Hunter Haymore, born with sickle cell anemia, was just 14 when she faced a scary medical decision. Her doctors were studying whether bone marrow transplants from unrelated donors could help people with this painful blood disease. Without a genetic match in her family, this was one of Haymore’s only options for a cure. But Haymore, a native of Rosedale, NY, could only focus on the side effects. “‘Mom, I don’t want to lose my hair!’” she remembers telling her mother. “But she said, ‘Hunter, this can cure you. Your hair will grow back.’”
Haymore’s treatment was successful, but the hair loss left her feeling unrecognizable. “Being that age, everything I knew about myself was the way I looked and the way I presented myself. I knew I needed to do something. That’s when I learned to do hair—that’s what started it all.”
Haymore’s obsession became a driving force in her life. Learning from YouTube videos and her mother, an interior designer, she was always trying out different hair styles on herself and her high school friends. She arrived at Spelman College freshman year with a suitcase full of hair extensions and hair tools. She cut a classmate’s hair in a bob on her first week, and word soon spread of her talents. As her clientele grew, Haymore got hooked on the idea of applying her passion into making and selling wigs and other hair products.
As an international studies major with a business minor, however, Haymore needed a way to test out her entrepreneurial ideas. Earning a UNCF/Koch Scholarship helped Haymore learn how to market herself, refine her passion, manage her business while being a student, and stay on top of industry trends. At the yearly summit, which brings together hundreds of students from across the country to learn, network, and be mentored, Haymore figured out the next questions to ask. “I’d go to the speakers after the summit and ask, so what would this class be called ? Because this is what I need to be learning.”
Now heading into senior year, Haymore is in the process of establishing a hair subscription business similar to Birchbox or BeautyFix, and used her study abroad in Shanghai, China, to line up a vendor for the natural hair she will use in her wigs and extensions.
The entrepreneurial “tool kit “the UNCF/Koch Scholars program gave her was fundamental in getting Haymore’s business idea started. But the connections—and the encouragement she received—proved equally valuable. She remembers vividly the advice she received freshman year from Kezia Williams, a senior relationship manager for the UNCF/Koch Scholars program. “She told me that even though sometimes school gets hard, or just life and things get difficult, you have to keep pushing,” Haymore says. “Because you know that you can do it and if I couldn’t do it.”
As Haymore prepares to launch herself fulltime into her venture, she pledges never to forget her original inspiration: to help women and girls suffering from chemo-related hair loss. Haymore is already planning to make and donate wigs once she gets established. “I want every single person who receives a wig from me to know that this is made out of love, from the heart, and it’s for you,” she says. “And I think the first hospital that I will donate to will be my old Children’s Hospital, Cohen Children’s Medical Center.”
Meanwhile, Haymore has advice for students who, like her, want to take advantage of everything education has to offer. College, she says, is a “branding session” where you make yourself into who you want to be. “Don’t hold back, don’t be timid, and don’t be scared,” she advises. “Join everything, because if you don’t like it you can always stop, but you can’t go back and do it again.”
Since 2014, the Charles Koch Foundation has partnered with UNCF and Koch Industries to offer African-American students financial assistance, academic and business mentoring, and networking opportunities. What sets the scholarship apart is its focus on Principled Entrepreneurship™, which can create positive change for both individuals and society. Learn more about the program.