Who doesn't remember showing up to the hair salon with a ripped out page from Hype Hair, ready to be transformed? The magazine has been a staple in salons and homes for more than 20 years, giving us edgy editorial spreads with the latest haircare and styling trends, and featuring our favorite style icons. We've seen Eve go from her platinum TWA to her signature braids, Monica go from her "Don't Take It Personal" precision cut to slayed extensions, and all the chic transitions of our favorite Real Housewives. We've also read stories about style trends and techniques from the industry's top stylists.
Today, the brand is set for a major refresh with its new CEO, Lia Dias, a Los Angeles native with her own personal connection to the haircare world. As founder of The Girl Cave LA, a growing chain of beauty supply stores with locations in California and Texas, Dias has always been someone not afraid to take risks and create the change she wants to see. Trained as a social worker and leaving the industry after not finding fulfillment, she took $30,000 in savings to start her first location.
It's been up and onward ever since.
Image by Ashli Brown
"I grew up going to beauty supply stores to get ready for the weekend, you know, on a Friday night," she recalled. "So it was just natural for me. I love being in beauty supply stores, but I always felt like I was never treated like a customer. I always felt like I was being treated with an air of suspicion. I wanted to create something that felt good for me. I'm from Inglewood, so [it had to be] something that felt good for my friends, my sisters. And so I started with the small store. April actually makes six years, and now we have seven locations."
Dias is adding to the growing number of black-owned beauty supply stores in a multibillion-dollar industry that's far from diverse when it comes to ownership. Seventy percent of the nation's stores are owned by Korean-Americans, yet African-Americans spend more than $600 million on personal soap and ethnic hair and beauty aids, according to a recent Nielson report. In other words, we buy a whole lot of products from these types of stores but we don't have a major share of the behind-the-scenes buying power, customer service protocols, community investment or influence.
Dias has been empowering other women in ownership via her franchise model, and several of her stores are female-owned as well. "My husband and I are franchisees of a juice bar called Juice It Up!, and I love the model. I love the support that the corporate office gives us because we knew what we wanted to do but we didn't know how to do it. I would have a lot of women come to me say, 'I want a beauty supply store,' and they'd want to know about how do I get started. I thought, well, why don't I expand the stores?" she says. "My goal is to have stores across the country, but the reality is that I'm a mother of three.
"I have a husband who has a career that I help him and support him through, and I have my own career and ambition. So I knew that I wouldn't be able to run retail stores by myself across the country. I thought about this franchise model and I said, 'This is the best way to [not only] expand the stores, but to also give people an opportunity to get into ownership without having to figure out this beauty supply model on its own.'"
With Dias's model, prospective owners must go through an application process, pay a fee, and invest to start their store. Upon approval, they are given the tools they need to succeed including access to vendors, how-tos on setting up their store, and information on how to run the business.
"We go through the interview process and we really see who will fit the model and make sure that their finances are in line with what it takes to run a store," Dias explains. "Then we approve people based upon their tenacity and what we feel like would be a good fit for the brand. It's [not so much] about how much money you have personally. We really are looking for the right family, the right person, the right partnership that will go well with what we're creating."
Image by Ashli Brown
Dias's venture into acquiring Hype Hair came about in the same strategic way she was able to expand the Girl Cave LA brand. She'd been interviewed for the magazine, and after building a relationship with the magazine's previous owners, she was able to step into the CEO role.
"I'd never get too excited when I have good sales months. I've always put money away. I didn't know what it was, but every time I had these good sales month, I'm like, 'Let me just put this money away.' So by the grace of God, when this opportunity came up, I didn't have to go to a bank. I didn't have to go borrow the money. I had it stockpiled from years of savings from my retail stores, so that when the opportunity came up and it was almost down to the dollar of what I had saved over the last few years, that was another indication to me that this was what I was supposed to be doing. I didn't have to stretch for it."
Due to its built-in audience, long-standing presence in publishing, and popularity in the haircare industry, Hype Hair has served as the perfect opportunity for Dias to get into something that has the potential to continue growing in spaces she's passionate about. "I want to really give a more full picture," she adds.
"We're doing the same things—editorials featuring hairstylists and hairstyles that are on the cutting edge and inspirational—but the other thing that I'm really bringing to the magazine is I want to infuse more of the culture into it."
"We're talking about a lot of women who are in the hair industry and telling their stories because I feel like those stories are powerful, too," she adds. "A lot of the stories that we're telling, we're making sure that we tell them very boldly. We're giving a lot of color. We're giving a lot of things that grab people's attention because this is a digital magazine and what comes down to it is the clicks and impressions. We want to provide useful, meaningful content."
For more of Lia, follow her on Instagram.
Featured image by Joseph Ford/Gifted Mindset