Alanna York hopes to build a business empire on her uncanny ability to tame frizzy, curly hair.

The Maine entrepreneur is scheduled to appear Friday night on ABC’s reality show “Shark Tank” to pitch Controlled Chaos, a hair products business founded by York, who also owns Head Games salon in Portland. The pitch was pre-taped, but York is prohibited by contract from disclosing the outcome.

Contestants on “Shark Tank” pitch their existing business, business idea or invention to a panel of celebrity investors in the hopes of securing venture capital. The popular show, based on the Japanese reality show “Dragon’s Den,” is in its seventh season.

York described the experience of appearing on the show as surreal and dreamlike.

“It was like I wasn’t even there,” she said. “I think I blacked out for the whole thing.”

York said she remembers so little that she is bound to be as entertained as anyone to see how she comes off during the segment. She is planning to host a viewing party Friday night at SoPo Bar & Grill, at 740 Broadway in South Portland. The event is open to the public.


For York, the “Shark Tank” pitch is the culmination of an entire career seeking out better ways to cut and style naturally curly hair. She has naturally curly hair, while her business partner, Erica Gray, has naturally wavy hair.

“(My hair) was my nemesis my whole life,” York said. “I went to (cosmetology) school just to figure out how to tame it.”

Controlled Chaos, the business she went on the show to pitch, already sells products such as its Curl Creme, which, according to the label, “enhances, conditions and defines all types of curly hair, eliminating frizz and locking out humidity.” Previously, the product had been sold under a different brand of York’s, called Use Me!

The business partners want to expand distribution of the Controlled Chaos product, which York said already is carried by more than 50 salons throughout the U.S. She said they also have developed a new technique for cutting curly hair that easily allows the hair to be worn either naturally curly or straightened.

York’s co-presenter on Friday’s “Shark Tank” episode is Maureen Emerson, who trains people in the haircutting technique.

York said she was one step away from a large distribution deal back in 2007, but that it was derailed by the Great Recession.


Gray approached her in 2012 about opening a Head Games franchise, but York said she instead proposed that they partner up on the hair products venture. Gray also is a trained cosmetologist and investor.

York participated in a “Shark Tank” open casting call in Portland in July. It was her third attempt at pitching her business to the show. For the most recent pitch, York said she narrowed her focus to the Curl Creme product, which she believes helped her pass the audition.

Not every successful pitch on “Shark Tank” results in an actual investment, because the investors have the right to perform additional due diligence after the show, such as product testing and examining the contestants’ personal and business finances.

To find out what happens to Controlled Chaos, viewers will have to curl up on the couch and watch the show.


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