True Indian Hair Founder Karen Mitchell Talks Business, Style and Celebrity Clients
The brands that supply hair extensions for those enviable celebrity locks are usually working silently behind the scenes, but JustLuxe cornered Karen Mitchell, who owns the booming hair extension company, True Indian Hair, for a little chat. This year she is celebrating a decade of providing quality extensions in the form of wigs, clip-ons, sew-ins, toupees and more. When asked how her company is set apart from hundreds of other extension companies, she explained, “It's definitely quality and marketing, but quality sets the tone that separates a top tier company like True Indian Hair from others.” On her website, visitors can check out her Love Stories section which shows her customer “after” photos wearing their new styles.
True Indian Hair is popular with the celebrities, too. Rihanna, Zoe Kravitz, and Mona Scott are some of the famous names that have whipped their hair back and forth using products from her company. If you saw Elle’s November 2011 issue, you would have seen an editorial spread of Mary J. Blige posing gracefully in beautiful furs wearing 34-inch, Indian natural wave hair styled by Dante Blandshaw. Although dozens of celebrities wear her hair pieces and extensions, some are more secretive about being named. “Let's just say some of your biggest movie stars and singers are True Indian Hair wearers—even some of the men," Mitchell confesses. In our interview, she talks about how to obtain the right hairstyle, the ins-and-outs of owning a business and spills the beans on the A-list clients that go crazy for her hair.
JustLuxe: How did you get started in the extension hair business?
Karen Mitchell: I got started about 10 years ago and it first started as a temporary side business just to make some additional money. I worked in fashion for a private label company and in my position at the time I was lucky enough to travel to India to visit our factories. While there, I started learning how extensive and lucrative the world of “real virgin hair” was. I was intrigued and started buying hair in small amounts to use for myself as well as resell to friends and family and they loved it. The quality of the hair was so much better than the packaged, processed hair extensions we were used to. It started there.
JL: Have you ever faced any obstacles running your business? If so, how did you overcome them?
KM: My biggest obstacle was financing the startup of the business. I wanted a brick and motor business and to do so I needed at least $100,000 to open up. With a very small savings and unable to get a business loan, I had to cash in my 401k. I took a chance, a huge gamble, but it has paid off.
JL: Describe some of the products that True Indian Hair offers.
KM: True Indian Hair is everything related to hair extensions. We specialize in human hair extensions and wigs and we carry hair for everyone. We supply Indian, Malaysian, Brazilian and some Russian hair in textures varying from straight, wavy, curly and kinky-curly. Clip in extensions are huge and is the main product that sells across the board for everyone—it’s the best seller amongst our Asian and Caucasian market. It doesn’t require any professional salon service to use it and it’s easy to apply. Hair for weaving is also huge [and] is our best seller all around. We also carry human-hair ponytails, clip in bangs, custom wigs, toupees and more. It’s real hair so it can be washed, reused, colored, just about anything you would do with your natural hair.
JL: What is your favorite type of extension hair, and why?
KM: My favorite is Indian kinky-curly. It matches my hair texture very well and doesn’t require much styling to look fabulous.
JL: What are your recommendations for women seeking a change in extension styles and textures?
KM: Extensions are great for many reasons. It’s fun for a quick change up of your look to add volume, length or color. For women or men suffering from hair loss or baldness, extensions or wigs can be a life saver, bringing joy and social existence to those people. The most important thing in choosing extensions is to make sure the texture matches your natural texture so it blends perfectly. Wearing extensions doesn’t mean everyone has to know you are wearing them. The right color and cut goes a long way too.
JL: So what we all want to know is: what celebrities have worn your hair and where?!
KM: Rihanna wore our hair at Clive Davis’ pre-Grammy party and the MTV movie awards this year styled by her stylist Yusef. Chrissy Teigen wore one of our beautiful wigs cut into the perfect bang by her stylist to the Billboard awards. Supermodel Sessilee Lopez wears our hair on the runways of New York Fashion Week; she loves our Malaysian straight. Niecy Nash loves our glue-less wigs.
JL: How do you stay up-to-date with changing hair trends?
KM: I am active on social media. I subscribe to many fashion and hair magazines, and I read a lot. I research new trends and I also look at what my competition is doing. I try to stay ahead of the trend, but not follow every trend. We have some core pieces in our line like our Indian wavy and our Indian curly that are just classic, natural hair extensions and works with most trends. For the past year ombré hair was a huge trend, so we offered custom-colored extensions to our clients.
JL: Do you have any advice for people who want to launch their own business?
KM: Simply go for it. The fear of failure holds so many people back and they spend their lives only dreaming. Take a chance. Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will. So what if you fail the first time? You get up and try something else or try again. I had two failed businesses before I started True Indian Hair. I just never gave up, and thankfully, this one has been successful.