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‘Shark Tank’ Alum Cashmere Extending Hair Extension Biz

BEAUTY PRODUCTS: Innovation Fueled San Marcos Startup’s Growth in Crowded Industry

SAN MARCOS – Adding to the length of hair with extensions and weaves has been documented since thousands of years before the common era. Popularized in the 16th century by wig- and hair extension-wearing Queen Elizabeth I, the items are still big business today.

Hair extensions are sections of human, synthetic or animal hair affixed to natural hair to give it more length, fullness, style, volume or color, using human hair or synthetic fibers and has fitting types that include micro link, clip-in, tape-in and glue-in extensions.

According to The Brainy Insights, the global hair extension market was valued at $3.5 billion last year and is expected to reach $5.7 billion in 2033. Fortune Business Insights reports that the U.S. hair extension market size was projected to grow from $2.26 billion in 2023 to $3.93 billion by 2030.

Local startup Cashmere Hair Extensions has been a leader in the market since its founding by Rachel Koren (then Rachel Bernstein) and Melissa Koren (then Melissa Barone) in 2013 in the Los Angeles area.

Rachel Koren
Co-founder
Cashmere Hair Extensions

Rachel Koren was a makeup artist, beauty consultant and model, Melissa Koren a hair extension expert and celebrity stylist when they first met. The two married brothers and became sisters-in-law and decided to combine their entrepreneurial interests together.

Rachel Koren said both were “frustrated” with the quality of hair extensions in the market and that she used to make her own by taking apart extensions from other companies and sewing them together to make pieces fuller and thicker.

“We were both in industries that relied on having or creating beautiful hair, and we were both experts in hair extensions at that point,” Rachel Koren said. “When we started creating our own extensions to use, and when everyone started complimenting us on our ‘natural’ hair, it just made sense to share our secret with the world.”

Bootstrapping from the start, Cashmere Hair’s success started early, with an appearance on the investment television show “Shark Tank” just five months after launching the company in Beverly Hills. (It later relocated to its permanent home in San Marcos.)

“It was honestly nerve-racking to be in front of the Sharks, especially because we were so new to the whole business,” Rachel Koren said. “While no deal was made, and it was tough hearing the feedback, it made us better and more savvy businesswomen in the end. Looking back now, we are grateful that a deal wasn’t made. We’ve not only done it all on our own, it’s also all ours. And that’s something we are really proud of.”

Koren said the company has been able to reinvest back in itself over the past decade, and has never taken on outside investors or funding, but through hard work has scaled its brand exponentially. The company now posts annual revenues of $3.6 million.

A New Approach to Hair Extensions

Created because the founders were disappointed in the quality of the hair extensions found in the market, Rachel Koren said establishing its small company in a sea of competitors was a challenge.

Because they weren’t coming out with a brand-new product, the Korens had to innovate on an already existing product “and make it good enough so that people would notice,” Rachel Koren said.

One of the first things they knew needed a change was the way the product attaches to the scalp.

Rachel Koren said most of the hair extensions the two were familiar with were attached using harsh metal clips, which can damage real hair. Cashmere Hair products attach with minimal, gentle clips for damage-free hair.

Koren said what also sets Cashmere Hair apart from competitors is that it culls top-tier hair at an “attractive price point.” Costs of the different styles, colors and lengths range from about $190 to $250, with fill-ins about $90 and ponytail extensions about $130. The company also sells false eyelashes for about $10 a pair.

One of the company’s challenges has been allaying customers’ concerns about finding the best color match for their hair. Because the company sells its products online, Cashmere Hair had to figure out the best way to get that done.

It developed a color matching system that customers can access through the company’s website or by reaching out via email or text message.

Cashmere hair uses Remy human hair for its extensions and sources its hair from manufacturers all over the world. Koren said Remy hair is the highest grade of real human hair. It is cut in a way that preserves the hair’s cuticles and keeps follicles facing the same direction and is better suited to blend into customers’ real hair.

“Our first-ever products were made with 100% Remy human hair from India,” she said. “While we still use Remy hair from India, we’ve also expanded to lines featuring 100% European Remy human hair. European hair is generally silkier, finer, and smoother, while Indian hair is denser with a natural wave pattern. This makes Indian hair hold volume and style much better.”

Remy hair extensions typically last up to two years with proper care.

Rachel Koren said that when “Shark Tank” aired, with the company in its infancy, she and Melissa Koren “still had a lot of things to figure out…. (things) we didn’t even know we needed to do. It was a defining moment for us.”

Now, she said celebrities are using their products on the red carpet.

“It’s been an amazing journey,” she said. “And while we didn’t feel good about it at the time, who knows where we’d be had we been offered a partnership by one of the Sharks?”

Cashmere Hair Extensions
FOUNDED: 2013
CO-FOUNDERS AND CEOS: Rachel Koren and Melissa Koren
HEADQUARTERS: San Marcos
BUSINESS: DTC beauty products
REVENUE: $3.6 million
EMPLOYEES: 6
WEBSITE: cashmerehairextensions.com
CONTACT: 213-222-3878 or help@cashmerehairextensions.com
SOCIAL IMPACT: Company empowering women all over the world by providing them with high-quality hair to boost their confidence and self-esteem. It believes that everyone deserves to have great hair, and Cashmere Hair makes it easy to achieve that dream.
NOTABLE: Co-founders are sisters-in-law who met when Rachel Koren was a model in Los Angeles and Melissa Koren was a stylist in Beverly Hills.

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