For Lana Boone, her clip-in hair extensions company is just one way she can encourage and uplift black women with afro-textured hair.
Launched in 2013, Kurly Klips is the first global online store dedicated to selling clip-in human hair extensions for kinky, curly, and natural hair. Still, despite Boone’s obvious success, she does not see hair as her passion.
“To this day my passion still isn’t hair,” Boone said. “But what I do have a passion for is uplifting black women and making sure that black women see themselves as beautiful and see some of their natural features and traits as beautiful.”
Growing up, Boone was surrounded by strong women like her mother and grandmother. She hopes, she says, to channel their cheerleader spirits by serving as a source of encouragement for her consumers.
“We all need a little hype to get our confidence up,” she said. “Some people don’t get that in their day-to-day lives so then I just try to be that for people and it brings me joy.”
Seven years ago, Boone was an ambitious television journalist working in Washington D.C. It never crossed her mind that she’d spearhead a multimillion-dollar beauty brand.
Still, after her fixed-term contract came to an end followed by a bad run-in with a stylist that left her hair broken and damaged, she began to rethink her life. She recalls moving back in with her father, ready to give up on all her dreams.
“I just remember crying on the bathroom floor, and that was just a moment of surrender,” Boone said. “And within 30 seconds I had this idea for clip-in extensions for natural hair.”
However, the idea was not originally a business concept. Instead, Boone thought kinky clip-ins would allow her to grow her hair back without using a stylist. So, she returned to the drawing board – Google’s search engine.
“I was at the lowest period of my life because professionally things hadn’t worked out the way I wanted them to,” Boone said. “I went on Google thinking that clip-ins were going to solve my problem.”
After searching for different keywords for afro-textured clip-ins and finding no results for her hair texture, the idea for her business was born. However, to continue living rent-free in her childhood home, Boone’s father, an entrepreneur and small business owner said he would need to see a viable business plan.
“I do have a passion for is uplifting black women and making sure that black women see themselves as beautiful and see some of their natural features and traits as beautiful.”
Using her journalism skills, she researched other companies and tailored the best parts of their business models to fit her brand. Kurly Klips was born, a perfect way for women to transform their looks easily without the hassle of putting in a weave.
“Not only was the business plan about how I was going to structure the business at that point currently, but it also focused on where I wanted to go with the business,” Boone said. “I made sure I gave myself a runway to grow.”
Within three months she began selling her product. Still, the growth was not immediate.
“I didn’t have a following, I didn’t have an Instagram presence – I had long been off Facebook,” Boone said. “I was an unknown.”
So after hitting her first modest sales goals, Boone set her sights on extending her reach by starting her very own YouTube channel and contacting some well-known bloggers in the natural hair community.
While only one person initially responded to her cold-emails, they loved the product and later became a brand advocate which is something Boone said she “will always be grateful to her for.”
As her business grew, Boone followed the advice of business books and podcasts to take herself out of the business. Soon she no longer washed the hair herself and outsourced customer service. But she found herself growing more unfulfilled in the work and noticed that “people weren’t so vocal about their love for Kurly Klips anymore.”
“So, I threw away all of that advice,” she said. “I realized I needed to go back full circle.”
She restarted washing the hair, took over customer service again, and adopted a policy of answering all emails within 24 hours unless it was the weekend.
“I realized the more I put myself back in the business, life changed for me,” Boone said. “I started loving this business again. I started loving my life more and my customers responded.”
Boone said that this experience reminded her to trust her gut. Still, despite the fast start, it was not an easy journey.
Today Kurly Klips has generated millions in sales, shipped to over 30 countries, and become a well-respected brand. In 2016, the company earned the “Best in Black Beauty” award from Essence Magazine.
Boone kickstarted Kurly Klips with $10,000 from her savings. She said starting lean helped her determine whether she had a viable product, it also helped her realize that some entrepreneurs seek outside funding for validation.
“Sometimes people go into business with the hope of creating these huge businesses not just for the money but also to be loved,” she said.
But Boone said love cannot be found in “green paper.” Instead, business owners must determine what kind of lifestyle they want to lead. Still, she admits working on Kurly Klips was not always an easy task.
“Being a founder is one of the loneliest experiences you can have – because there’s not a lot of people you can talk to,” Boone said. “Even if you do have someone to talk to, they don’t want to hear about it all the time, and you can actually do damage to that relationship if that’s the only thing you have to talk about.”
Then, of course, Covid-19 threw a curveball that no one could have predicted.
“We had finally gotten our stock levels back up to optimal levels where we could weather what we thought was any storm, but Corona proved to be far out of this hemisphere,” she said.
But she said that she does not like to rush her manufacturer because her reputation is on the line. “I’d rather take a hit financially than to rush a product and have it be subpar.”
Yet despite all of these challenges, Boone says her unique entrepreneurial journey has been life-changing, and it’s helped her develop her customer service skills.
“I understand how to handle situations so much better than I did on day one or even in year three,” she said. “I had to realize I wasn’t going to make everybody happy.”
And this does not mean that she wouldn’t be nice. Instead, Boone said it helped her build a backbone and not let insults take away from her own value.
“It’s not personal,” she said. “Just charge it to the game.”
Interested? Then go here to explore the Kurly Klips product line.