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Meet Ryan Tokko of The Hair Shop in Hollywood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ryan Tokko.

Ryan, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I started my business in 1988. During that time, hair extensions were nearly nonexistent. Only wigs and very specific hair extensions existed. And it was definitely taboo to talk about openly. But I had a different vision for the future of hair extensions.

I had my a-ha moment after constantly having customers come in asking for packaged and professional hair extensions. I decided to make the first packaged clip-in hair extensions–this was more than a decade ago. I didn’t know exactly what this product would become, and I didn’t know anything about how to market them. All I knew was that I needed to listen to what my customers wanted and deliver. So, I focused almost all my effort on product development and manufacturing the best products.

Fast forward to today, providing quality products for the right price has become our main advantage. The Hair Shop is vertically integrated and runs seven retails stores throughout the US and a successful e-commerce business. These days, I still stick to what I know best and it’s simple. Always listen to what customers want and deliver on this the best way you can.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Ha, definitely not. If anyone says they haven’t hit challenges or obstacles, they’re either lying or not pushing the envelope.

Early on in this business, it was mostly small mom and pop shops, and competition was brutal. Not that it isn’t today, but it was challenging in a different way. I remember one of our suppliers opening shop right next door to us, cutting our supply and deciding to compete head to head against us. It was blatant, obnoxious and ruthless. Those were difficult times; everyone was trying to gain their foothold, solidify a customer base and grow.

Each day was a grind and you had to be very creative to win over customers. I think this type of challenge really taught me and the team how to hustle. It also really showed us how important it is to stay ahead and keep innovating. If you don’t continue to innovate, your business is dying a slow death. Today our challenges are a bit different. We’re competing against much larger companies, marketing behemoths with a focus on mass marketability of hair extensions. Every day, we’re fine-tuning how to stay true to ourselves while scaling up.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
We specialize in all things hair extensions and wigs. This means we have a variety of professional hair extension methods that stylists buy, as well as more temporary methods for your everyday user – think clip-in extensions or bangs. We’re known for our wide variety of hair colors, styles, lengths and methods. And if you visit one of our stores, you’ll immediately see what we mean. There’s beautiful hair everywhere!

Beyond the products, we really care about education. For our professional stylists, it’s all about equipping them with the right knowledge and tools to help them grow their business. As they grow their careers and clientele, we grow. We figured out early on that the more knowledge we share, the better experience the stylists, customers and everyday wearers have with our products. And we want to maximize their enjoyment. This is why we focus on education heavily and have various extension classes, including our monthly Extension Master Classes at select retail locations.

What role has luck (good luck or bad luck) played in your life and business?
I believe luck always plays a part in business and in life. Having the right timing is a bit of luck, meeting the right people is a bit of luck. People are always surrounded by moments of luck or another way to look at it is, having opportunities. The thing is, without taking action, nothing comes out of that luck. So, you can be lucky but that alone won’t get you anywhere.

I’ve been blessed. I came to America and started with nothing. I had a few opportunities, I grabbed onto them and clung on. At the time, I had to because the options felt so limited. But thinking about it now, I was lucky to even have these opportunities. The outcomes were a direct result of what I put in and what the people around me put in. Thinking you’re lucky is almost like a mindset. You believe you are, you treasure that, and you don’t let that go to waste. Then stuff starts to happen.

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