Mireille Liong-A-Kong, a Suriname native, graduated with a Master Degree in Computer Science from the University of Amsterdam and relocated from Holland for Brooklyn New York in 2003. Motivated by the hair and scalp issues that a majority of Black women face, Liong started writing with the purpose to redeem the beauty of natural hair with hopes to solve this problem. Her debut, also the first Dutch book about African hair care, was sold out within two months. Going Natural, How to Fall in Love with Nappy hair, her American book, tops Amazon’s list on the subject of natural hair.
SB-C: Tell us the why behind your business.
ML: Because something desperately needed to be done against hair loss in our community. 73% of Black women are suffering from relaxer induced alopecia, hair loss related to the chemicals we use to straighten our hair. That is disproportional by any measure and no one was talking about it, let alone doig something about it. SB-C: What major challenges did you face when setting up your business and how did you overcome them?
ML: Setting up a business, starting up was fairly easy for me. Since I hold a Master Degree in Computer Science and I had already built websites since 1996, I had a fairly easy start 2002 because I was one of the first. The challenges came later on: how do you deal with expansion and where do you go from there. Not only do you have to plan carefully, you also have to be flexible when it turns out differently.
SB-C: Who has been the greatest influence on you since starting your business and why?
ML: I think my greatest influencers have allways been and will always be my mom and dad. They instilled a foundation in me that just keeps me going. Of course I am inspired by people I meet and the amazing things that people are doing but the real influencers are at home for me.
SB-C: What is the vision for your business and where do you see it five years from now?
ML: The goal of my business has always been to change the perception of natural hair because that is the foundation of everything. If we start perceiving natural hair differently, free from all the stereotypical ideas, we will treat it differently and hair loss will be a lot less. I create projects to fullfil that goal like The Going Natural Hair Show,America's Next Natural Model. Bad Hair Uprooted and very recent whatnaturalslove.com, a marketplace. I am working on franchising some of the projects and in five years hope to see myself doing many of them in the Caribbean and in Africa, sharing my vision on a world stage.
SB-C: Our community motto is share your secrets and share your success. Please share one secret and one success with our community.