Big Chop Hair Founder, Melissa Etienne, is the stuff entrepreneurs are made of. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to chat with her and learn more about how she has grown Big Chop Hair into one of the the leading kinky-textured hair extensions companies on the market.
Tell me a little bit about yourself.
ETIENNE: Well first I’m a mother. My baby is 10 months old, and my older son is 5. Everything I do is for them. I also come from a large, tight-knit Haitian family. I grew up valuing hard work and family. It’s pretty much what drives me. I was also born and raised in New York City.
BGLH: When did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
BIG CHOP: I’ve always been an entrepreneur. From as far back as I can remember I’ve always been selling something. Before I began selling hair extensions, I was a jump rope instructor.
Wait, a what?
ETIENNE: I know, it sounds crazy, but yes. I would go around to different gyms and teach people how to jump rope. Before that, when I was in college and high school I would sell clothes. And when I was a kid I’d sell candy.
Wow, so what made you get into the hair extensions business?
ETIENNE: Big Chop Hair is 4 years old, but before that I was selling straight hair extensions too. I’ve always loved beauty and fashion. so it made sense to be in selling something related to beauty. Plus, we all know Black women love their hair.
So why kinky-textured hair?
ETIENNE: I went natural so it made sense to transition to hair extensions that I could wear myself. I don’t really draw the line between myself and my business. I am my business so it all kind of flowed together naturally.
So now you’re 4 years in the game and more and more kinky-textured hair companies are creeping up. What sets you apart from the others?
ETIENNE: One thing about me is I try not to pay attention to my competition. I feel people know me. They know my family and my kids. I don’t separate myself from my business. I don’t feel like I need to hide who I am. I am the face of my brand. I share my personal life as well as my business life with my Big Chop Beauties and I think that is what makes me different from everybody else. I’m a real person.
Who are your “Big Chop Beauties?”
ETIENNE: I don’t like using the word “customers.” It feels really impersonal. I think all women are beautiful, so when they wear Big Chop Hair they become “Big Chop Beauties.”
What’s next for Big Chop Hair?
ETIENNE: I want to start interacting more with my Big Chop Beauties and potential Big Chop Beauties. I had a huge tent at CurlFest this year and it was insane, but in a good way. I love getting up close and personal with fellow beauty lovers, so I think there will be more of that in the future. More events and networking, for sure.
Any advice for would-be entrepreneurs?
ETIENNE: Put faith first, and then find whatever you are passionate about and stick with it. You also have to find time to disconnect. When you are a business owner you never stop. It’s 24/7 and sometimes you do have force yourself to stop to re-boost, pray, spend time with your family. Running a business and being so involved in your business can really drain you. Find time for yourself.