Ming Lee knows what it’s like to go from nothing to something. From a young age she always knew that she wanted to ‘take over the world’. To carry out her mission Ming relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, USA from Detroit, Michigan to focus on her life long passions: hair, fashion, and glamour. With strong influences from her father Ming knew that she had to have a vision and a plan and not be afraid to execute it. She decided to take her $500 furniture savings to start her Snob Life empire. Ming is the mastermind of a brand that has been created for women around the world. She prides herself on being one of the best hair stylist in the business, providing the best quality hair that money can buy.
What resources did you use to start your own business? The resources I started with were very few. Believe it or not, I started my business with $500. Not much, but that’s all I had to spare at the time. And that $500 was the money I really was saving to buy a couch, since I had just moved and only had a bed in my apartment. I started small but instead of spending my profit I invested it in the company. In fact, I didn’t even see a profit from my company for the first 4 months! The money I made in the shop [doing actual hair], I also saved. During that time, I only spent enough money to cover rent. Not even food really. I use to share food at the salon with my co-workers and at night I worked as a waitress so I would eat at work. Though I struggled financially in the beginning, it didn’t take long to see progress.
When you first launched did you experience ‘naysayers’ or ‘haters’ that said your idea was crazy or it would never sell? If so how did you handle their negativity? I didn’t really experience the whole ‘it would never sell thing’ because everybody wears weave. I more so experienced the everybody sells hair and it’s just the new little thing to do. So I received the ‘what makes you so different from everybody else’, and how I handled the negativity or ‘everybody does it’ thing was by just creating a brand so that when you mentioned hair my name should come up, I should be in that conversation.
How does social media impact the way that you do business? Which social media platforms do you prefer? Social media has basically been my go to marketing. It’s free and you can reach millions and millions and millions of people and companies and everybody through social media. I started off on Twitter and I would just tweet pictures and kept putting out quality hair, and of course my hair wasn’t the most cost efficient but it was a good product and I always stood behind it. Twitter helped me gain momentum for my brand and recognition, so did Youtube. I put out Youtube videos, and so did Instagram. Instagram and Youtube are probably my favorite, instagram because it’s pictures, its candid photos so you get to see the hair. It’s one things to go on the website and see hair from a photo shoot and its a whole other thing to actually be able to see candid photos, like the hair when somebody is just waking up, or when its fresh out of the pack, or freshly installed or just rolling out of the bed. So my favorite social media platform would have to be Instagram. Only because you can get raw footage of the actual product, and it reaches so many people so fast and so easy.
I network on Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. I’m known for doing trial runs or testers, I’ll post a picture and ask ‘If I did a sale tomorrow, who would buy this product?’ As soon as I get so many different responses, then I’ll normally do it, because my phone starts blowing up, my email starts blowing up, the picture I put up is going viral and everyone is re-tweeting, so that’s how I use online to help my business.
Where and how do you network offline? I’ve done panels in the past, I recently did one back in August. I have a t-shirt line, so most of the time I go out, about 90 percent of the time I wear my t-shirts. I wear my t-shirts to work, I have like 5 different designs that I wear to work, so of course people are going to ask me where I got my t-shirts from and I always make sure that when I do go out that my hair is done, that i’m cute, and that I’m presentable. I do this to make people wonder oh who does your hair? Where do you get your hair done? And sometimes I get super cute and put on loud, lavish stuff, like stand out stuff, and just go and pass out flyers and cards and network and talk to people… Kind of like the president, kissing babies and shaking hands. *laughs*
What is the toughest part about running your own business? The toughest part about running your own business is finding good help. That is probably the toughest part because its so hard to find people that care as much as you care about your business. If my business fails, that is on me and a lot of people don’t understand that if you make a mistake I can’t tell somebody that my assistant sent out the wrong thing, they don’t care you know what I mean? My name is on the product. So the toughest part will probably be finding good help and to trying to stay relevant. It’s always somebody gunning for your position, its always somebody younger, somebody more talented, somebody with more drive, somebody with more energy trying to take your place. So that is one of the other hard things about running your business. But I guess that’s the way I stay above water is because I feel like can’t nobody out pray me and can’t nobody out hustle me.
What is the best thing about being a small business owner? The best thing about being a small business owner is actually being your own boss. By being your own boss, you’re actually able to see your dream come into reality in front of your eyes. You’ll be amazed!!! For instance, I started with $500, and then you see your company grow, like when you look at your numbers you’re going from $500 to a thousand dollars, to $3,000 to $10,000 to $20,000 to $90,000 to $100,000 to $200,000 to $300,000 and you’re like oh my goodness I did all of this with $500 and Twitter, Instagram, and Google. That’s crazy!!!
Do you have a business plan? If so, how did you go about gathering the information contained it and how do you use your plan? No, I didn’t have a business plan, and that might have been one of my biggest downfalls because I did everything trial and error. Which I can’t say I regret it, but I learned a lot of lessons. I mean you live and you learn.
If you were granted $100,000 for your business, how would you use the money? If I were granted $100,000 for my business I would probably use it for marketing. I would of course give some back, but focus would be on marketing. I’m actually going to visit China to visit factories, but there are factories all over, so I’m going to be doing a lot of marketing and research and trying to find the best quality product for the best price.
What three adjectives accurately describe your experience as a small business owner? Hustler. Driven. Passionate.
Are you/ Snob Life directly involved with any charitable giving or events? Yes, I feed the homeless out here in the city of Atlanta. I try to do it once every month, once every other month and I’m also actively involved in a woman and children’s shelter which we make sure we mentor. I have little sisters and little brothers that I mentor and spend time with. We recently had a Halloween party for kids. We bought all of the kids costumes and had it catered with a DJ. Earlier this year for back to school, we gave children book bags, school supplies, and stuff like that. We also did a photo shoot for all the mothers and gave them gift baskets and took them to the spa. During prom season, I had the ‘Snob Prom Affair’ where I sent 2 girls to prom that couldn’t financially afford it, and we got their hair done and we had a makeup artist come out, we took them shoe shopping and dress shopping, we got them a limo and we bought their prom tickets and they had a really good time.
What is in the future for the Snob Life brand? The future is for the brand to be a household name!!! I’m actually working on a product line, and I kind of just want it to be a household name like Johnson & Johnson or something. I definitely want the snob brand to be an empire and for when you talk about beauty or hair, its definitely in the conversation.”
Please share a small business tip that you would like to pass on to other entrepreneurs and small business owners? You can always be better. Play like you’re losing even if you’re winning. And stand behind your product 100 percent. Ask yourself daily, what can I do to make my company better?
This article was written by Boss Chicks guest Blogger Ashley Neal of SmallBizDiamonds.com