Who Do You Trust?

I’m into distribution, I’m like Atlantic
I got them mutherf**ers flying across the Atlantic
—Rick Ross, “Hustlin’”

Who Do You Trust?

Can we talk about hair for a minute? Yes, hair. And I don’t mean your own hair, I mean the market for buying and selling hair. It turns out that in the U.S. alone, it’s a $5B/year market. The way that it functions is truly bizarre. Basically, women in India sell their hair to buyers from China, who treat and package it, then sell it to primarily Korean distributors who sell to Korean-owned beauty supply shops in the U.S., who then sell it to primarily African American women. The result, as you might expect, is one of the worst customer experiences in the world today. 

A customer must first book an appointment with her stylist. Then she has to go to one of these beauty supply stores, which are typically poorly lit, dirty, and barely organized. Once she finds the hair product section, she has to determine which product to buy with almost zero information and nobody in the store who has any clue as to what might be right for her. Next, she must take that hair to her appointment and hope that it’s the right product or repeat the entire process. And, oh by the way, there are no refunds under any circumstances for the hair, so you are also out anywhere from $100 to $800. You might wonder why these customers cannot simply get the hair from their hairstylist. Well, it turns out that 95% of African American hair salons have no retail capability due to minimal credit and cash balances. Basically, they cannot afford to keep inventory. 

Enter Diishan Imira and his company, Mayvenn. Diishan aptly named the company after the Yiddish word meaning “trusted expert”. After studying the hair market and its byzantine supply chain for years, Diishan figured out how to radically improve the hair buying experience by empowering the trusted experts in the delivery chain—the hairdressers—to recommend, offer, and deliver the right products to their customers in the most convenient way possible.  They do this by ingeniously creating individual mobile e-commerce sites for each hairdresser where they can sell goods without any inventory cost or risk. Mayvenn supplies each stylist with a broad variety of excellent hair products, so they can provide an excellent service to their customers to greatly expand their businesses. 

The early results have been spectacular. In less than two years, Mayvenn has signed up over 26,000 hair stylists. The most successful of these have more than doubled their income via Mayvenn while dramatically improving life for their customers. Even more exciting, Mayvenn’s methods and platform can easily be extended to trusted experts in many fields, enabling gifted craftspeople to become economically empowered.  

Capitalism is the best system in the world, but also extremely frustrating. The gifts that you are born with go a very long way in determining your economic status. The best hair stylist in the world makes far less than a mediocre venture capitalist. A nurse, whose dedication to her craft saves lives and brings hope to the hopeless, will make a fraction of what a crappy banker, who brings misery to everyone she encounters, earns. Mayvenn cannot correct that entirely, but it does give truly great craftspeople a way to improve their own lives and the lives of their customers. That’s why I am delighted to announce that Andreessen Horowitz is leading a $10M investment in Mayvenn, the platform for trusted experts. 

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