Put on your thinking cap, or wig cap, for a Q&A with entrepreneur Jennifer Reger
I recently met with the managing partner and co-founder of Gothic Lolita Wigs, Rockstar Wigs, and Dolluxe, to ask her about the role she played and still plays in the Houston-based start-up company. She shares with me how a simple idea grew to be one of the most well-known alternative wig choices for women – and men!
Minh Dam: I love what you have on your LinkedIn profile, “Transforming ladies into dolls and men into queens.” Did you come up with that?
Jennifer Reger: Yes, because a lot of our female clients look like dolls and obviously our male clients are typically drag queens.
MD: What kind of support have you gotten from the LGBT community?
JR: Locally we have some. Nationally we have a few very popular drag queens. Porcelain is a really great and beautiful drag queen and one of our newer muses is Anaol Fetale. Jose Guzman, who is one of the most famous photographers for drag, he’s a big supporter of us and he uses our wigs as much as possible. If the models will let him pick the hair, he’ll put our wigs on them.
JR: Gothic Lolita Wigs specializes in alternative Japanese influenced wigs, while RockStar wig is based on pop culture, both current and classic. Dolluxe completes the doll-look with false eyelashes and we’re hoping to soon have a full cosmetics line.
MD: How do you interact with your customers?
JR: Through any social media avenue. We mostly interact through our email system and on Facebook. Twitter, we’re not as big into it, but it’s because the Lolita community is not as big on Twitter, so we don’t have as many followers as we do on Facebook. I usually try to @ reply back to everyone from my phone. Sometimes I get caught up and I don’t get a chance to, but I’ll retweet the pictures.
MD: It’s been about 3 years since the company started; what was it like in the beginning?
JR: In the beginning, we were working out of my mom’s house. So we’d have wigs all over the closets in her house and that was fun. We basically just used her entire second floor because there’s nobody up there. That was our first office and gradually we extended down the stairs, the closet under the staircase and the hallway closet. Then finally my mom said, ‘You guys need to get out of my house. There are just too many wigs in here.’
MD: Why wigs? Was there a big demand for them?
JR: My brother, the main designer, was living in Japan and was fascinated by the Harajuku kids. He learned that they would take white wigs and style them and dye them and cut them to what they wanted. So he said, ‘Why don’t we just make the wigs for them so they don’t have to do the work.’ That’s where the idea came from.
MD: How has the company expanded since then?
JR: Since my mom’s house? [Laughs] Well we’ve expanded quite a bit. We started with a really small office, like really small, where we just had one room. Now we’ve grown pretty big. We house our wigs in a separate area now. Right now we’re actually low on inventory since Halloween is coming up, it’s one of our biggest holidays since people who usually don’t purchase wigs are buying them.
MD: How do you help people who haven’t ever bought a wig before?
We also started CCS, customer coordinate showcase, because a lot of people that wanted to become Lolitas didn’t know the brands and didn’t really know anything about the culture. It’s so you can see not just what our models were wearing, but what normal girls that aren’t models were wearing and you can see where they’re getting their stuff. We list the brands of their entire outfit, so it helps them learn. And if they email us and ask questions, we’ll try to let them know what to do and where to look. We help them with the whole outfit, the whole experience.
MD: How did your previous experience help form Gothic Lolita and Rockstar Wigs and Dolluxe?
JR: I’ve worked for a startup before and working in a startup is a completely different culture than an established business. First of all, you don’t sleep. You have a job title which is a really loose term because it doesn’t matter what you’re supposed to do, you really have like 5,000 jobs and you’re basically doing everything. I also worked at a couple film festivals which you also lose sleep over because you’re working 24 hours a day up until the festival. So both of those helped with this company because I was constantly awake doing all these different jobs and different tasks.
MD: Would you say things have calmed down and gotten easier since the company first started?
JR: I would like to think so, but now I just want to do more things. I’m like, ‘I want to do make-up and I want to do these things!’ so, it doesn’t actually stop. But, you know, it could, I could say wigs and eyelashes are good, but right now I’m working with a company developing the actual cosmetics formulas (for a future make-up line). It’s just constant. The moment it stops, I think it’ll just become stagnant. We won’t be growing and we’ll just be there. I don’t want that.
MD: What has the company done that you think has been most successful?
JR: Bringing Japanese-inspired hair to the masses. Whenever I walk around with a wig now, people always stop to ask if I’m Japanese. Before people would just look at me like I’m crazy. We filled a completely untapped niche market, and Facebook helped a lot with that. We instantly became a hit on Facebook, and we wouldn’t have our amazing customers without Facebook.
MD: What advice would you give to fellow entrepreneurs?
JR: Don’t give up. It will suck, a lot. You’ll reach a point where you tell yourself, ‘This isn’t even worth it’ and you just want to stop and you’d be better off with a steady paycheck. But just don’t quit. You’ve got to just preserve through that tough part where it doesn’t feel like you’re going to get anywhere. It’ll be worth it.