Fashion / Beauty

Harvard MBA Brainiac Brings Tech Into the World of Wigs and Extensions — This Upgrade is a Very Different Houston Salon

Woman Entrepreneur From the Cuney Homes Projects Shakes Up the Beauty Industry

BY // 11.19.21

“I love beauty and I love technology,” Britney Winters says from a perch in her soon-to-open Upgrade salon on Alameda. “So I created a business that had both.” And how incongruous it sounds to hear this Houston entrepreneur exercising her MBA smarts talking about “diversifying our product portfolio.” She’s talking about wigs and frontals.

These are no ordinary hair products, however. We are talking fabulous Beyoncé-worthy wigs, the lavish personal wigs of Kylie Jenner (not the $22 versions sold on her website).

When the salon at 5404 Alameda holds its grand opening ceremony at 9 am next Tuesday, November 23, Mayor Sylvester Turner will be there to cut the ribbon and present a special proclamation. After all, this is the story of a young woman from the Cuney Homes projects who has catapulted successfully into the world of entrepreneurship.

Upgrade Native Houstonian Britney Winters is changing the way women process their beauty through easy-access hair products and services obtained through the digital world.
Native Houstonian Britney Winters is changing the way women process their beauty through easy-access hair products and services obtained through the digital world.

A native Houstonian, Winters attended Booker T. Washington High School before heading to Stanford University where she earned a degree in engineering. Then while working at Shell Oil headquarters in Houston, after a stint on Wall Street, she was able to add an MBA from Harvard to her CV.

Her master’s thesis focused on building a sophisticated online business that sells high-quality wigs and and other hair products and connects independent stylists to customers. It met Winters’ desire to marry her two loves of beauty and technology. That thesis was the platform for  her business.

Her first investor was the husband of a classmate from Stanford, Cameron Lazaroff-Puck, son of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. In addition to providing $50,000 in seed money, Jason Puck provided the business name.

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“He said that my concept sounded like an upgrade for women dealing with hair and that Upgrade should be the name,” Winters details.

A visit to the website reveals a sophisticated business operation with a clearly articulated step-by-step process of ordering the length, color, texture and style including silky straight, voluminous waves, kinky curly and many more. The Upgrade offerings include full wigs, bundles, frontals and closures. While the images on the website are women of color, Winters assures that her products are for women of all races.

Prices for full wigs begin at around $300 and stylists’ customization of wigs start at $65 and can go as high as $300 or $400 for customers opting for celebrity stylists.

In addition to selling hair products, Upgrade connects customers with stylists who do color and styling of the faux coifs. Winters has some 20 in her stable with locations ranging from Houston to Los Angeles. When the salon opens next week, visitors will find 10 individual suites for independent stylists in addition to a spacious, well-furnished community room.

Winters plans on opening the space for pop-up shops, community gatherings, events focused on women and women’s businesses — and more.

“I believe there is beauty in meeting other women in the salon,” she tells PaperCity.

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