Hair loss creates business opportunity
Former model Janine Antram has grown a business after her hair wouldn't. She talks to Kashka Tunstall about loss and gain.
Just over two years ago, Janine Antram went to her six-weekly standing appointment at her longtime hairdresser to get her tresses coloured.
The former model and fitness trainer liked to keep her signature golden locks looking good, but at this appointment her hairdresser noticed a bald patch the size of a fingernail. A few days later the tiny patch had become the size of a golf ball and within four weeks she had lost her hair completely.
The Cambridge woman was diagnosed with alopecia, a hair loss condition linked to stress and hormone levels that she had never heard of before and for which there is no cure.
One of the first things she did after the diagnosis was get a wig that looked like her own head of hair.
It was essential for her confidence after losing something women are so finicky about, Antram said.
She took her mother with her to look at wigs in Hamilton but the experience was disappointing as she struggled to find one that suited her.
"I was blonde, they were dark. I was long, they were short . . . I just broke into tears," she says.
"I just couldn't find anything that looked like me."
After trawling the internet to find a wig that resembled what her hair had looked like she hit on an American website that fitted the bill.
It was cheaper to buy in bulk so Antram borrowed $500 to buy five wigs from the site, kept one and put the other four on Trade Me. Within 24 hours, they had all sold at a profit and Janine saw the beginnings of a business venture.
Two years later, the 40-year-old has a thriving business and SS Hairwear, named after her two daughters Samantha and Sarah, recently won the Excellence in Emerging Business title at the Waipa Business Network Awards.
Antram has more than 200 wigs in different colours and styles, catering for more than 500 customers on her database.
"I wanted to help women find wigs that made them feel amazing . . . it's about inspiring confidence in women and that's exactly what it does."
She has gone from ordering from wig companies to getting her own wigs made, narrowing down her range to 20 different styles that clients want most.
The business sells a mixture of synthetic wigs and the more versatile human hair versions, which go for between $200 and $850.
She sells her products on the internet and takes clients, from five-year-olds to 80-year-olds, at her home in Cambridge. Half her clients have medical hair loss conditions while the remainder just enjoy wearing wigs, she said.
Christchurch is her biggest market with a big jump in alopecia sufferers since the earthquakes.
The business is booming says Antram, but she did not discuss earnings.
It has recently been government-registered - people who lose their hair with medical conditions are entitled to claim $2300 for wig expenses and Antram is on the approved list of sellers - and new clients include the American television show filmed in Auckland Spartacus: Blood and Sand and Peter Jackson's Hobbit film set in Wellington.
Her 17-year-old daughter has also moved into the hair business, selling extensions to school friends and is making her own tidy profit.
Antram's long-term business plan is to provide her wig range in outlets throughout New Zealand, a project she is just getting off the ground.
"I just provide the service I wish was available to me when I lost my hair," she says.
- © Fairfax NZ News