. They are as excited about this concept as I am! Seeing their enthusiasm was reassuring and energizing.
What’s on the horizon for your business? Where do you see GoodHair in the next 3-5 years?
We are currently working on a pop-up chair which will be our proof of concept. For two weeks, we will offer our services to as many clients as we can get in and out of the chair! We’ll go into fundraising mode shortly thereafter with plans of opening a first brick and mortar location in 2016. After that, nationwide rollout begins!
What advice do you have for those who aspire to own their own salons?
It’s all about the team, so focus on recruiting, building and nurturing a great one.
If you’re in the NYC area, you can try the GoodHair experience for yourself! Folake is currently operating “The GoodHair Pop-Up Chair” right here in New York at Sola Salon Studios (222 East 34th Street) through August 8th! Definitely try to catch her in the next three days if you can and show her some support =)
Book your appointment here: thisisgoodhair.com