Diishan Imira is an entrepreneur who has revolutionized the hair industry for people of colour within the US. He is the co-founder and CEO of Mayvenn, a California-based e-commerce company. This company uses technological advancements to offer hair stylists within the black community, an extensive selection of 100% virgin human hair for wigs and extensions. With a professional background in logistics, supply chain, and international trade, Diishan explores how technology can transform the global retail industry.
Early Life and Schooling
Diishan Imira was raised by his mother in Oakland, California. With less information revealed about his early schooling, Diishan joined Hampton University at 18 years to pursue tertiary education. Later, during his early career, Imira joined the University of Paris I: Panthéon-Sorbonne in 2008 for a Master of International Business. He also studied at Georgia State University – J. Mack Robinson College of Business for a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in International Business.
Growing up, Diishan had the urge to explore the world and see what more it had to offer. This mentality significantly shaped his aspirations to seek more opportunities outside Oakland and the USA.
“I grew up surrounded by the influence of hippies and the Black Panthers. I had the itch to see beyond this, to see more of the world.”
In fulfillment of the desire to see what more the outside world could offer, Imira moved to Shenzhen, Guangdong, China, in 2003 to become an English teacher at the Shenzhen Bureau of Education. While in China, he taught elementary school students how to speak English. Since he did not know how to speak Chinese, he had to strategize and find innovative teaching methods.
Diishan’s entrepreneurial journey was sparked by the spirit of entrepreneurship he witnessed while in China.
“Everywhere you looked, someone was hustling, selling something. It was unbridled entrepreneurism.”
He considered this newfound interest and decided to delve into business and kickstart his journey as an entrepreneur. He then ventured into exporting sneakers from China into the US. With a buying price of $20, Diishan sold the sneaker for $70 in the US. While in the business of selling sneakers from China to the US, he envisioned a more significant opportunity in the import and export business.
A year later, Diishan moved to Miami, where he founded Imira Inc, an agency that dealt with importing and sourcing different products from China for US consumers. He opened a showroom to display the furniture and even advertised it on Craigslist. During this time, he travelled back and forth to China to visit different factories and establish a business network to facilitate cross-border transactions. However, he felt that the business was low-level and craved to build something more significant and impactful. He then moved back home and enrolled for an MBA at Georgia State University.
In 2010, Diishan served as a consultant in Business Advisory services for the Ernst & Young company in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. At the company, he specialized in Africa- China investment by providing expert market analysis for foreign direct investors in Ethiopia. The investments majorly focused on the advancement of the agricultural sector and the export of the products.
With professional background and experience as an entrepreneur, Diishan Imira co-founded Mayvenn in 2012 alongside his business partner Taylor Wang although the company was launched a year later. Mayvenn aims to find a retail solution within the salon industry. The company uses world-class technology to allow clients and hairstylists who do not retail products to order hair in the form of extensions and wigs. Users on the platform can also request hair installation services, as well as wig customization. Generally, the platform helps independent stylists in black community salons to eliminate inventory costs and ultimately introduce a new revenue stream.
The inspiration to start the business hit Imira when his sister, a hair stylist, asked if he could use his contacts in China to get high-quality hair extensions and wigs at affordable prices. He then noticed a gap within the hair industry and decided to narrow it with the birth of Mayvenn.
“I grew up watching hairstylists in my family run their businesses, and I noticed something… all of the hair products that our community was buying – we weren’t selling. That didn’t sit right with me.”
He decided to devise a means for stylists to benefit from the business of selling extensions and weaves by making salons the point of sale.
“It’s the beauty supply stores that make millions of dollars selling extensions and weaves because salons don’t sell these products. But why should stylists be cut out of the action?”
In 2012, Diishan and Taylor Wang started the company with $48,000 sourced from their money and support from friends and family. Imira acknowledges the support of two black women who encouraged him to pursue the business idea and even supported the idea by chipping in some seed capital. At this point, the company was selling imported hair in the trunk of Diishan’s Toyota Corolla. Imira knew the potential of the business and yearned to boost the company further through funding.
In 2013, Diishan and his partner Taylor Wang got accepted into the 500 Startups acceleration program. At first, they questioned the possibility of Mayvenn’s success as a startup in Silicon Valley. Imira found it challenging to pitch and explain to white investors how the business would uplift independent hair stylists in black communities as he knew they would not resonate. Even so, they did not give up the idea. They managed to pull a strong pitch, attracting some major investors.
“Some were uninterested. A smaller group found it so outside of the comfort zone that they listened. This is the group we attracted. Today, we have some of the biggest investors in Silicon Valley.”
Within the same year, Diishan and Taylor raised an investment funding of $750,000, leading to the company’s official launch in October 2013.
Currently, the business has grown to a movement of more than 500,000 hairstylists and millions of customers across the US. The platform offers an opportunity for hair stylists to sign up (for free) and get individual web pages for them. The webpage includes the stylists’ information and directs customers to Mayvenn’s online stores, where they can buy extensions and wigs before their salon visit. If a client purchases Mayvenn’s products through the stylists’ webpage, a 15% commission per sale is paid to the stylist in the form of store credit, cash, or both. In some instances, the stylist may earn a 30% commission per sale.
From the company’s launch in 2013, Mayvenn has witnessed tremendous success within the African-American beauty industry. Approximately 70% of the company revenue comes from hair stylists, while the rest comes from the company’s business-to-consumer business model. In general, the company has raised funding of $76 million in over seven rounds.
Mayven has attracted 21 investors, including investors in Silicon Valley, Cross Culture Ventures, Serena Williams, and Trinity Ventures, among others. As of mid-2022, there have been conversations on a possible partnership between Mayvenn and Walmart after just closing off a $40 million Series C funding round led by Cleveland Ave. According to PrivCo., the company has a post-money valuation of $100m - $500m.
Diishan Imira serves as the co-founder and CEO of Mayvenn. As a renowned black founder in the beauty industry, Diishan hopes to expand the company to capture more beauty products outside hair.
Although Diishan has not received any award as of now, his company Mayvenn won Cosmopolitan’s 2022 Holy Grail Beauty Award for the “Best Wig, Weave and Extensions Brand” category.
Diishan Imira is part of our Black Founders50 Series. Download the complete 2023 BBVA Founders50 list here.