The bad news arrived via Instagram: Pirated versions of Noel Durity's innovative Twist it Up comb appeared in grocery stores. Most entrepreneurs would quickly seek legal advice, perhaps writing a highly worded letter. Durity channeled Liam Neeson instead. "I decided to confront them," he says.
A solo tour of 100 stores in 24 cities – from New York down the East Coast and ending in Texas – netted him 500 knockoffs of his unit that looked like a tennis racket for teasing Afro-centric hair. He also collected more than 40 invoices, a paper trail for the source of the knockoffs. For a budding businessman looking in the mirror and seeing a superhero, it was just another day at the office.
Finding Out Durity, 31. you have to go all the way back to the start when he was born two and a half months premature – his extended hospital became almost bankrupt for his family, who had no insurance. "He's my million dollar baby," says Durity's mother, Cheryl.
They can take our swag, they can take our music, (but) the one thing that cannot be repeated that most of us hesitate to embrace is our hair.
The youngest of three, Noel was born in San Fernando in Trinidad and Tobago and raised there and in the United States on a strict diet of discipline and accountability. Cheryl worked in the medical processing industry, and Durity's father, Julian, conducted his business as an entrepreneur – operating Xerox copiers and venturing into the prepaid credit card business. Summer holidays for the children with Durity included four hours of daily reading and multiplication.
Noel caught the entrepreneurial failure of his father, who taught him to "respect your elders, but always say your mind." Cheryl, meanwhile, emphasized "discipline." My friends are not his friends. You call your teacher Miss Cathy – not Cathy. "
Although Durity showed confidence outward, he carried some uncertainties that he tried to cover by growing his hair long to cover his brow. Again, it is related that he was a premature infant when Cheryl says, "They had to create IV's in his head. … It was very hard to watch him fight and fight. "
So convinced that his product would be a game changer for people with afro-centered hair – the black hair care market generates an estimated $ 2.5 billion a year – Durity had the temerity to try on the TV show Shark Tank during a live casting- call Las Vegas in December 2017. He was rejected a few times before coming to the show. By that time, he had already made $ 140,000 in sales. "Not to sound cocky or what, but I wasn't nervous," he says the day he agreed to beat sharks. “The way I was raised, you don't get nervous about people. What should I be afraid of? "
Durity had hoped that judges Mark Cuban or Daymond John would buy in. Based on his own research, Durity believed that Kevin “Mr. Wonderful "O'Leary didn't understand the product, while Lori Greiner tended to invest in ideas or products" for the masses. "
Durity, along with close friends Derrall Brownlee and Adrian Brown, were among the first to ask how he had his hair twisted. After a high-energy and choreographed pitch, Durity couldn't have written the answer better: Cuban and John teamed up to $ 225,000 for a 25 percent stake in the company.
And yet, for a moment, the loquacious child who was taught to speak up could not. When the other judges urged him to accept the deal, he shot back: "Yo, can I take the moment in?" Then he finally replied, "Deal!"
Beating a national television business deal made him reflect on some tough teenage years as Durity struggled with his my-way-or-the-highway-thinking mother, especially after his parents divorced. He also flashed to his lowest point when, at 22, he dropped out of Cal State Fullerton, 18 credits, shortly after earning his bachelor's degree, penniless after putting together his beloved two-door Saab. He had to move home to Corona, California.
This fight formed an entrepreneur bold enough to, like a 2016 San Diego-based real estate agent, create his Twist It Up Comb after realizing that he was using an actual tennis racket in a circular motion to twist his cuddled & # 39 ; fro was not only functional, it didn't take time either.
And now? Twist It Up's lean and insignificant operation – with just a dedicated person on social media, a photographer and an external CPA – is on track to turn $ 1.2 million into sales this year, steadily rising from 2018 ($ 410,000) and 2017 ($ 150,000). And he has the famous entrepreneur and investor Cuban in his corner.
"Noel is a grinding machine and smart – one who loved and trusted his product," says Cuban. “I like Noel. He knows his goal and comes after it. (Twist It Up) has no air; it is the best product on the market. Customers love it and people who know I'm involved stop me to tell me how much they love it. I just wish I owned more of the business. "
Like Neeson's characters, Durity's head remains pivotal – looking for evil guys and pirates. Competition is always lurking, but he feels confident that his utility patent, which has language that limits the creation of any device like a racket that is woven and used to twist city hair, is airtight. His main competitors are Curl Sponge and Afro Twist Comb.
And what's next for Durity? "I want to start an academy for entrepreneurs," he says, "teaching teens how to start a business from scratch, just like I did."
In the face of Twist It Up, Durity has grown well into making pitches – while always being aware of the messages he sends to people who look like him.
"They can take our swag, they can take our music, they can take all that, but at the end of the day, one thing that can't be repeated is that most of us hesitate to embrace, our hair," says Durity. "I want them to understand: Bear it proud (and) be proud of it."
When asked if she's surprised by her son's gumption, Cheryl, now retired, can only smile.
"We are very proud of him," she says. "You know, he went through a lot to get there."
Too many twists and turns.