What does your business do?
Merria Dearman, Inc. provides custom wigs and hairpieces to women and men who are suffering from hair loss due to illness, genetics and/or the environment. Our tag line expresses our commitment: the craft, the care and the connection. Each client is treated with compassion and provided with the best in class human hair pieces designed specifically for them and hand made either in our Manhattan salon or according to our design and instruction at our offshore manufacturing partner in Bali.
When and why did you start the biz?
A student at the Vancouver Film Academy and already a licensed hair stylist in California, Merria was faced with the trauma and tears of a dear aunt who was undergoing chemotherapy. She found that she was able to take the uncomfortable and not very flattering off the shelf wig and turn it into something that made her aunt smile. This was the beginning of a journey that led to the launch of Merria Dearman, Inc. in January, 2014. Merria, one of a handful of true wigmakers in the U.S., wants to bring the quality and craft available to film and stage stars to men and women on main street. Most wigs available to the general public are off the shelf while those from Merria Dearman are custom made for each client of the finest in human hair. Our process and materials are totally on display and our clients can be assured of the origin of their hair and the process for completing their custom hair piece.
How Many People are in your Company?
One full time, part time assistant and internal consulting from board members.
Where's your office?
Merria Dearman provides our services from a 400 sq ft. retain space at 414 E 58th Street in Manhattan. The smoked glass at the windows provides privacy but allows natural light to flow through the space. The small shop is broken into two areas - one for the client consultations, fittings and styling, and the second for the construction of pieces and the administration and management of the business.
What's the toughest part of running your biz?
The most difficult part of the business is that we bootstrapped this company. Although we have been in the black since we opened our doors, our strict budgetary constraints have prevented us from hiring a salon manager. With the exception of part time ventilators (who help construct the pieces - ventilation is the process of adding hair to a base) Merria has run all aspects of the business from meeting the needs of clients going through the biggest crises of their lives, to the mundane of ordering supplies. A new mother, the hours are debilitating and we look forward to hiring a salon manager to help take the total burden off Merria's shoulders.
What's the most fun part?
Clients walk into the salon with damaged egos. You can see it on their faces. Their is great joy in seeing the smiles on their faces when they look in the mirror and see themselves in a hairpiece that is totally natural in appearance. You can see some of these transformations by viewing the video at our web site at www.merriadearman.com.
Anything you would have done differently?
There is a 6-8 wee waiting period for our clients to get their hairpieces once they have placed an order. We are currently in the process of designing a semi-custom wig that will allow clients to have their customized as opposed to custom piece in just a few days. We are also providing training to stylists throughout the country so that they can provide these semi-custom pieces to their clients. This will allow us to begin to scale the business. We wish that we had been more agressive about attracting an investor or incurring debt so that we could have launched this effort sooner.
What's next on the horizon for your biz?
We are working on developing training programs for our prospective employees and stylists who wish to carry our semi-custom line of wigs and hairpieces. We have many ideas for the expansion of our line and its distribution.
What advice do you have for others?
We start businesses because we have a talent and/or a passion for our product or service. While we may be the best in the world at this skill, we may not have the knowledge and experience necessary to actually run a company. The most important advice i have is to know you limitations and do not be afraid or hesitant to ask for help. This can be formal with a paid consultant or staff member or informal with a "kitchen cabinet" of friends and advisors. I have been fortunate to have clients from all walks of life who want to see me and my business succeed. They have donated their time to provide advice and make connections for me and the company that have helped us to both move forward and to avoid mistakes. Their networks have provided us with access to the professionals that help with the management of the company - accountants, bookkeepers, attorneys - as well as with public relations professionals and networks that help get the word out about the business. While you feel that you have to guard your "trade secrets", you need to market or you will not succeed. Experienced advisors can help you to craft a message that will attract clients while guarding truly proprietary information.
How do you use Idea Cafe to help your biz?
Idea Cafe is one of those "outside consultants" that helps us with the parts of running a company that goes beyond our skill set. With both objective articles and information on successful grant winners, Idea Cafe serves as a both a resource and a motivator. It is also difficult to keep on top of the availability of grants from both the private and public sectors and Idea Cafe does the work that we do not have the time or expertise to accomplish.
School (where, still in school, degree)?
Vancouver Film School, graduated with honors
Prior jobs or business?
Merria Dearman is a unique combination of hairstylist and wig maker/designer. She started her training in Sonoma County, California at the well-known salon Elle Lui under the instruction of master hairstylist Shireen Samii. Merria went on to win national awards for her talent and her care for her clientele. Her training included classes from hair icons Vidal Sassoon, Bumble and Bumble, Jacques Dessange, Sonya and Christopher Dove, Frederic Fekkai, as well as in house education from L'Oreal and Wella artists. Passion for her field led her to explore hair and makeup for film and television. After a successful career as a stylist Merria went on to Vancouver Film School graduating with honors under the instruction of Emmy winning makeup artists and hairstylists.
Her talent for wig work was recognized and encouraged by her prestigious teachers. Merria has experience and training as a hairdresser and stylist, as well as a wig maker, setting her apart from companies that trade in machine manufactured wigs.
She possesses a broad understanding of wigs – manufactured, handmade, and theatrical and has a keen knowledge of all the materials that make up the hairpiece including the source and condition of the hair itself. The color, texture and density of the hair along with the cut, balance and the shaping of the hairlines provide a superior product. Some of her clients have included The History Channel, Berkeley Repertory Theater, California Shakespeare Theater, and many more.
Too many to list.
What are your pets' names?
Do any of these pets help with your biz?
Is there any one person or event in your life that led
you to go into business for yourself?
My aunt who was undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer and lost her hair. Working for others did not allow me to bring my personal commitment and passion to my clients.
Anyone you publicly want to thank?
To all of the anonymous clients that have helped develop the mission and vision of my company.
414 E 58th St., ground floor
NEW YORK, NY 10022