Excerpted from The Soul of an Entrepreneur by David Sax. Buy on Amazon.Jesseca Dupart started as a simple hair salon in this northeastern section of New Orleans, called Little Woods, back in 2012, when she was 30 years old, and by the time I visited her six years later, Kaleidoscope was a rapidly growing brand in the African American beauty market. Salons and beauty supply stores in every state, as well as Canada, the Caribbean, and the UK, sold its products. All of that was driven by Dupart’s relentless marketing on social media, particularly Instagram, where her handle @DArealBBJUDY was about to gain its millionth follower.Dupart stands little more than 5 feet tall, with big eyes and a wide smile. “BB” stood for Big Booty, a God-given asset that Dupart wasn’t shy about deploying in the steady stream of photos and videos she cranked out around the clock in the service of her business. “If I knew what I was doing was going to be hair, I probably would have changed it,” Dupart says about the @DArealBBJUDY handle, with a grin. This morning she is wearing a pair of Adidas workout tights, Yeezy sneakers, and a bejeweled T-shirt that says Pray Girl, Pray. Her hair was straight and black (one of many extensions she rotates through each week), and her fingernails on this day are nearly 3-inch-long glittering gold, purple, black, and jeweled talons.
In 2018, Kaleidoscope’s growth exploded, with sales going from $100,000 a month at the start of the year, to $1 million by the end of March. The company in Houston that manufactured and distributed Kaleidoscope’s products simply couldn’t handle the speed and volume of the scale, and these problems were irritating Dupart. “We don’t have room for error,” she tells me, as she sits behind her desk at the company’s office, which occupies a few units of the strip mall where her salon had once been. “A mess-up now costs thousands of dollars, where just a few months ago it was a few hundred. We went from having a two-day turnover to 12 days,” she says, flipping between her two phones and her computer. “That shit won’t work!”
Dupart is conflicted, because the man behind these mess-ups was her mentor in the business. He personally convinced her to start selling products when she was a hairstylist, launching her from one of the many African American women with a salon in New Orleans, into a nationally recognized figure in the black hair community, with a rapidly growing multimillion-dollar business.Kaleidoscope’s demand was growing faster than the company could manage. People would call daily and even show up at the doors trying to buy products that were sold out. But her distributor was on an extended trip to Africa, and failing to help her sort out the growing logistics mess over the phone.
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“If he can’t contain a small order, that’s my concern now. I mean, I’m a loyal person, but if this fucks up, it fucks up for everybody that works here,” she says, shaking her head. Dupart pauses, takes a deep breath, puts her hands together in prayer, and closes her eyes. After a few seconds she opens them. “It’s my company, and I can’t sacrifice my company for someone else. There’s too many people counting on me ... too many.”