Success. That’s what every business owner and BAUCE lady wants. And that’s what Tate Arnone, CEO of luxury lace wig and extensions company Sassy Secret, has. The hair extensions industry may seem extremely overcrowded, but if you have the right marketing strategy you could be well on your way to cashing checks at the bank. Originally from Zimbabwe, Tate Arnone is also a wife and the mother of three children. In this interview with BAUCE, Tate explains how she started Sassy Secret and how she became the owner of a million dollar hair company that is currently debt-free.
What industry were you working in before you decided to start Sassy Secret? How did you go from working in that industry to starting your own company?
Tate: Before I started SassySecret.com, I was in the financial industry. I worked as a financial advisor at JPMorgan Chase. I had always wanted to start my own business when I stumbled upon lace wigs. Frustrated with the lack of variety and affordability at the time, I sought to find a factory that would manufacture my own line of lace wigs. In 2009, Sassy Secret was born.
Did you create a business plan when you first started? What did it include and what would you recommend a new business owner consider when planning their business?
Tate: I never created a business plan. Everything was very spontaneous and happened very quickly. I started out with a small loan from my husband to design my first five wigs, which I sold on eBay. My advice to new business owners is don’t quit your job right away. Don’t start off paying yourself a salary from your business. You want to reinvest your profits in the beginning to grow your business.
How did you manage the time between your 9-to-5, your family, and Sassy Secret when you first created the business? At what point did you decide to take the leap and leave your job to become a full-time CEO?
Tate: When I started Sassy Secret, I did not have any children yet. Sassy Secret was my baby. I got off work at 5 pm, came home cooked dinner, and then it was straight to work responding to emails and printing labels to ship.
It was only after I had grown my business to the point where I was making slightly more working part-time on my business, than I was working full time at JPMorgan, that I decided to take a leap of faith and leave my job. This happened in less than 6 months.
I recall reading that you reinvested your total revenue for the first two years before deciding to keep profits. What things did you reinvest your revenue in (for example, streamlining specific processes, advertising, hair sourcing, etc.)? What made you determine that it would be financially sound to start keeping profits?
Tate: One of the things, I reinvested in was creating a customer service and shipping facility. Initially, I was operating my business from home with two employees. When we needed to hire more people, I knew we had outgrown my basement. I also heavily invested in branding: logo, trademark, packaging, professional images with professional models, etc. This was the best investment I made because today the market is now flooded with lace wigs sold online from all kinds of sources, but Sassy Secret has made a name for itself as a trusted brand for quality and great customer service.
How long did it take before your business cleared 6- or 7-figures? At what point did the business require additional personnel to maintain operations to keep up with the growing business?
Tate: Sassy Secret grew very rapidly in the first two years and reached 7-figures in sales by the end of 2010. It was after about 6 months that I hired my first employee who was a young lady from a church my husband and I volunteered at.
As far as outsourcing operations, I continue to do the things that I feel are my strengths and the rest I delegate to the employees that I feel will do a better job than I can in that specific area.
Sassy Secret has been around since 2009, and social media has changed so much over the years. How does social media play a role in reaching audiences? How did your social media objective change from then until now? What platforms do you suggest upcoming business owners focus on?
Tate: Social media has definitely changed everything, particularly in the last 3-5 years or so, and we have had to adapt to those changes. When we started, social media wasn’t really a big part of our marketing and now I would say it’s about 80% of marketing.
We have shifted our objectives towards attraction marketing through creating content that is helpful to our customers and our target audience. As far as which platforms I would recommend, it all depends on the type of business. For hair and beauty, because it requires a lot of visuals and demonstrations, I would definitely say Instagram and YouTube.
What resources did you use to help you with your business? For example, did you listen to any specific podcasters, take part in any webinars, have a mentor, work with any coaches or consultants, etc.?
Tate: Yes, I have self-taught myself through many trainings and webinars on marketing, customer relationship management, and content creation. Business is forever evolving, so one has to keep being a student and continue to learn.
What is the most important pieces of advice that you would give to someone who wants to start a business?
Tate: The most important advice I would give is: start! I have spoken to a lot of people who have said they want to start a business, but they are waiting for the perfect conditions to align themselves. Chances are, things are never going to seem like they’re perfectly aligned to start. Even if it means you set aside 2-3 hours a week initially, just start doing something toward your goal. You just have to take that first step. Once you have taken that first step, the next thing you have to do is persevere. You only fail when you give up.