The two-day expo will take place September 29th and September 30th, 2019 at The Marriott Hotel at Newark Airport,
Tomeka James started the Extensions Expo 10 years ago to fill a void in the haircare community. She believed in her vision so much, she financed the first few events on her own dime. The two-day trade show is for styling professionals and students who seek education on quality hair extensions, beauty processes, and business training. With over 53 exhibitor/ vendor tables at the expo, stylists, students, and beauty entrepreneurs are exposed to the tools they need to succeed in the beauty business. And employment opportunities through VIP speed networking opportunities and an on-site employment lounge.
We caught up with Tomeka, who revealed her inspiration starting the expo and how far it’s come in a decade.
HelloBeautiful: What inspired you to start the Extensions Expo?
Tomeka James: I realized there was a space not being filled within the haircare educational community, so I decided to own that space. There are hair loss/replacement events but nothing for the basic to the advanced weaving techniques. I sat down and created a name for the event then began the planning process immediately. We have bonded weaves, sewn weaves, braidless weaves, closures, frontals, wig making, partial units and so much more. I wanted professionals to stop winging it with their techniques and really provide their clients with exceptional services that take care of the hair & scalp. So many hairstylists are self-taught and this happened because they had nowhere to go for formal training on these kinds of techniques. The hair industry moves so fast in terms of styles, new products and its growing day by day. I wanted an annual home base to update and educate stylists the right way, introduce new brands to stylists and more.
HelloBeautiful: How hard was it to get support and funding?
Tomeka James: Year to year it has been extremely tough to get funding and companies to tap into this amazing world of weaving/extensions. Many of the years were financed out of my own pocket due to my belief in the need for the expo within the hair space. As years progressed we began to catch the attention of larger brands. I have been lucky to have Investors Bank, Nioxin, Outre, Sebastian, It’s A Wig, ISIS hair, Tomeka’s Beauty, Curls, and several others have contributed as Sponsors and recognized a need for an expo like this. Year by year we are growing within the space and funding is increasing. It took time, however, our expo is now at the level where many do see the benefit and want to add their name to the roster of participating brands.
HelloBeautiful: How has the expo grown since it’s inaugural event?
Tomeka James: The very first expo had 116 attendees. I was so proud. I was super excited to see proof that what I believed that people needed was a real need. Our cap has been 2000 attendees so far. We have added competitions, just for fun events, celebrity appearances, Panel discussions, more technique classes, Hands-on experiences, business opportunities, location has changed ( I dreamt of hosting at the Marriott- we are finally within that venue space and have been there for 3 years now), bus rides to the show have been arranged, organizations have brought teens to either have their hair done or to assist us at the show, Give a Wig was born to support Cancer survivors/ Single moms to get a free wig, and so much more. It has grown exponentially and now people fly in from all over the United States to attend. Which shows that it has now become a staple event within the haircare, weaving and beauty industry.
HelloBeautiful: How do you measure the success of the expo vs. your expectations?
Tomeka James: My goal is to reach about 10,000 people in attendance each year. My reality hasn’t caught up with this vision just yet, however as with an entrepreneurial journey it takes time and I know that it will. I feel completely accomplished when it comes down to the elevated success of each attendee. I have heard so many great things from self-esteem boosts, business income increases for stylists and their salons/ businesses, major connections with other professionals, new vendors, and brands- all the way to a clear and newfound understanding of what they were doing wrong. Success stories flood into my inbox telling me that the Extensions Expo helped them with directions on what they must do next, and how exposure to new hair techniques have been real moneymakers for them. Some tell me that a drive has been created within them post-event and more. Those are the goals for the expo so that’s where we truly measure success and always will-in what out attendees and brands get out of it by participating and attending.
Lyrical Hair and The Extensions Expo have also partnered to include a charitable aspect with “Give a Wig!” Cancer survivors and Single Moms can receive a free wig style that’s cut/styled by a professional stylist at Extensions Expo by simply registering online, here.
Purchase tickets for the Extensions Expo.