Necessity is the grandmother of invention in the case of Michelle Elizabeth, a mom to 5 and grandmother to 10 who is also the brainchild behind an innovative hair extension company that owns several international patents.
Elizabeth founded Effortless Extensions, a business that sells slip on hair extensions that are an alternative to professional sewn in or glued in extensions that last from three to six months, as a personal solution for dealing with her very own overprocessed hair.
So the story goes that the Washington DC-area entrepreneur had accumulated over 10 years of permanent damage to her hair from too many chemicals, products and styling. Eventually, she decided to do the BIG CHOP and cut her hair super short. During the periods when her natural hair was growing back, she said she needed to figure a way to “fake it”.
And after realizing the products on the market then were too time consuming to insert and maintain, she figured out she could make her own easy-to put on extensions, thus the birth of the slip on extensions.
Eventually, it became a profitable business.
“After I created my Effortless Extensions, I wore them for about 4 months before ever showing them to anyone,” said Elizabeth. ” It didn’t occur to me that it would be something other women would want it too.”
The entrepreneur revealed that after she shared the invention with her hairdresser, the stylist screamed in the shop and asked her to make one too.
“I had my first customer!” Elizabeth beams. After that Elizabeth showed the extensions to a business woman who agreed to be her angel investor and backed the company.
Today, the pieces, which are available in 26 color shades, beginning at $79 and include four straight and three textured styles, start in China at a factory the company owns but are finished and manufactured here in the United States.
Elizabeth, who currently co-hosts a the online Radio Show “Slip It On & Let’s Talk with M&M” with EE’s Executive Director of Operations Mindy Bundy, says she and her partners travel to the factory regularly to inspect and ensure quality control.
What about protecting the intellectual property behind the concept?
Elizabeth and her team sought out to get their the process patented but quickly learned it would be a long and arduous process
“When we first filed we thought it would just take a few months to get a patent,” she recalls. “How naive we were, but in fact it took us 6 years for the first patent to be granted, and that was many many rejections and rebuttals later, not to mention the costs. But we now have been granted 30 patents World Wide.”
Currently, Effortless Extensions has a wide variety of customers, including many online stores such as SallyBeauty.com, myeasyextensions.com, Hairquality.com, and Beauty.com. In addition to international distributors, EE also sells directly from its website to the consumer.
The customers are also reacting positively.
” What we hear the most from our customers is how much they love our Extensions and the difference it has made in restoring self confidence,” Elizabeth notes. “It’s very humbling.”
People even put it in their daughter’s hair for a low fuss alternative to professionally installed extensions.
Elizabeth advises other women who are interested in launching a products-based business:
Do your research, having a comparison of what your product has to offer in regards to what is being sold, will offer you a better perspective of what the consumer is buying. There will always be competition , you just have to know the market you are in and find that niche that puts your product above the rest.
And while enjoying a very successful venture, being able to sustain the business and future growth from sales alone, Elizabeth reflects that if she could have done anything differently she would have built a network of business relationships that would have been around to assist in giving solid advice.
“Knowledge is power!” she says!