Boho Locs Founder Lulu Pierre On Overcoming Self-Doubt To Create A Booming Brand
It’s the week of the new moon in Aries and one of the first things Lulu Pierre, founder of Boho Locs, tells me is she’s experiencing new beginnings. The 38-year-old joins our recent Zoom all the way from London. She’s just hired her eighth employee and just purchased her first home. Just five years ago, Pierre was the only person on her team, turning her dream of making accessible, easy crochet locs into a reality for her customers across the globe. But her journey to her now many new beginnings wasn’t without a few hiccups, all of which have been master classes in learning to be a manager, business owner, and mentor to her staff.
Like most successful business ideas, Pierre’s idea for Boho Locs was born out of a problem — or in her case, a terrible experience. She visited a salon that left her natural hair broken, damaged, and, in short, a complete disaster. “I did a keratin blow dry,” she says. “For afro hair, it helps it to be more versatile so you can wear it straight or curly, and what happened with me is, I did the blow dry and it damaged my hair. So I knew I needed to put a protective style in my hair, something to help it grow out in this phase.”
She loved the dreadlock look her mother and sisters wore, but she wasn’t sure she was ready for such a commitment. After trying dreadlock extensions and realizing it took three days to do, she knew there had to be an easier option. Then, Boho Locs was born. The brand specializes in crochet locs extensions, giving clients the option of installing crochet locs quickly and by themselves, without a salon appointment.
Below, Pierre details how she transformed her awful salon experience into an idea for a business and, eventually, a booming online retailer in just a few years — and during a pandemic, to boot.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Elite Daily: Give me a snapshot of your average day on the job?
Lulu Pierre: I will typically wake up at about 7 a.m., and the first thing I do is talk to my manufacturers in China because of the time difference. I'll talk to them, find out about orders, order processing, new orders, and new samples. And I do a lot of MPD (marketing and product development), which takes over the bulk of my mornings.
Then, we will get into a team Zoom. Every morning, we do a standup where we address what we did yesterday, what we're doing today, and if we have any blockers, etc. Then, my day will probably break out into, maybe, a one-on-one with my CMO or a one-on-one with my digital head, and we'll just talk about the week or the day or what's going on. Then, I will have a lot of admin, a lot of people to respond to ... But I do like to catch up with each team member if I can.
ED: What's been your most memorable day on the job?
LP: There's one that sticks out a lot. I've only sold locs from day one, dreadlock extensions, and in late 2020, we went into a new category and I did twists, which is a slightly different look. I was so nervous about it because we're branching out. I've never done anything other than locs before, and I remember the anticipation was just bubbling.
I'd been dealing with feelings of inadequacy as a result of the lockdown. We did the shoot at that point, and I wasn't really happy with the creative, I remember. Then, we're getting ready to launch this thing, and I just didn't feel great. Everybody on the team, when we set the product live, we were all like, "Oh, we don't know what's it going to do." But we ended up having our biggest-ever one-day sales on record, and I just remember not being able to sleep, I was so excited. I was just shaking. I didn't have that much of a positive feeling going into it, and it surpassed everyone's expectations.
ED: How do you deal with those feelings of inadequacy or imposter syndrome?
LP: I think the thing I do is I try to just look back over my journey so far, and that gives me confidence to go ahead. I may not know how to solve every single problem that's going to arise down the road, but I'll know how to deal with the next challenge. I'll know how to deal with the one after that.
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ED: How has COVID-19 affected your business?
LP: The way I manage my team is that I'm very tactile and very much like, “Let's bounce each other's ideas off each other. Let's share a space, let's hang out, let's get lunch.” We do drinks on a Friday. [Before the pandemic], I really found it easy to manage people because it didn't really test my managerial skills that much. We were all there [in person] and everybody knew what they were doing and we just got on with it.
When the pandemic hit, it was a completely different scenario. Everyone is working from home. We don't have the rapport. We don't have the ability to have a hive mind and bounce ideas off each other, and I'm having to manage in a different way. My management style is very relaxed, and I had to begin to be more organized with it. And I really, really struggled ... it led to me feeling like I wasn't up to the challenge. I don't know, I just experienced a lot of self-doubt actually during that period of time. It was really challenging.
And customers needed more hand-holding with the product itself, so [we went] back to basics, explaining, "This is how you do this. This is how you prepare your hair." So we had to do a lot more content that was [explanatory], whereas we'd probably focused a lot on brand. We had to make a change to merge the two, almost — the utility side and the brand side — to be able to help people do the product at home, because now, they obviously can't go to the stylist to do it.
ED: So many young people have great ideas for a business they want to get off the ground, but don't know where to start after that. How did you get your idea into motion after you thought of it? What was your first step?
LP: When I started to do the dreadlock extensions on myself and on my customers, the idea just sparked. I was booked three months in advance, and I knew that if I could get a product that I could ship out all over the world, it would be successful. I just knew it. To go from idea to launch was quite a quick process, to be honest with you. I did market research for myself. I went down to the shops to see what was being sold, what people were selling, and where were the gaps? What colors were they not doing? What lengths were they not doing? And what textures were they not doing? It was really quick.
Then, I found a manufacturer who sold a product that I could manipulate into being something exceptional. Literally within a week, I ordered the samples, I got them in, I tested them. I used to braid them, boil them, twist them, and do everything to manipulate them into a texture that I really liked.
From there, I was like, "OK, let's just do this." I ordered a sample set for myself and modeled them online. I generated an email list, and I pre-sold the product because I didn't have the money to buy the product and then sell it. So I got the money, bought the product, and shipped it out. And every two to three weeks, I did this until I had enough money to go to meet the manufacturer and get the product made. But it was a quick process from idea to launch, fueled by necessity in a lot of ways.
ED: What part of starting your own business do you wish somebody had better prepared you for?
LP: I really believe in learning by experience. However, if there was something I would say, it would be to hire a senior team sooner than you think you can afford it, because they will help fuel your growth.
When you first start a business, you're just thinking about cost. You're just like, "I don't want the cost to go above this, I can't spend more than this," so you might hire a team you can afford. However, that may not be the most sensible move. It might be more sensible to hire somebody who's been down this road before. Even though you have to pay them more, they bring the experience into the team.
ED: What advice do you have for a young person looking to break into the beauty industry?
LP: When you're onto something and you feel like there's a winning formula there, the best thing you should do at that point is to find a senior: somebody who's been in a really successful brand before. Maybe poach someone from another brand — you never know, they might be up for the challenge — and use them to form your company. If you're a typical entrepreneur, you just might be a bit... I don't want to say all over the place, but my experience of being an entrepreneur is that you think about a lot of things at the same time. So it's nice to have an experienced pair of eyes just thinking about growth or customer acquisition or whatever.
ED: Did you have a mentor in the beauty industry?
LP: I don't know how I feel about mentors so much. I think, when you first start, the mistakes that you make are not the most costly mistakes because there's not a lot of money on the line, because you probably don't have that much when you start, at least in my case. But I feel like as long as you're able to learn from your mistakes in the early days and you understand how to test A against B and assess which is winning, that will help guide the path that you're going to take. I don't necessarily know if you need a mentor at that stage.
ED: What's the most fun or surprising part of your job you didn't even realize you'd be doing?
LP: I've always been very "around," not fixed to one location. This is why a salon didn't really suit me, because I couldn't handle being in one location. But ... one thing that really surprised me is how much I actually like being around my staff and being in an office.
From somebody who'd not had an office job for the first 10 years of their working career, to wanting to go into an office and liking it and enjoying the stationary-ness of it, that was a massive shock. I used to have so much fun in the office. And again, this is what contributed to me hitting a period of feeling quite low, because I missed that.
ED: How do you hope to see the hair care space evolve over the next few years, and how is Boho Locs contributing to that evolution?
LP: If we look at the data about who consumes most of the hair beauty products, it's mainly African-American women, women of color. And I feel like I would love to see more Black ownership of these brands. I really feel like we're just very innovative when it comes to our hair. We're always inventing new, different ways of doing things. And I think, for me, I would love to see a shift to more Black female ownership in that space. I feel like we know what we want and we can create the products, too, to deliver those results.