The natural hair care line launched from a garage that drew a cult following with thousands of rave reviews in less than a year

April 11, 2021, 11:00 AM UTC

This is an installment of Startup Year One, a special series of interviews with founders about the major lessons they have learned in the immediate aftermath of their businesses’ first year of operation.

Just over one year ago, sisters and hairstylists Tonya Thompson and Sharie Wilson faced a number of difficult decisions when they temporarily shut down their hair salons in California because of the outbreak of COVID-19. Rather than accepting defeat, they sprang into action and launched the DreamGirls natural hair care product line to provide their clients with a safe, at-home hair solution while they could no longer visit a salon.

What originally started as an entrepreneurial passion project in a garage quickly resulted in thousands of rave reviews from customers nationwide. The brand recently celebrated its one-year anniversary on March 28 and is projected to reach over $2.5 million in sales this year.

Fortune recently spoke with founders Thompson and Wilson to learn more about the business, the lessons learned, the hurdles overcome, as well as plans for the new year.

Courtesy of DreamGirls

The following interview has been condensed and lightly edited for clarity.

Fortune: Can you share more about your professional background prior to launching DreamGirls?

Thompson: As Los Angeles girls who came from a middle-working-class family, we didn’t always see a lot of wealth or even the possibility of what can be. As a result, we’ve always felt that we needed to see and do more. We always wanted to help women, and would see our clients’ confidence skyrocket after styling their hair. It was an incredible feeling. We use our salon chairs as tools to uplift, motivate, inspire, and praise women for their natural beauty, both inside and out. When speaking with our clients, we like to share positive thoughts about them that they may not always see within themselves. The goal of DreamGirls is to break the stereotype that black women can’t have long, natural hair, and to help build their confidence in knowing that they can do anything.

What inspired you to launch DreamGirls? What went into the design and development process for your product line? What makes DreamGirls hair care products different from what’s already available on the market?

Wilson: We opened our Sacramento and Los Angeles hair salon locations in 2006. We always wanted to release a product line and had already started conceptualizing the collection prior to 2020. We ended up officially launching our signature DreamGirls product line in March 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic to provide our clients with a safe at-home hair solution while they could no longer visit a salon. The line was an immediate success, with thousands of women raving about their real results. After just one year in business, we’ve surpassed over $2 million to date as a result of our dedication to our core customers.

What makes us unique is that we are breaking stereotypes of black women not being able to have long, natural, healthy hair and being forced to wear braids or a weave. At DreamGirls, we’ve debunked that myth through the hundreds of women who have grown their hair and achieved their hair goals while on our Healthy Hair Program. It’s very rewarding to empower fellow women, and it is the foundation of what our business was built upon. We want to see women succeed and help them by setting them up with the confidence that they can accomplish anything. We are an example of what is possible for women and are a true testament to the fact that everyone has the ability to rewrite their story.

The DreamGirls Healthy Hair Care System starter kit: a five-step collection with a comb-out treatment, renewing shampoo, deep revival treatment, renewing conditioner, and an essence oil.
Courtesy of DreamGirls

You launched DreamGirls Healthy Hair Care System while your hair salons were shut down because of pandemic orders. Where does the original salon business stand now, and how do you plan to balance both as more consumers are ready to venture into a salon again as the vaccine rollout ramps up?

Thompson: We had planned on launching our Healthy Hair Care System product line before our salons were officially shut down. As a result of the shutdown, there was an even higher demand for our at-home hair care system, which caused us to sell out during our preorder sale.

Today our Sacramento and Los Angeles salons are doing extremely well since reopening, and we continue to remain booked up as far as three months out. When it comes to balancing both our salons and product line, we have a small but dedicated team that helps with everything from our salons to product line operations so that we are both able to continue servicing clients while actively developing our product line.

Launching a company and fundraising during an economic crisis is a challenge, to say the least. How is DreamGirls funded, and how has fundraising gone for your company in the past year?

Wilson: DreamGirls did not do any fundraising for our product launch. To help with funding, we had a pre-sale, which allowed us to gauge product demand and order enough inventory for the official launch. We ended up selling $30,000 worth of products during our pre-sale. With the help of the revenue from our prelaunch orders and our own personal funds, we were able to successfully launch our line.

Both our salons and our product line have always been self-funded, even during the pandemic. We have always been entrepreneurs and worked extremely hard within our salons, which helped us to self-fund and grow our product line. We believe that in order to be successful it is important to first invest in yourself to reach the financial goals that you set for yourself or your brand.

Looking ahead, where do you see DreamGirls in five years?

Thompson: Right now, our goal is to become the staple for healthy hair growth. We want to educate women all over the world and show them how to naturally grow and take care of their hair at home.