Right Hair, Right Now

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Sokera couldn't survive on $20,000 in sales per year, but she wasn't sure how to get wider distribution for her product. She called a Doraville, Georgia-based beauty products distributor, Jinny Corp., explaining she was a college student wanting to learn how to get a new product on the market. Roscoe Thomas, vice president of purchasing, met with her and explained the ins and outs of the business. He then gave Sokera a key contact, Chester Cavil of Target Marketing Group, a major manufacturers' representative in the Southeastern beauty products business. (Manufacturers' representatives are independent sales agents who take a 10 percent commission on sales they generate.)

Cavil was happy to meet with Sokera because Jinny Corp. was one of his biggest accounts. The first question he asked Sokera was, "Does your product work?"

"Of course," Sokera answered. Then she explained that salons were using and reordering her product. She didn't realize it at the time, but that's the only answer Cavil would believe. Proving a product will sell is all-important when starting a relationship with a broker.

Cavil felt the product's price needed to be raised to $8.99 to make enough money to pay all the industry middlemen and still support an advertising program. He took some samples and put them in 25 beauty supply stores in the Atlanta area to see if people would pay $8.99 for an 8-ounce bottle. The product sold, and salons soon wanted more. With Cavil's help and positive word-of-mouth, Sokera's 1998 sales soon hit $60,000--setting the stage for greater success.

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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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