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Right Hair, Right Now

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At first, Sokera used Take Down only on her customers, but soon other stylists in the salon started calling her "Take Down girl" and sending customers to her whenever they wanted hair extensions removed. Sokera knew she had the only cream on the market that helped remove extensions.

After several months of success in the salon where she worked, Sokera bottled a small quantity of Take Down and hit the streets, calling on salons all over Georgia and neighboring states. To build de-mand, she left samples with salons and passed out fliers about her product to friends and family, as well as strangers on street corners and in supermarkets. In the end, an average of four out of 10 salons liked her product and started to buy it on a regular basis.

In 1997, her first year, Sokera sold just $15,000 to $20,000 worth of Take Down through her company, Fatima's Beautiful Braids Inc. Small as this figure was, it proved that customers would not only buy her product, but they would also reorder it. This step was essential because distributors are usually reluctant to take on unproven products, fearing they'll get stuck with unwanted inventory. Initially, Sokera tried to sell Take Down to beauty product distributors, but she couldn't get them to take her seriously. Such early rejection is common. Distributors and retailers see dozens of small, one-product companies disappear every year, so they prefer to wait and make sure a company lasts a year or two before buying its products. That's why you have to forge that small initial market with your own sales effort.

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This article was originally published in the March 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Right Hair, Right Now.

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