Episode 128

Vivian Kaye

Taking the little steps that matter

July 19, 2020

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Episode Overview

You know you’re a big deal when one of the biggest newspapers in Canada’s largest city features you on the cover of their business section!

This week our conversation is with the phenomenal and unapologetically authentic Vivian Kaye, Founder and CEO of the multi-million dollar company KinkyCurlyYaki. Vivian has also stepped into the role of Business Empowerment Coach to help other upcoming entrepreneurs achieve the level of success she has.

Vivian started KinkyCurlyYaki from scratch in her basement with no investment.  Not long after starting the company, her long-term relationship ended, and she found herself a single mom to a little boy.  Undeterred, she focused on building the company into what is now one of the biggest retailers of high-quality textured hair extensions.

Thriving in the online environment of entrepreneurship and social media, Vivian does not hold back in taking a stand and speaking up against racism, discrimination, and the limiting beliefs so many women hold, especially Black women.

Vivian trademarked What Would Chad Do?™ as a protest and rallying crying to help women dismiss the limiting beliefs that are hold them back from their full potential. She also created Mind Your Business, a podcast and blog to share information, and her own learnings with other entrepreneurs.  Vivian is also a mentor and Advisory Board member for Founder’s Fund Canada, a digital platform supporting under-represented  women-identifying entrepreneurs.  It offers access to mentorship, resources, and non-repayable funding for small businesses.

“If I give freely, then I will receive abundantly.” – Vivian Kaye

As if all of that doesn’t keep her busy enough, Vivian also launched her first live workshop in July — #shopifyprepschool where she teaches entrepreneurs how to successfully set up their online Shopify stores. She also partnered with Shopify to create a course — Niche it! 4 steps to niching your eCommerce business. 

Vivian Kaye’s family is from Tema, Ghana. She’s the second born and has 3 siblings – all girls! Like any African family, hers was tight knit, loving, and held education as their highest priority. When she was 2 years old, they emigrated to a predominantly white neighborhood of Hamilton, Canada. As an immigrant child, she experienced discrimination and bullying.  She also struggled with the lack of media representation of young girls who looked like her that she could identify with.

Vivian found herself struggling in her first year of University.   She felt like everyone else was excelling, except her.  Little did she know that she was actually experiencing severe depression. Luckily, her mother noticed the changes in her behaviour and took her out of University to get treatment.

“I’ve always been that circle, and everyone kept trying to put me into this square and I couldn’t quite fit. I don’t want to be a square. I want to be a circle or a star, whatever it is, but I don’t want to be that square.” – Vivian Kaye

Once she had started to recover, Vivian decided not to go back to University.  She found herself in various jobs, each of which progressively grew her skill set. She found herself becoming the go-to person if you wanted to get anything done, and done well. But it wasn’t until she worked in a marketing firm, dealing with and helping other entrepreneurs with their business that her entrepreneurial spark was born!

A bad experience with her sister’s wedding decorators was the inspiration for her first business, Vivian’s Decor & Designs. She slowly built her business and reputation, starting with small wedding contracts, and eventually landing bigger ones.

But being a wedding decorator and planner had its own struggles. Weddings are usually formal events, and so she found herself struggling to find hairstyles that could quickly and easily make her look “presentable.” She wanted her hairstyles to be flexible yet authentic. She looked for high-quality textured hair extensions, and was disappointed with how difficult it was to find. So Vivan decided to solve her own need by sourcing her own hair extensions.  Little did she know that there were so many other women facing the same struggle.  She found herself being asked by many women about her hair, and where they could find natural looking hair extensions like hers.  And that’s where the inspiration for what has become the multi-million dollar business KinkyCurlyYaki came from.

This interview was such a delight! Vivian is what ‘joy’ would be like if it were a person. She has the confidence and positivity that is both inspiring and contagious. Our conversation was a beautiful reminder that being and staying true to yourself is the key to living a purposeful life.

what you’ll learn in this episode

  • What it was like growing up in an African family of all girls!
  • The challenges she faced as a young, black immigrant
  • What inspired her to start KinkyCurlyYaki…and why that name!
  • What Vivian learned from taking different jobs, and why it was instrumental to her success as an entrepreneur
  • How she was able to create two hugely successful businesses all while being a single mother
  • Why Vivian thinks sharing your business vision is important to nurturing and sustaining a business
  • Some of the biggest challenges she has faced in her entrepreneurial journey
  • Why it’s so important to Vivain to always show up as her authentic self, and how that has been the key to her success
  • And so much more!


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