Ngozi Opara started Heat Free Hair to provide women with high quality protective styling options that wouldn’t damage their natural hair. The Washington D.C. based company, launched in 2012, specializes in 100% virgin hair extensions designed to perfectly match one’s natural hair texture and curl pattern.
Heat Free Hair was a pioneer in the natural hair extensions market and quickly carved out a niche in the $500b black hair market. She Leads Africa quickly caught up with Ngozi to learn more about the entrepreneur who didn’t just create a brand, but a movement.
Who is Ngozi Opara?
I graduated from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Finance and Accounting. Keeping with my field of study, I worked as a financial analyst once I graduated although I always knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So I opened up a small hair studio in DC to tend to clients after work each day.
Prior to opening up my own business, I worked for eight different entrepreneurs to gain experience in business ownership and management. My interest and passion for the world of natural hair sparked from being natural myself, as well as working as a manager for natural hair care industry lead, Carol’s Daughter.
What inspired you to start Heat Free Hair?
I owned a hair studio in Washington, DC. For a while back in 2011, 90% of my customers were using extensions to protect and grow out their hair. A majority of them also wanted to transition to free their hair of chemical processing and wanted to be natural.
When I noticed that during their transition with extensions they were reaching tremendous success in hair growth, but inherently experiencing breakage from heat on the portion of their hair left out, I felt like I was becoming an agent in one of the many issues surrounding black hair care, breakage.
I started thinking that there had to be some type of way for women to wear extensions as their protective style of choice, while also protecting all of their hair. Thus, the initial idea for Heat Free Hair was born.
Once you decided that you are going to embark on the entrepreneurial journey, what steps did you take?
I started to really save up for the launch of my business and budget my living expenses. I did this by keeping my personal expenses at a minimum while I was trying to reach my goal.
To get in the right mindset and gain motivation, I started to read a lot of success books and attend different conferences in order to learn, as well as to network with like-minded people. I used my savings from my finance job to launch the business & lived completely off of the money I earned doing hair.
How do you prioritize what to spend the money raised on?
At first I needed people to believe in something they hadn’t seen so I invested in good images of the product and a website. I didn’t have enough to fully stock the product so I initially offered it for preorder and eventually kept investing back into the business’ inventory.”
What are the marketing tools/strategies that you use to promote your business?
Word of mouth is the greatest marketing tool. Organic marketing has worked really well for us as well as influencer marketing and social media.
What is the one thing you know now that you wish you knew when Heat Free Hair launched?
There really isn’t anything I would go back and tell myself. I really do believe I was where I needed to be in life when I needed to be there. I learned the right lessons at the right time and because of that, I can stand comfortably and happily where I am today.
Obstacles along the road I traveled served as building blocks and I’m truly thankful for my journey and the development of my business.