Jenice Armstrong: Un-locking success: For mother-daughter duo, hair extensions are serious business

Posted: February 19, 2013

A YEAR ago, Myra Boulware and Dana Winsley were a stay-at-home mom and stay-at-home grandmom living quietly in suburban Delaware. Fast-forward to 2013, and their lives have done a complete 180.

These days, the mother-daughter business team is hobnobbing with local glamour girls Saniy'yah Samaa Dodson (a stylist for rapper Meek Mill), Cat Washington (star of Oxygen's reality TV show "Bad Girls Club") and Kijafa Vick (wife of Eagles quarterback Michael Vick).

Boulware and Winsley have hosted two beauty parties inside the trendy South Street storefront for their business, My Glam Extensions. That's a big change from when Boulware spent her days caring for her baby and answering the phone for her fiance's home-based landscaping business. "My fiance and I will be at dinner and people will say, 'I bought your hair,' " said Boulware, whose wavy mane extends past her backside, thanks to My Glam Extensions.

"This happened to us at Sullivan's [Steakhouse] last week when we were shopping at King of Prussia Mall. My fiance gets excited. He'll say, 'They're pointing at your hair. They know who you are.' "

Starter moguls

Winsley, 43, and Boulware, 25, haven't struck it big yet. They aren't even to the point where they can afford to pay themselves a salary. But theirs is an inspiring story, nonetheless.

Neither has any training or background in hair - or in opening a business. They were just two women with hair issues.

Both have alopecia, a condition that causes hair to thin and fall out. Boulware has been wearing hair extensions since she was 14.

But they didn't get completely focused on resolving their problems until Winsley's aunt lost her hair to chemotherapy for breast cancer and had difficulty finding a wig that fit her age and style.

"My aunt used to buy inexpensive, cheap wigs," Boulware told me. "Nothing would last for longer than a month. Either they would shed or tangle." It became a running joke, as they would urge the aunt to "step your game up" in terms of getting hair that lasted longer and looked better.

Queen Bey, role model

Boulware had also long been obsessed with having the long, flowing hairstyles that she saw Beyonce and other celebrities wearing.

She and her mother eventually stumbled across a supplier specializing in dark, natural Eurasian hair that hair didn't shed or tangle. Everywhere Boulware went, her long, lush locks attracted compliments.

Since the supplier only accepted bulk purchases of $10,000 or more, she took orders from friends, hairstylists and others who were smitten with the luxury hair extensions.

Because a lot of women insist on actually seeing hair before buying, they met customers in mall parking lots or at fast-food restaurants.

What's in store?

In August, they found the storefront at 641 South St., which they have transformed into a hip hair boutique selling five textures, from curly to straight.

They join a growing cadre of local black-owned hair boutiques and locally based online operations that sell hair for extensions and wigs. There's Indian Princess Hair, an online operation in Olney owned by Asya Richardson; Indique Hair, which began in 2007 in New York and recently expanded to a retail location at 16th and South streets; and 14-year-old extension manufacturer AWNI Enterprises, which got its start in North Philly.

Considering how many African-American women sport hair extensions these days, the future for Winsley and Boulware's new enterprise looks bright. At this point, business at My Glam Extensions is slow but steady, with a few sales a day on good days.

That's better than it might sound, since the average sale ranges from $300 to $1,000. Having the hair extensions attached costs extra. Customers purchase the hair at the store and take it to their stylists it have it clipped, glued or sewn into place.

While Boulware and Winsley didn't started out thinking big, they are now: They are looking to hire a stylist who'll do hair weaves on the premises. And they hope to franchise.


On Twitter: @JeniceAmstrong

Blog: philly.com/HeyJen

Email: armstrj@phillynews.com

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