If there’s anyone who knows a thing or two about building a mega-successful haircare empire, it’s Tonya Thompson. She is, after all, one-half of the sister duo behind the DreamGirls brand, which consists of two thriving salon locations in California as well as a signature product line that amassed $2.5 million dollars in sales in its first year alone.
With DreamGirls, Thompson and her sister Sharie Wilson have made it their mission to teach Black women how to grow healthy, long hair. Together, they’ve already helped thousands of clients reach their hair goals through their in-salon Healthy Hair Program and their at-home 5-Step Healthy Hair Care System. And, the pair has managed to do so despite working in completely different cities—Thompson runs their Culver City location while Wilson runs their Sacramento location. Impressive, right?
A few weeks ago, The Tease had the pleasure of connecting with Thompson at her salon to learn more about their businesses as well as what clients can expect when they walk through her doors. Ahead, she shares how she and her sister run their respective salons, her most common requests from clients, and what’s on the horizon for DreamGirls.
The Tease: Tell me a little bit about the DreamGirls’ Culver City salon. Is it a different vibe here than at the Sacramento salon?
Tonya Thompson: Yeah, we’re more wild. Sharie would say that we’re wild. My sister will play more gospel music and we play everything in here. Our conversations are wilder and a lot of women talk. Sharie said, “We talked about threesomes and she talked about the Holy Trinity.” But, in terms of the actual salons, it’s the same services at both salons—everything is the same.
With you and Sharie being in two different locations, how do you both coordinate when it comes to running the two salons and working with clients?
Thompson: Well, she kind of runs her salon as her salon and I run things here, even though [together] we’re DreamGirls and do the same things. She has a separate person that does her bookings. And for anyone who just walks in, there’s someone doing all of my bookings. We used to have a front desk person that would answer the phones, but the phones were going crazy. Most people would call and have a lot of questions, so people couldn’t get through to us. So, when the pandemic happened, we started working through DMs, which has been wonderful for us. We get a feel for a client, they get a feel for us, and we can give them the rules of the salon.
We kind of come together a little bit better and the expectations are better because the process here does take a while. It’s not just a Supercuts or anything like that. There could be a hang-up with a client, so the consultation might be a bit longer because now we’re trying to troubleshoot and figure out what’s going so that we can move on to the next step. You just never know. And then some people get emotional—they cry. And then some people find out they have alopecia spots for the first time or that someone has pulled out their hair and they didn’t know. So, we can’t say, “Okay, this time slot is 2:30 p.m. so your next appointment is 3:30 p.m. We do a minimum of so many hours here, so if you get out early and it’s midday, that’s fine. If you are over five hours, you plan for that day so that the expectations aren’t like, “Well, my appointment was 10 a.m. so I should be 12 p.m.” It’s not realistic.
Tell me a bit about your clientele. You mentioned to me previously that you get clients from all over the country.
Thompson: Yes! They fly in from everywhere. We have people from New York today [Editor’s Note: this interview took place on March 30th]. Yesterday, we had New York, Atlanta, and North Carolina. It’s all day and they come in with their suitcase and they have a flight out that night.
That’s incredible! And, what would you say are generally the most requested services at this salon?
Thompson: Weaves. And then some people come in for our “Fresh Start” service. So, the “Fresh Start” is something that we just started probably about a year and a half or so ago. We realized that everybody doesn’t want to wear weaves or everybody doesn’t want to do wigs, or a braid up, or whatever the case may be. Because of our Healthy Haircare System that we started, we realized that sometimes people don’t know where to start or know what to do. It’s like, “Okay, I have this system. You gave me the instructions, but I just need you in my head so you can get me going.” So, that’s how the “Fresh Start” works. We do everything up until the braids. We don’t do the braiding or do any of that. When they come in, they leave with all the instructions. I go through their hair and tell them what’s going on with their scalp. If I see anything or if I recognize any issues, I’ll let them know what I think and then send them to their doctor. And, then we just kind of formulate a plan and they leave with all the do’s and don’ts of what they can and can’t do with their hair. It’s supposed to be a service where they just start and then they can go on their way, but most of them come back every three months for a check-up. It’s a big service!
What’s the most common hair struggle that you are finding among your clients?
Thompson: The biggest one is that their ends are just horrible. What I’ve been finding is that even though people think they’ve had trims, in general, the stylists aren’t giving them the trims that they need in order to get their hair ready for growing. They’re either just kind of brushing it or they don’t recognize where it really needs to go. When you don’t trim off all the ends, it might look like you’re okay for a minute, but then you start to feel like your hair’s breaking again and that’s because it starts back up again and starts to travel up the hair shaft. So, it becomes an issue and the client’s don’t understand. Sometimes the stylists don’t understand.
I have a special way of cutting most of the time. I take strands section by section and I cut according to what I see in those sections instead of having an even cutting all the way around. Because when you do that, sometimes you miss the front that has way more damage than the back. So, I normally cut the head in sections and then I go back over the hair for some symmetry, afterwards, as it grows down and to balance things out. But, my main goal in the beginning is to get all of the hair ready for growth—that’s my thing.
In addition to the salon, you also have DreamGirls, the haircare brand. What products from the brand would you say are most popular with your clients?
Thompson: The most popular is the TLC Comb-Out for detangling. That [product] is way more popular by far and the True Essence Growth Oil is super popular. What’s growing in popularity even more is our Hold & Grow Edge Control because it does help with growing edges too. People have come back after three months and they’re like, “Wait a minute. That’s been very, very good!” People also love our shampoo. I mean, it’s all good.
Lastly, what can you share with us as far as any new things coming for DreamGirls?
Thompson: Right now we’re working on changing out our bottles. We have some new packaging that we are working on and it’s almost ready. And, the next thing that we have that’s shipping and launching still are the hair vitamins.
To keep up with the DreamGirls brand, be sure to follow @dreamgirlshair on Instagram.