CysterWigs New Year’s Resolutions Part 1: 20 Wig business confessions to wipe the slate clean

December 31, 2019 19 Comments

CysterWigs New Year’s Resolutions Part 1: 20 Wig business confessions to wipe the slate clean

Hi there, Wig Lovers. New Years is the time of sentimental endings and hopeful new beginnings. This is the first part of a two-part blog session. In this New Year’s Eve installment, I am clearing the air of all the negative stuff I want to break free from in 2020. In tomorrow’s New Year’s Day post, I will lay out all the positive new plans we have and our hopes for the future.

Note: This stuff is all highly personal. If that puts a bad taste in your mouth, I sincerely apologize for that right now.

 

Confession #1: We’re NOT going out of business.

Our business is actually doing pretty well…on paper. The main problem I have is that I am getting burnt out from the drama of the social media scene and the cut-throat nature of where this industry is heading. I got into this industry to be the antidote to all the things about it that I don’t like. That mission continues, even now.

 

Confession #2: I’m not trying to be a professional beauty guru or wig influencer.

This all happened by accident. When I first launched my channel, very few people were doing what I do. Instagram hadn’t blown up yet. “Social Media Influencer” wasn’t a proper job title.

There’s no shade at all in these statements. It’s just that I am not that person. I very rarely take selfies unless it’s for work. (Believe it or not, I actually hate having my picture taken. The apparent vanity of my job is very hard for me to reconcile sometimes.) I do not engage in social media outside of CysterWigs. I’m going to a New Year’s Eve party in a couple hours and I have no intention of applying makeup. I wear glasses all the time because my astigmatism is EPIC. I’m a pretty plain, geeky type of girl. Not geeky in a “look how quirky and cute I am” way. No. I am a straight-up dweeb. I have never watched a YouTube makeup tutorial all the way through because I think women are more than how they look. I think this phenomenon perpetuates unhealthy standards of beauty. I am not interested in watching other people’s wig reviews because I know where I can get the products for myself and I generally don’t trust other people opinions as much as my own. I would rather stay home and watch The Mandalorian than go to this party tonight. I’m an introvert and popularity has never been of compelling interest to me.  I’ve always been fine blending into the background.

If you asked me what I do professionally, I’d say I’m a business woman / website designer / UX programmer. Beauty guru wouldn’t even register on my radar as part of my job description. I downplay it in real life. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit to feeling a little tacky any time I talk about what I do on YouTube around non-wig biz people. It may be other people’s dream job, but to me, this social media stuff has always been a sideline to the other aspects of my business.

In 2020, I plan to keep making content that either I find enjoyable to make or that you find enjoyable to watch. (Preferably both.)  I am not trying to be famous, so anything that isn’t fun for one of us just seems like a waste, regardless of how many views that other stuff may or may not get me, or how many things it can sell. Other people can fight to be most popular. I will happily and ungrudgingly step aside if it will help me get some more free time.

 

Confession #3: We need your help to be the change we seek in the medical wig business.

 I am changing a lot of things in this business for a lot of reasons. This lengthy blog post is a detailed account of what we’re changing and why. It is part of my continuing efforts to be transparent with you so you can be a part of these changes with us. We can’t make it work without you. Tomorrow I will go into more detail about how you can help us. 

 

Confession #4: There isn’t much profit in this part of the wig biz because the suppliers take most of the money.

I know some of you are also small business owners, so I’ll get right to the point. The margins in this business are terrible. We work ourselves like dogs to make pennies on the dollar.

Imagine a dollar. Now take away 50 cents for the supplier’s share. Now give an additional 30 cents back to the customer in the form of coupons, and throw another 5 cents in for free shipping and other incentives, like loyalty rewards. This leaves my store with an average of just 15 cents on every dollar spent in the store to cover ALL of our expenses: my staff, accounting, our taxes, filing of those taxes, the videos, rent on the warehouse, the website maintenance, packaging, hand-written thank you notes, you name it. And this is if the discount is only 30%. If we’re offering a “better” coupon than that, it makes this math even more difficult.

This means that we are being pressured by our suppliers to constantly sell more, more, MORE just to cover the cost of supporting all those additional sales. No matter how much volume I sell, our costs never go down. (IE: These suppliers never seem willing to negotiate for volume breaks of any kind.) These brands are making money hand over fist due to the work that we’re putting in on their behalf and I am struggling to get by. It feels a little like indentured servitude, like I owe my soul to the company store. It’s a treadmill that I am very eager to get off.

 

Confession #5: We can’t afford to cover the sales tax for you. Please blame South Dakota v. Wayfair. We don’t like it either, but it’s the law. 

On June 21, 2018, The United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in South Dakota v. Wayfair that states can mandate that businesses without a physical presence in a state with more than 200 transactions collect and remit sales taxes on transactions in the state.

We currently have to collect and file sales tax in 20+ states. Sometimes, we are even legally required to file with individual cities, counties, and municipalities too. The USA is a big place and lots of people want their hands on that juicy sales tax money.

Our accounting and bookkeeping expenses have exploded since this law went into effect. I assure you that it costs us, as a retailer, much more in overhead than it costs you, the buyer, in sales taxes. We’ve been contemplating moving to brick and mortar just to avoid the hassle. We get it, really. This stinks for everyone, unless you’re a big fan of taxes.

 

Confession #6: Many of our suppliers expect us to pump endless amounts of our own resources into promoting them while they simultaneously try to rip us off.  (Like, all the time. This is a very deep topic with lots of examples.)

I do not hide the fact that our suppliers very rarely provide us with free promotional products. Furthermore, they often try to manipulate me with flattery and empty promises to promote them while they do things that undermine our business for their own profits.

This is so bad that one potential investor recently told me, “Your biggest competition isn’t other online stores. It’s your suppliers.” And I agree.

Example: Brand V was recently dropped from my store because they wanted to charge me for 100+ wigs to make videos at their insistence. Not only did they have no intention of paying me or my team for that time and labor, but they were also expecting to charge us for the products. Furthermore, they would not let me run coupons to accompany the content, so there would be little chance of making that money back via sales. I do not work for my suppliers. I am in business for myself and I told them no. They’d have to pay an agency $30,000+ for that kind of content generation. (I know. I used to work for that kind of ad agency.) It was beyond insulting that they expected me to pay them to do it for them. I told them to take a hike.

Example: Brand W asked me to make videos on their behalf and to heavily promote their brand for 12 weeks via a steep discount on their products in my store (all of which was at my expense). In exchange, they offered to pay to advertise the partnership on social media. In reality, they reneged. The “advertising” ended up being an ad for their brand (no mention of our store at all) that directed people to the “find a retailer” page on their website, showcasing us and all of our competitors in one giant table. We were on the second row of that table and they misspelled the name of our store. We ended up paying about $8K for this promotion. As in, that’s how much money we lost running those coupons and making that content on their behalf. They initially agreed to match our contribution with their advertising, which would have potentially made that a worthwhile gamble. They agreed to it in writing and just never made good. That’s a lesson learned.

Example: Brand X approached me with an “opportunity” to make a new red for them because they don’t have many true reds in their line. This offer entailed me committing to the purchase of 100 units up front, with no price breaks for quantity, and to take on 100% of the risk and expense to develop and market a new color on their behalf.  It was obvious from the start that it was just a ploy to get me to buy 100 of their wigs at once. I mean, this brand just launched a whole bunch of blondes, brunettes, and greys all on their own. Reds under-sell relative to all other colors because red lovers are notoriously picky about the shades they want and no two wiggy red-heads want the exact same blend. This makes this a very high-risk investment. Why did they need me and my business, which is much smaller and has way less money, to take on the risk of developing a red for them if it was such a great money-making idea? I mean, they didn’t approach me with this kind of “opportunity” when they launched their lucrative new blonde colors. It should not shock you to know that they could not answer that question and dropped the subject when they understood that the price tag was a deal breaker for me. My expectation is that they will probably shop this idea around and that someone will hurt their business terribly by taking them up on this offer. Hopefully that wig store owner reads this blog post first.

Example: Brand Y sent me an email in Q3 of this year to offer me a generous 11% price beak on wholesale. The catch? We would have to waive the right to return anything to them ever again. Since we hardly ever send our returns back to the supplier (in favor of selling them on our wigcloseouts.com site), this immediately got my Spidey Senses tingling. I ordered a couple dozen units to look at the quality. Sure enough, about half looked like messed up returns from a giant competitor who recently started offering “free” returns. Well, as we can tell you better than anyone, “free returns” are never free. WE ALL PAY FOR THOSE RETURNS. This is just one example of that principle in action. I wrote a detailed reply to the president of this wig brand calling them out for trying to saddle us with a competitor’s returns when in actuality they should not be accepting returns in this condition from any store, regardless of size. They would never allow us to return things in such a state of wear, for example. The president’s response: The owner of this very large competing store is a personal friend. This is all “friendly competition” and I needed to shut the hell up about it. (The response email they sent us was very rude.) This makes no sense to me in the slightest. If I am being charged full wholesale cost for brand new products -- and am trying to sell high quality, brand new products to my customers to offset that cost – then my customers and I deserve to know up front when used items and returns are being sent to us instead. WE ALL DESERVE TO KNOW THAT INFORMATION. Needless to say, I rejected this ridiculous offer and we’re slowly phasing this brand out of our store.

Example: Brand Z has been routinely over-charging us for shipping by $3 – $5 on every order we place with them. (That was about $400 in excessive charges per month.) When our AP folks brought this to their attention, they denied it and gave us the run around for months, all the while continuing to overcharge us. We even offered to arrange for them to ship to us via our own UPS account to get around this issue, offering them an “out” so they wouldn’t have to admit what they were doing in writing. It wasn’t until I began pulling the videos off my channel and the content about their brand off my sites that they finally relented. This took months to resolve and did little to restore my faith in this crazy, predatory industry. 

I could keep going. These examples all happened in 2019 and involved FIVE different brands that we carry. I have 7+ years of stories like this. When I tell my business-owner friends about what I deal with, they assure me that they would never try to steal my business model . . . and I absolutely believe them.

 

Confession #7: Some of the brands we carry promote the same predatory business practices that we work very hard to help people avoid.

This is a cold hard fact that was initially very difficult to wrap my head around.

I opened my store in 2012 (though it didn’t really get off the ground until 2013) specifically because I had been ripped off by online and in-person wig stores and wanted to provide a safer, more ethical and transparent alternative for people who, like me, just wanted to know more about what they were buying before putting any money into it.

In 2016, I began to realize that the problems were much deeper than at the retail level. This was the year that I attended a training seminar hosted by one of the brands we carry.  This episode changed my perceptions forever.

I call this the “Say Yes to the Dress” scenario. Have you ever seen this show? The gist is that in every episode, a commissioned sales person makes a little speech to the camera that goes something like, “I know that this $12,000 Pnina Tornai wedding gown is way outside of this customer’s $500 budget. If I put this on her, everything else will feel like cheap, hot garbage. BUT, it’s everything she’s looking for, so let’s do it anyhow!” The bride predictably falls in love with the dress she cannot afford. She either begs her mom and dad for the extra moolah, she spends the honeymoon money to get a better dress, or she leaves in tears without her dream gown, which will most likely haunt her forever as reminder that she isn’t rich. (Or at least that is the story arc they generally run on this show.)

Anyhow, this is a pretty common emotionally-manipulative sales tactic that is used by realtors, muscle-car salespeople, wedding dress shop owners, and wig boutiques because if they can grab you by your emotions, and harness your insecurities, they are betting that they can grab you by the wallet too.

This is relevant, I promise.

A major presentation at this wig company’s training seminar involved a “how-to” sales presentation in which they specifically stated, in no ambiguous or uncertain terms, that brick and mortar wig store owners should put one of their 100% hand-tied human hair units on new customers, regardless of budget, because everything else thereafter will feel less real, and cheap, by comparison.

I have profound medical hair loss. I spent most of my life very poor and barely scraping to get by. I couldn't afford to pay myself for the first 4 years we were in business. I even had to try to crowd source money to go to the doctor for my PCOS meds back in the day, something that people still trudge up in an effort to make fun of me for the fact that I'm self made. (Which is something I'm actually quite proud of.) 

This sales approach was a gut-punch to me on an extreme level. I raised my hand and made the obvious objection, something to the effect of, “Yikes.”

The teacher of this course, which I must reiterate was designed to teach retailers how to promote this very well-known wig brand, responded with, “It’s fine. As women, we find a way to get what we want.”

CRINGE. That incident has stuck out in my mind for years as a symptom of one of the things I object to the most about this industry. It is incredibly sexist and intentionally manipulates women into over-spending at a time in their lives when they are sick and vulnerable to the exploitation.

“As women, we find a way to get what we want.” 

As a woman, I want a cure for cancer, PCOS, diabetes, hypothyroid, lupus, and all sorts of other life-altering and disfiguring conditions. As women, I’m sure we all want to be treated with sensitivity, dignity, and respect in our time of need. We want support. We also want to be seen as more than a payday. We want to buy things without condescension or humiliation. We want to be treated with kindness, even by sales people.

 

Confession #8: There are just too many stores selling the same products.

This is a brutal business to try to break into. That should, intuitively, make a lot of sense to anyone reading this. All of the stores carrying these products compete for the same handful of keywords (SEO/SMO). We’re also all competing with each other for the same small pool of potential customers. There are only so many women with medical hair loss and women with hair typically get more bang for their buck by shopping fashion wigs than buying pricey medical ones.

Most industries put a cap on how many new wholesale accounts they open in a year. Not this industry. In fact, some of the largest brands have established a separate money-making cottage industry that consists of training small business owners (usually women) on how to enter this online medical wig market only to see them wash out and go out of business quickly due to how difficult and competitive it is. (A fact they generally downplay if they mention it at all.) It is extremely similar to the way that MLMs (Multi-Level Marketing franchises) self-promote: “Look at how fun it is to be your own boss! Just don’t pay attention to those pesky numbers or do any analytics and you’ll be fine. Don’t worry about how expensive and demanding the work is 24/7. FREEDOM! And, don’t you know Girl Power?  [Insert a bunch of emojis here] All women are best friends, even your competition. No one is ever mean. Our products are life changing. You’re helping people! Tell all your friends. #bossbabe.”

When I got their company Christmas card this year, it was pretty obvious that their offices look like the Taj Mahal compared to my little warehouse space. It’s like a cult, but it definitely sells them some hair.

 

Confession #9: Classic rookie business cliché mea culpa – the constant couponing is brutal.

We would be much better off if we didn’t have to constantly run sales. However, that precedent existed way before we got into this industry. In essence, we have to discount the products because if we don’t, we know that customers will go to another store that will. Most customers (though not all) are more loyal to the particular brands they like than they are to our store, regardless of the amount of work we perform on their behalf or perks we throw at them.

 

Confession #10: Most of the products we sell are made in the same factories, regardless of the brand.

I have to be careful talking about this one and need to keep the topic broad due to some of my contracts with the brands I carry. Just know that there is a lot more in common with the top synthetic wig brands than they’d like you to know. Virtually none of these brands own their own manufacturing and they share factories with competing brands. We can also make things in these same factories – and we are. Marketing is a battle of perceptions, a war of ideas. If they can make you think their products are superior, and make you really believe it whether or not it’s true, then that becomes the new “truth.” Welcome to post-modern America. Marketing is king.

  

Confession #11: You will have fun on social media in this niche if you enjoy helping people, but Heaven help you if you think you will get rich making videos or Instagram posts about these products.

If you ever wondered why some influencers in this space are trying to branch out into other sectors of beauty marketing, this is the biggest reason. You don’t pull in new customers for the stores you work for if you’re talking to the same small group of people every week. None of us have a large audience because medical wigs, as an interest, are such a small part of the overall beauty industry. Heck, medical wigs are a small part of the overall wig industry too. No one who does social media in this niche is going to get rich making that content. It’s why I never even bothered to monetize my content on YouTube. It’s math, not magic. The numbers just don’t pan out. There is literally no point to monetizing content in this niche because it’s such a narrow interest. The numbers just aren’t there to make the kind of money some people imagine we’re all making.

The activities on social media that result in the most views, likes, and engagement, are not the same things that will help people the most when they’re searching for their hair. All it does is perpetuate the same makeover fantasy tropes that allow beauty brands to prey on women who are down on their appearance. It may feel fun and helpful, but that is because you have to step outside the bubble to see the manipulation at work. This is an instance where personal anecdotes of user experience are not reality. Making you feel good (or angry, outraged, or anxious) is part of the game. You need to feel something in order to buy. That’s been a part of advertising since before the fall of Rome, because it works.

Studies show over and over again how FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and click-bait tactics –particularly on YouTube and Instagram – make people feel worse about themselves over time, regardless of how compelling it may feel when you watch it. This may not be the case for everyone, but the effect is something that has been observed on a large scale, measured, and duplicated in multiple academic studies.

My opinion is that if your goals on social media are to be popular or rich, then you cannot say with a straight face that “helping people” is your primary motive, particularly when the solution to “help” is to make them buy more stuff. Plus, from a business stand point, this is not a good sales tactic. It’s predatory and I have to believe that women are smarter than that. Also, it generally just results in people buying stuff out of curiosity and then promptly returning it, which is a money and time sink that is neither profitable nor worth the time. It might capture market share, but at what cost – and to whom?

  

Confession #12: I am constantly torn between the need to meet client expectations on social, doing what’s right for them long term to help build better relationships, and the need to make a profit. (It’s a delicate tight rope walk.)

My ethical stance on this is something that has actually hurt my business. I would probably be making more money if I were chasing that sweet, sweet paper more aggressively. However, I do things at the service of my customers that lose me sales all the time, such as avoiding posting new content if the products are sold out and coding my website so it is difficult to order backordered products. These things cost my business a lot of potential sales every year, but I still choose to stand by my principles in the hope that there is a middle ground between customer interests, ethics, and profits.

Even though I obviously need to sell things to survive, I do not think this is a sin as long as I’m open about it. I think I can do this ethically and transparently. I am very outspoken about my opinions in this regard and it has DEFINITELY made me a lot of “frenemies” in this industry.

I get it. No one likes a party pooper, especially when there’s a monetary incentive to keep the fantasies coming. That’s not me, though. I got into this industry precisely because I hated the predatory nonsense that companies use to sell wigs to people with medical problems. It pains me on a level that is difficult to describe when I feel that I am getting close to becoming what I hate. I gut-check myself about this CONSTANTLY.

The emotional manipulations and the glamor fantasies are not for everyone and I’ve always been a skeptic. I specifically went into business for myself and made my store for people who are also skeptical of the marketing used all over the beauty world to push products. Someone has to be the jarring splash of cold water to the face of the medical wig biz. Most people are too afraid of the criticism and appearing “unlikeable” to stand up for what’s right. If not me, who? 

 

Confession #13: The work we perform on social media does more to promote the brands of the products in the content than the store, which is paying for that content.

A YouTube video of a wig sponsored by my store, for example, is just as likely to result in a sale for a competing store as it is to result in a sale for my own store, which paid for that content. This makes the expense of making that content kind of pointless under the current business model, wherein I pay to make this content out of my own pocket and generally do not get any additional exposure or even free promotional products from the brands I am promoting. Utilizing other influencers in this space – even if I like them and their work – is also pointless for the same reason.

I will continue to make YouTube videos. This will mostly be informational content or videos about my own product launches. I am very open to the idea of launching a Patreon to crowd source videos that discuss other brands if my audience is interested in helping us continue with that. However, I am done paying to promote other brands (Estetica, Jon Renau, Raquel Welch, etc.) out of my own pocket. Without compensation to keep the video production going, I can’t justify the ongoing time sink or personal expense of making videos for other people’s brands and products.

 

Confession #14: The women’s beauty biz is not so pretty behind the scenes.

A lot has changed since we opened our store in 2012. I have come to realize all too painfully that a lot of folks who tell me that they are my friend are only doing this for personal gain: either to sell my secrets to competitors, to use me to build up their own status online, or to use me and my store as a vehicle to make money for themselves.

I understand that business is brutal like that, but the worst offenders made it very personal.

One of the most public examples of this “broke up” with my store to work for a competitor after years of attaining advice and intimate information about my store, software, camera and lighting, and social media strategies as one of our employees.

When she applied way back in 2016 to work for our help desk, I was reluctant to hire her because she stated in her cover letter that she wanted to open a wig store of her own. She won me over and agreed to sign a non-compete agreement. This is complicated, so I will cut to the chase. Because I am chronically over-worked, I didn’t notice that she failed to send me a new version of the non-compete agreement when she moved from a position on our help desk to making videos for us. SHE REMEMBERED, and later used this as leverage to work for a competitor when she realized that no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t afford to buy her YouTube channel at the price she wanted. So, after over $20,000 invested in helping her build an audience and sharing my strategies and secrets with her, she sold me out because I didn’t have enough money to pay her what she wanted. She also tried to poach my video editor, but that’s just the cherry on top. The hypocrisy and back-stabbing nature of all of this is completely jarring, especially since she continues to portray herself as “a professional” while she conveniently omits any details about what she did to me and my store. Last time I checked, the “professional” move when a competitor makes you an offer is to inform the person you’re currently partnered with, particularly if they’re paying you. (Like my video editor, who came to me right away when she approached him.)

When I asked her about the spiteful appearance of the timing, she informed me that it was intentional and that I’m “so busy,” that she knew this would get my full attention because I was taking time off for my wedding. Yes! You read that correctly. She intentionally injected this into my life THE DAY AFTER MY WEDDING because she knew that is when it would have maximum impact.  

Something magical happens when you say you’re a business owner. You lose all right to expect to be treated with human decency. The abuse and isolation are intense. But you know what? Life isn’t fair. We all know this already.

I will confess that I wasn’t super nice after this happened. I completely freaked out after reading her emails. I was devastated and not particularly good at hiding my emotions at the time. I contacted a lawyer and spent the week of my wedding trying to see what my options were now that one of my best “friends” on social media, someone I took a chance on against my better instincts and was relying on to help me communicate with my audience, had decided to use that job to make a name for herself at the very literal expense of me and my store. She had used the audience as leverage to make a better deal for herself with a competitor. She’ll never admit to how cut-throat this was. If she talks about it at all, she’ll only play the victim. Owning her money-motivated behavior would never jive with her well-crafted “professional” persona. 

These women knew what they were doing and they knew it would hurt me. It’s not that they didn’t care. It was part of the strategy. Rather than play as dirty as they have, I must admit that I haven’t got the stomach for it and I just want to break away from it. If that was their goal: mission accomplished. I am already bored of this stupid “Mean Girls” crap. (Just call me Janis Ian.)

By the way, the owner of this store has a personal beef with me that goes back several years. I used to be much more active on social media but had to stop because we got so busy that I seriously didn’t have time for it. (That’s a pretty persistent theme in my life.) Before I stopped hanging out on social, I was a very active part of several private online Facebook groups. I had a strict personal policy of not selling to people in these groups because it seemed predatory, particularly if the people were in distress about their hair loss and needed help. (This is another pretty persistent theme in my life.) The owner of this store did not have a similar approach. One of the mods of a Facebook group we were both in complained to me via DM that this store owner was spamming the group with coupons and she wanted me to help stop it. (I have since learned not to intervene because it makes me a target.) Here’s what happened: I wrote a post in the group to put this store owner in her place by running a steeper discount and, in what in hindsight was a condescending over-reach on my part, I suggested that if she wanted to blast a private group with coupons for her own store, she should do it in a group of her own. So, she started one and began a years-long active campaign to poach my collaborators and target my store specifically to build up her own brand. I firmly believe she enjoys the gratification of winning the battle of who can be the most vindictive. It’s an easy game to win, though. I don’t really do much to fight back because I just don’t have the interest.

My smaller private group doesn’t allow the people in it to diss the competition. I don’t need to put others down to lift myself up. I do, however, have a right to explain what happened here because it hurts my business to let them get away with it. Now that the story is out, I have no intention of repeating it. I am not a bully. I have already moved on. I also don’t want to drag my entire YouTube audience through all that drama and negativity. Anyone with eyes can see that I am the frequent target of online bullying at the hands of other full-grown women. I just ignore it, understanding that there are other agendas and money motives involved that are out of my control, and keep moving forward.

I also believe that competitors with deeper pockets than everyone else involved in these episodes stoke these fires on social media because if we’re fighting each other, we aren’t competing with them. It is absolutely counter-productive for us smaller stores to bicker amongst ourselves. Likewise, I think that some of our suppliers actively encourage this kind of petty bickering among the stores carrying their products because drama drives sales and they don't have to take any of that heat just because they're stoking the flames. If we're fighting each other, we won't think to join forces to push back against them. 

It’s depressing. When I opened the store, my goals were that we could just be nice to each other and have fun. Money messes all of that up.

 

Confession #15: The beauty industry is ugly, but some people are genuinely beautiful souls in spite of it.

Before moving onto the next confession, I would also like to take a moment to express my gratitude to the handful of wig store owners that my team and I have interacted with that are as sweet in real life as they appear. These folks are a refreshing breath of fresh air who manage to stay out of that nonsense altogether. They’re like Jedi masters and I wanted to acknowledge them for their magic.

Michelle from Mimo wigs is someone I wish I could hang with in real life. She makes me want to visit Scotland. I sincerely hope that this industry treats her better than what I have experienced so far. Patti from Patti’s Pearls is a class act all the way. We’ve not really interacted much, but I have all the respect in the world for someone who has been doing this for more than a minute and hasn’t resorted to the cut-throat interpersonal tactics that have soured me on my own experience. The owners of Gallery of Wigs and Elegant Wigs are also incredibly professional and nice. So, while I have some sincere objections to how some folks have conducted themselves in the mad dash to be the most popular people on social media, it is reassuring to know that some folks stay out of that and keep their focus where it belongs: their customers.

EDIT: I also wanted to express my gratitude to some of the neutral influencers on social who are really only in it to help people and are passionate about the products. A great example of this is Atypical60 (Cathe). She's never worked for our store, but is incredibly nice and very appreciated by me and my team. Rachel and Kathleen (who have collaborated with us for some time) are also genuinely sweet. There are more good eggs out there than bad ones. 

 

Confession #16: I have deeper obligations than just this store.

Most of you reading this are women. We hold up half the sky and have the weight of the world on both shoulders. I am no exception. 

One of the reasons I went into business for myself was to have the freedom to travel back and forth to the UK. (I’m American and my husband, Nigel, is English.) My mother-in-law is an 87-year-old widow and Nigel is her only child. She is currently living alone in a cramped 2-storey home in the UK. It bothers me literally every day to think of her spending her twilight years alone. She’s prone to falling. I’m sure many of you can understand how stressful this situation is.

I am also the sole money earner in my household with a husband who is financially dependent on me until his Green Card is approved. We’re both middle-aged and have chronic health issues. (He has rheumatoid arthritis and I have PCOS.) I’m self-employed, so the expense of our insurance and taxes are substantial. My student loan repayments are $1400 a month. Add the regular burdens of the business, housing, utilities, and all of life’s various expenses, and that equals a lot of stress. I’ll admit, I don’t always handle it well. No need to cry for me, Argentina. I'm working on getting a handle on this stuff a little more every day. 

Hopefully you can understand that when people come to me with childish stuff about how “so-and-so said blah-blah about you on social media,” I have to resist the temptation to ask them not to bother me with gossip.  I know they mean well and I bite my tongue. I do not feel the need, however, to apologize for not caring about the gossip, as I consider my priorities to be more substantial than the high-school politics of worthless online popularity contests. It all seems really cliquish and ridiculously immature when I have bills to pay and a mountain of responsibilities that no one can see.

 

Confession #17: I want to start a family.

I turn 40 in 2020. I came up from some pretty significant poverty and trauma in my life to get where I am now. My mom walked out on me and my brother when I was 17 and he was 13. My dad was in jail at the time for offenses related to an addition to crack cocaine. The extended family avoided us because they unfairly assumed that because our parents were toxic, that we, their offspring, must be toxic too.

They could not have been more wrong. My baby brother and I have grown up to be tough, self-made, rule-loving, law-abiding people who look out for the underdog. My brother is a veteran and has an MBA. Professionally, he fights for the rights of abused kids in the MRDD community. I am very proud of him. Like my little brother, I also put myself through college. In spite of poverty and homelessness, I graduated with a 3.5 and was a member of several honor societies. I was offered a chance to go to graduate school for free at UGA in Georgia. I could go on about my professional and academic credentials, but I’ll save that for my resume.

The greater point is, I have worked my entire life to build up the financial stability and resources to responsibly bring a child into my world. Because I have PCOS, this will involve expensive fertility treatments and hormones. (I know. I’ve been tested by lots of specialists in this regard. It’s IVF or adoption.)

Let’s be real about this: The current stress of this business, and my depression regarding the dissolution of my rose-colored optimism about this industry, is not helping me conceive. No adoption agency would give a child to someone who works as much as I do. Frankly, it would be cruel to the child to make them play second fiddle to my career. I had absentee parents. I cannot in good conscience do that to someone else.

I would also still like to get skin removal surgery someday. My skin is very lax from the loss of over 115 lbs. I have decided to wait until I give conception a try, since pregnancy will undo any skin surgeries I have. Better just do it one time and do it right.

At any rate, the argument I’m trying to make is that changes need to be made to the business for reasons that are both professional and deeply personal.

 

Confession #18: I suffer from depression.

We have a lot of wonderful customers who are experiencing depression and anxiety. Please know: YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Life is hard and can be very unforgiving sometimes. Add a chemical imbalance, stress, or trauma (or all of the above) to the equation, and everyday things can start to feel very painful.

I feel no fear, shame, or stigma in admitting that I also struggle with this. The real shame resides in anyone who uses this admission to hurt me or anyone else brave enough to admit what they’re living with. If this is your truth too, please know that I am on your side.

Most of my issues are most likely due to stress. Perhaps some of it is due to the gastric sleeve. It’s difficult to tell, but I am sure my stress levels don’t help matters much. I sleep poorly and have found it harder to fake enthusiasm for some of the more petty and trivial parts of what I do for a living. It is nearly impossible to see what is due to burn-out or straight-up anhedonia. After reading this blog post, it should be pretty easy to see what that’s all about. My hope is that by removing some of the noise and nonsense from my professional life, I can start to work on healing and find the joy and meaning of my life’s work again.

 

Confession #19: The phones lose us money and I am flirting with abandoning incoming phone calls indefinitely.

I am coming to believe that the phones are a conduit for people to abuse me and my team. We do not generally make money on the calls, even if we’re helping someone place a purchase over the phone. I don’t want to spend too much time complaining about this. The gist is that they’re expensive and I think the only thing more miserable than working in a call center is trying to run one.

I think I would rather invest our money, time, and energy into building more online resources that will prevent people from needing to call us altogether. My hope is that for our die-hard fans and customers, this sounds like an awesome prospect.

 

Confession #20: I want to create a new version of CysterWigs where my professional and personal goals can coexist. I think that I can do this in ways that will benefit everyone.

The second (and shorter) installment of this blog post duo will detail our plans for how we want to make this happen. We’ll be starting 2020 on an epic, positive note. Stay tuned!

 




19 Responses

Michelle Cain-Bielawski
Michelle Cain-Bielawski

January 04, 2020

Hi Heather,

Thank you for sharing this. I’ve mentioned in emails in response to your team’s helpful advice as well as a product review, but I’ll say it again, your spirit, moral compass, ethical practices, and overall impressive business model are largely unparalleled in any business environment I’ve ever encountered and at 50-something years old, I’ve seen a lot. Kudos! I ventured into the Cysterwigs.com world because I also have PCOS and my attitude about my hair loss was driving me to miss out on my life and worse, the lives of my family. You helped with that. Thank you. I did the fertility/IVF/adopt dance, and can say with conviction that you will land where it is best for you, Nigel and the rest of your family. Just as you have built a business with ingenuity and integrity, you will figure out the best path for your family. Just be true to yourself and those you love. The universe has a way of providing for those who are true to their moral compass. Your company is special because of who you are and how you navigate this world. Please know you are appreciated.

Sharon Curry
Sharon Curry

January 03, 2020

Thank you, for being you.

Danielle
Danielle

January 03, 2020

I figured all of the wigs were produced in the same place. They all say Thailand. I have been disgusted with the prices and have scaled back buying and trying new styles. I went back to school. I am sticking to my tried and true styles for the most part due to cost, and the fact that I have a lot of wigs already.
I thought it odd that the most high profile wig reviewer went to work for the competition. I don’t expect people to not be compensated for their time and efforts, but she gives off the impression that she works tirelessly and isn’t compensated. I have just unsubscribed to her content and all related contributors within her group. I am not a newby and don’t derive a lot of benefit from most reviewers anymore anyway. I like looking at real life hair pics on Instagram now. Your reviews and another reviewer named Blondielocks, no longer on YouTube, helped give me the courage to even contemplate wearing a wig. It can be a long road for some, it was for me.
Don’t worry about bringing a child into your hectic life. It will work out! You have a partner, and you two will be amazing as parents. Mine are grown now, and I wish I could get those years back! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy 2020!

Michelle Wilson
Michelle Wilson

January 02, 2020

Loyal customer here (I think I have about 19 as of today). Once I found you, my education and knowledge increased 100%. I have passed it forward to friends here in my retirement community. I do not have any medical hair loss condition, just fine, thin, crappy hair. I will only buy from you because of your openness, honesty and knowing you are a small business. I know personally (as does, my ex-husband, son and grandson) the toll running a small business can take on a person and family. It’s like a widening ripple. I read your part 2 also and am thrilled you are brave enough to be so transparent, and make changes that may not be 100% happily greeted. Bravo for taking action on what is more important. Your loyal fans care so much about you, I hope you feel the love. I want to throw in your loyal staffers too and send them praise and blessings. YOU are a blessing, Heather. Thank you for sharing your passions.

Andrea
Andrea

January 02, 2020

Keeping this short. Mad props, thanks for the honesty and transparency.

I value your site for the video reviews. I liked your idea of having a Patreon account – I would pay to have access to those videos.

Peggy L.
Peggy L.

January 02, 2020

I don’t know what to say other than this: I’m retired & living on a very small fixed income. I do not & would not purchase a wig from anyone but you. You’re a very beautiful human being, Heather. Whatever you need to do to keep your business going and live your best life, I’m all in. If it means paying a bit more for your products, I’ll find a way. What you do to help educate and build up others is simply too important. Thank you sincerely for starting and continuing Cysterwigs.

Tamara l
Tamara l

January 01, 2020

Hi Heather, I read your whole message/blog post today. I just wanted you to know that you are someone whom I would want to hang out with. I have the utmost respect for you, it is so difficult to be a business owner. I ran a business for an owner many years ago and could never imagine how difficult your business must be, knowing how difficult it was in the niche business I ran for 4 years.

Thank you for your candid confessions! I too have depression and over the years have suffered with burnout/motivation/desire this is such a difficult and hidden illness, others can not understand how on the outside I may seem joyful, optimistic and friendly however in my head its another story. I am here with you if you ever want a listening ear.

thank you for your honesty, I hope you work toward those things you desire in the coming years, including a family. I love my children and you will love your too, it is one of the most difficult and rewarding jobs on earth to be a mom. What ever method works for you and Nigel to have the family you desire, I wish you much joy and success.

I am only one little voice but I hope you will see all the good things you inspire and keep up the good work you do. Keep being open and honest and don’t ever give into the mean people out there. I can’t wait to keep up with you in the new year. – Tamara

NOLA ELSON
NOLA ELSON

January 01, 2020

Great letter, Heather. I feel like I’m on your team now!

And, can I say, Karma is a bitch.. because that X-employee (I am guessing I know who she is), now has her videos poached by the cheapy China companies, all over the internet.

You really are a great Business woman. You know all the tricks to selling, and manipulating, and buying on emotions. I have a good friend who has been in the car industry for 4 decades and he used to tell me he loved selling Used cars because he had the only one. If someone liked that car… They couldn’t just walk down the street and see what kind of deal the next dealer would give him, because he had the only one. Unlike new car sales. I always thought this was pretty profound.

It is unconscionable to me to see how the suppliers are treating you. I don’t know what your contracts say.. But when I was in manufacturing… (we built computer cables back in the days computers used big cables)… when a customer asked us for a product we didn’t carry.. but I could buy it at a discounted price from some suppliers we cultivated…… We had the factory, private label the shipping tag, then we would put our margin on it, get a solid time frame for shipping from factory… get back to the customer, tell them the new price (our cost + added profit margin for us), and have the factory direct ship to the client. Worked like a charm for a decade. We hardly ever touched the products we resold this way. Sounds like the wig manufacturers will ship out damaged goods as new though, Sounds like they need a new awakening. ie as in maybe good customer service to take complaints, get pics, then tell the customer to return to the factory…. You’d need to figure out what you’d ding the supplier on his shoddy product and your extra time to straighten it all out as.

Ha You made me laugh with your reference to: the only thing worse than working in a Call Center is running one. I worked at a Call Center for about 6 months, right before I went to England. I can attest

Here is something I highly recommend… You have to carve out time for yourself and your own life. I started my Pet Sitting and Dog Walking business in 2005. The only thing I wanted was to see how much money I could make AND not to hire employees. Sorry, but I was a Manager for years and the paperwork and personality issues drove me away from this. In 2008, before the downturn really hit… I figured out I had taken 8 days, for the entire previous year, to do anything for myself that was not pet related. While this was good financially… My life sucked. I started raising my prices so I kept only the best clients and catered to their needs, and being always available for them. I think you are on the right pathway.

BTW, My Brother in Law owns an English Pub in Thailand. He married a Thai lady. Anytime you want to go over to Thailand to check out factories… let me know.. Maybe I can help.

All the best my friend. The one thing I learned in my own business is keep making it fun for yourself. If you hate getting up and going into work.. You need to stop and change something.

Nola

Annie Foss
Annie Foss

January 01, 2020

I read every word with great empathy and understanding. I have 20+ years experience working for companies selling through catalog and web (no brick and mortar), including cutthroat sales channels. Over ten years were spent in a call center, with most recent years in supply chain, procurement specifically. Vendor tactics you wrote about were reminiscent of a telescope vendor we too eventually dropped for similar reasons. I could go on and on about the connections made in all that you shared, including some of the personal things – you are definitely not alone. But – I have never been a business owner who had to bear the brunt of all things, including all the risk, financial and otherwise, for a business to succeed. You have my deepest respect and admiration for all that you do, with honesty and integrity in a cutthroat world. You inspire me to be better and do better. I am fiercely loyal to you and CysterWigs. I wish nothing but good things for you, your staff, your business, your family and your health, both financial and physical. Looking forward to 2020 with you and all you’ve done for my wig sisters and me.

Stephanie
Stephanie

January 01, 2020

Heather, your videos have helped me in figuring out wigs and what I want more than any other. Although, I will admit that I also have an online crush on Michelle from Mimo and want to hangout with her too. Your positivity and the fact that you are actually really trying to help people really does shine through.
I will admit that I bought one wig, one time from another retailer (besides my local store which I have resorted to occasionally when I need something immediately). That experience made me really appreciate your business model so very much. I didn’t know until then that some of these other stores don’t list that things are out of stock or on back order indefinitely so they get your money and then you are stuck waiting, possibly for months, for a wig that you really need now as your others are starting to have better days. I don’t have the finances to purchase a lot of backups for myself so I usually wait until I desperately need a new one.
Knowing that what I order from you is actually in stock and also a piece that is of a quality you vouch for makes me trust your site far more than others. It is what has made me loyal to your store. I wish I was in a position to buy more from you and I have actually made a pledge to myself to buy a wig a month this year so I don’t get in a position where I am so desperate that I spend twice as much on a wig from a brick and mortar store, negating the fact that I was “saving up”.

Please know that despite all the negativity in this business you are actively helping women like me, with autoimmune driven hair loss. You have given me hope when I felt at a loss. You have have helped me feel like I am making informed decisions in a world of a million choices. You have made my life easier and more positive, and hopefully you can continue to refine your business into something that makes yours easier and more positive as well.

Audrey
Audrey

January 01, 2020

Just a HUGE heartfelt thank you. I have NEVER worked with a better company-your staff, just like you, are outstanding. I stay pretty hidden and quiet but I just had to tell you how VERY MUCH you are appreciated and HOW MUCH EASIER you have made this wig journey for me. I am so grateful. Thank you! Thank you!

Serine
Serine

January 01, 2020

Sending hugs and thank you for your hard work. You have built a safe space for us to learn, be inspired, and sometimes, when the light is juuuuust right, inspire others. I wish you all the success this year, and most of all, happiness.

Kathy
Kathy

January 01, 2020

Hi Heather: I am crying as I read your post. I am a former online retailer who “didn’t make it” – not of wigs – but part of the “beauty industry”. What you say is all so very true and I hate that this is what has become of the online shopping world. Bless you as you move forward – I’m cheering you on – as one Georgia Peach to another :)!

Stacey
Stacey

January 01, 2020

I shop for wigs exclusively with you and stand with you in this crazy, cut throat world.

Marian Howse
Marian Howse

January 01, 2020

Thank you so much for sharing that. I actually read all of it and it was eye opening for sure. Even just selling wigs that didn’t work out for me (FB groups), I was attacked by a business owner who spread lies about me and threatened me. It shocked and hurt me deeply, I spent the better part of a Saturday sobbing when I should have been enjoying being home with my family. I think I would have an anuerism doing what You do, you are crazy tough. You have my prayers for peace and joy, and by any means, children! Thank you for all of the wonderful helpful videos you’ve done.

Catherine
Catherine

January 01, 2020

As a now-retired small biz owner in a cut-throat world (yoga), I hear you. Burn out is real. “Mean girl” syndrome is real. Trying to take advantage is real. You’re doing the right thing. Also, you have always reminded me of my cherished daughter…a smart as a whip geek who also suffers from depression. Take care of yourself and know how much you and your work are deeply appreciated.

Patricia English
Patricia English

January 01, 2020

Dear Heather, I was introduced to wigs by a friend of mine who was wearing them while her hair grew out. I did have a human hair fall when I was in high school. I was tired of coloring my hair so I let it grow out to it’s white. The wig idea really sounded good. I can change my color within seconds. 3 or so years ago I saw one of your videos and felt you were a very honest person. So needless to say, I only purchase from you. I have of course, looked at those other stores since being one of your customers and noticed that they sell wigs that are discontinued. Can you imagine the “box” hair someone would get? After reading this blog I feel you are one strong determined gal and those people who gossip are totally jealous of your success and followers. It sounds like you have a struggle every day to deal with those wholesalers. I have no idea where you get your strength from and a really hope and pray that 2020 will be a less stressful year. Looking forward to reading your follow up blog. Love ya! Pat

Gina R
Gina R

January 01, 2020

I have always loved your honesty. Many times while reading this my heart ached and my eyes teared up. I know not your intention.
To read all you go through for your customers is amazing. Not having a business I had very little idea of what happened. Not that I’m naïve to think it’s easy but just don’t know.
I appreciated everything you do for your customers and my heart aches for you having to put up with crap like you are. By the way can I say crap? It’s better than what I wanted to say. 😊. Sorry
I for one am up for anything that makes your life easier less stressful and can bring you the family you want and deserve. As a mom of a 31 year old 14 year old and 12 year old, business might be easier. Sorry I had to try and make someone smile in my sarcastic way. It’s a job you’re never ready for or know what your doing but good god it’s the best most terrifying thing you can do. It has the best pay off as well. For that I wish you and Nigel all the luck in the world. The less stress the better off you will be. Easier said than done but just know at least for me I am behind you 100% to help you reach your goals for 2020.
I hope that didn’t come off like you needed my approval.
I don’t think I’m far off when I say A LOT of your customers love you and wish you the best.
Thank you again for all you do and the battles you take on for everyone.
Gina

Leighmur
Leighmur

December 31, 2019

Heather, your videos were so helpful when I first starting wearing wigs I thought, “If I’m going to benefit from this woman’s efforts the least I can do is shop at her store.” I am so glad I made that decision. Shopping at CysterWigs is fun and easy, and Moon Kitty Mixup is a great hang. Thanks for all you do, and for your honesty and transparency. You are appreciated! Happy New Year—can’t wait to see what 2020 brings us all.

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