Ngozi Opara: Redefining the African Natural Hair Movement

After graduating from North Carolina A&T State University with a degree in Finance and Accounting, Ngozi stayed in her professional field and went to work as a financial analyst. But she always knew she wanted to be an entrepreneur, so she opened up a small hair studio in DC to tend to clients after work each day. In 2012, she used her savings from her finance job to launch Heat Free Hair Movement, an educational initiative for women with, or those considering, natural hair that highlights the benefit of healthy hair through protective styling.

Prior to opening her own business, Ngozi worked for eight different entrepreneurs to gain experience in business ownership and management. Because of her interest and passion for the world of natural hair, she also worked as a manager for natural hair care industry lead, Carol’s daughter. Her interest and passion for natural hair is so deep that at some point, she moved to Qingdao, China where she studied to become a hair manufacturing technician.
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Ngozi is interested in technology, real estate, and modern architecture. She loves to travel for leisure, and to attend different conferences and events around the world to meet new people. She also enjoys reading as a pastime; her favorite books right now are Outwitting the Devil by Napoleon Hill and Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters.

At what point did you decide it was time to start Heat Free Hair, and what is the idea behind the business?
I’ve always had the spark of an entrepreneur inside of me. I grew up around them in my family and worked for many so I always knew I was destined to be one. I first owned a hair studio, and at the time the most popular style women would request was a weave. One of the reasons my studio was sought after was because of our healthy hair philosophy and approach to styling. When I noticed that women who wore weaves experienced tremendous hair growth on the sections of hair that were protected but experienced breakage on their “leave-out” because they had to continue to apply heat to their hair in order for it to blend in with the weave, I felt like a hypocrite. I immediately started thinking that there had to be some type of way for women to wear the protective style of choice while also protecting all of their hair at the same time. Thus, the initial idea for Heat Free Hair was born.

I used my savings from my finance job to launch Heat Free Hair in 2012 and lived completely off the money I earned doing hair. I created the business to assist women, who are natural or going natural, with protective styling options through high-quality wefted hair, closures, wigs, and clip-in extensions. Our hair is created to blend effortlessly with the different curl patterns and textures of a woman’s natural hair. The Heat Free Hair Movement expands beyond our products and focuses on the education of the natural hair community through seminars and instructional videos as well as events for natural women to network with other women alike.

When you started out, did you get any resistance from family and friends?
Of course! I actually didn’t tell my parents that I quit my finance job. I talked to them about the idea of owning my own business and the concept of Heat Free Hair. They were supportive but wanted me to wait a little while longer before taking it on full time. Both my mom and dad had working backgrounds, so they were apprehensive at first but slowly began to get on board when friends and family would call to tell them that their daughter was being featured in different media outlets. I just kept my eyes on what I wanted and they are now my biggest support system!

Was there any point when you felt like giving up on your business? How did you overcome that point in your life?
Several. During my first year of business I consistently felt like giving up. Starting my company was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done and I was afraid of both the potential success and failure of my business. I got to a point where I told myself that I could not let my fears be more powerful than my desire to succeed in my life.

Knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself when you just started Heat Free Hair?
There really isn’t anything I would go back and tell myself. I really do believe I was where I needed to be in life when I needed to be there. I learned the right lessons at the right time and because of that, I can stand comfortably and happily where I am today. Obstacles along the road I traveled served as building blocks and I’m truly thankful for my journey and the development of my business.

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What does success mean to you, both in business and personally?
To me, success means I am able to achieve a dream I believed in while also bringing value to someone else’s life.

If you win the She Leads Africa competition, what’s the first thing you’d do? How would the prize money impact your business?
I would first thank the SLA team as well as my family and Heat Free Hair followers for believing in our message. I would  use the prize money to continue to increase  our company’s marketing efforts to reach different parts of the U.S. and Africa.

If you could give one piece of advice/encouragement to a large group of aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?
Never allow your fear of failure or success have more power than your desire to pursue your passions and dreams. Don’t give up. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

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To learn more about Heat Free Hair, visit their website or follow them on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. To see Ngozi pitch live on stage, reserve a ticket to the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase HERE.

Every day this week, we will be profiling the six finalists of the She Leads Africa 2015 Entrepreneur Showcase. Follow the series HERE.

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