The Wigmaker

When this Wall Street executive beat cancer, she ditched her six-figure salary and set up a wig company to help women like herself.

By Patti Greco
Photograph: iStock Photo

Another client, Joan Kaplan, a 58-year-old global marketer for Pfizer pharmaceuticals, requested Cohen’s standard service almost two years ago, after being diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time. "I travel for business and constantly meet people. I have to look normal," Kaplan says. Cohen even held Kaplan’s hand when the last of her hair was shaved from her head. These days, Cohen rarely goes on consultations (stylists and representatives do the job). She has hired a phone center to field her calls — "a level of success in itself," she says. And her sister, Rhonda, works for the business, helping schedule appointments, among other things. Still, Cohen spends a large part of her day on the phone, speaking with customers. "I’m part therapist, part wig saleswoman," she says.

Cohen extended her own support system in late 2005, when she met the man who’s now her husband, Greg, 41, a computer networker at Von Roll USA in Schenectady, New York. His wife had recently died of cancer, leaving him with two children, Jake, 10, and Jordan, 13. "We were meant to find each other," says Cohen, who had been left infertile by the bone marrow transplant. "Those kids needed a mom, and I needed to be a mom." Once Jordan reaches high school — "when she’s not so easily distracted by the phone," Cohen says — she may start working for the company. Jordan grins when asked if she ever tries on the wigs. "I wore one to school for three weeks," she says. "Wig pride!"

While Cohen keeps a sketch of Wall Street in the foyer of her house, she has left her old life behind. She hopes to turn her company into a multimillion-dollar business. "I want to let people know that wearing a wig isn’t a death sentence," she says. "I want my name to mean something to people."

Running the Numbers

  • 30: Hours Cohen spends talking to customers on the phone each week
  • 100,000 hairs on a human scalp
  • 175,000 hairs in a synthetic wig
  • $90: Average cost for a pound of high-quality, shoulder-length human hair
  • 600: clients Cohen has helped in four years
  • $25,000 spent to launch the business

Originally published in MORE magazine, November 2007.

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