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3 Black Female Founders on Creating Their Own Space in the Hair Industry

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It is no secret that the hair industry has a diversity problem. Between the inability of hairstylists to cater to our hair texture and the limited selection of products that meet our needs, Black women have long been overlooked and ignored by an industry that they contribute billions of dollars to each year.

Thankfully, over the last few years, we have seen Black entrepreneurs take matters into their own hands and pioneer change in the hair care market. Despite all odds, Black-owned hair brands are creating a space of their own in the industry and offering products and services that they would like to see and use. In honor of Black Business Month, The Tease reached out to three Black female founders to have them share their experiences and their message on navigating the hair industry as a Black entrepreneur. Prepare to be inspired!

Brittney Ogike, Founder of BeautyBeez

While beauty supply stores cater predominantly to Black women, their ownership hasn’t always been a reflection of that. With her company BeautyBeez, mompreneur Brittney Ogike is helping to change that. After many horrible experiences at her neighborhood beauty supply store and noticing the limited selection for women of color at mainstream retailers, Ogike was compelled to create her own one-stop beauty shop. With an online store as well as a brick-and-mortar store in North Hollwyood, Ogike and BeautyBeez are creating an all-inclusive space for all your beauty needs.

The Tease: What role do you think you and your business, BeautyBeez, are playing in helping the Black hair industry at large?

Brittney Ogike:  I think we’re definitely starting conversations. Black women spend so much money in this category. We spend more in hair care then I think any other ethnicity. However, there’s not a large investment in ethnic haircare or beauty. I think that’s unfortunate. For so long, we’ve been ignored. People outside of our community don’t even realize that this problem exists. So, I’m hoping that BeautyBeez and our brand is able to shine light on the discrimination and the prejudices that are rampant in the beauty industry. I’m hoping that we can have more conversations on how we can create real change and solutions so women of color can feel seen, feel empowered, and feel supported. At the end of the day, we’re spending all the dollars. We need products that work for us. We need big spaces where we can shop and explore and play in beauty.

When it comes to most Black beauty supply stores, they typically don’t have Black owners. Was it difficult for you to infiltrate this space with your own business?

Yes, it was very difficult. There are several barriers to entry that are made to keep people that look like me out. I just kept being persistent and not taking no for an answer. One of the things about this industry is, it’s very capital intensive having a retail store. The vendors we deal with require cash and delivery for products and impossible minimum order requirements. I was talking with a brand I wanted to get in our store and they said that their minimum order quantity was $3,000 but they just sold edge control. I’m like, “This is impossible. Why would I pay $3,000 on edge control from one specific brand?” No other industry does this. Also, there’s just not a lot of funding for minorities so we’re forced out. It becomes hard to create a legitimate long-standing business in the industry because they’re so many hard stacks against you.

Despite the difficulties Black entrepreneurs may face, why do you think it’s so important for Black people, especially Black women to create products or offer services that cater specifically to the Black community?

Oftentimes, minority entrepreneurs are creating businesses that solve a personal problem, right? So, for me, I created BeautyBeez because I was tired of the experiences that I got at my local beauty supply. Naturally the products and services that we are developing are the most effective and offer great solutions because they come from a personal pain point.  That’s why our Black-owned brands do so well at BeautyBeez. They’re the top sellers because our customers trust the source and I think it’s super important for more black entrepreneurs in all industries, not just beauty, to get involved and create products because our community will support you. It’s evident in the support that I’ve gotten from BeautyBeez and the support that our customers have shown to our minority-owned brands.

What’s your message for other Black-owned business owners like yourself who are trying to create their own space in the hair industry?

My message is simple and it would just be: don’t give up. Everyone is going to tell you no. Find that one person that’s going to tell you yes. I would also like to say that there is room for all of us. This is a multi-billion dollar industry. There’s room for everyone at the table. Stay persistent and just know that there is a reason for your existence. Just keep on pushing!

Sherrel Sampson, Founder of Canviiy

Founder Sherrel Sampson is shaking up the scalp-care category with her hair care brand, Canviiy. Inspired by her own experiences with a persistent itchy scalp, Sampson set out to fill the significant void in the hair market regarding quality scalp health products. Now her Canviiy products can be spotted on the shelves of hundreds of Target stores nationwide. Not to mention, thanks to her partnership with Moffitt, a leading cancer research center,  her brand is one of the few emerging minority companies working with a top health organization.

The Tease: What role do you think you and your business, Canviiy, are playing in helping the Black hair industry at large?

Sherrel Sampson: I think that there is really a channel for us to be innovators. No one understands our hair,  our scalp, our body, and our skin better than we do. For us, I believe our role is just to really introduce innovation better than others. That’s why we have a subset of products. We don’t have 20 or 30 items at this time even though we’ve been in the game for five years. We have five products with the reason being that we want to take our time to develop something that is great and that drives repeat purchases that consumers love. That’s really the value that we bring to the marketplace.

With the on-going Black Lives Matter movement, we’ve seen various communities step up to support Black-owned business. Your brand, Canviiy, was included in Beyoncé’s directory of Black-owned business on beyonce.com. Can you speak on the impact the movement has had on your business?

Honestly, it has truly been a blessing. Not only has it increased our website visits and increased search queries but, it’s also increased our bottom line. If anything, what people can say as it pertains to Black Lives Matter movement is that all of these deaths were not in vain. What it’s done is lift the conversation of being inclusive as well as how we are spending our funds and dollars to support Black-owned businesses. 

What’s been great is that we’ve started to see changes. Not that anything is set in stone but just the fact that it’s raising awareness for consumers to think about how they are being intentional with their spending dollars. Not only that but I think a lot of the media companies have also taken a look at how they are supporting Black-owned brands as well. So, it’s truly been a game-changer. Some of the retailers and media outlets that never really paid attention are now paying attention. It’s  been a blessing and I just hope that it’s not a trend and it continues for years to come.

It’s wonderful that people are highlighting and investing in Black-owned businesses but what steps do you think need to happen next in the hair industry, from your perspective as a hair care founder?

I think for us to maintain this level of exposure, small and large brands alike, whether it’s media or retailers, must have metrics in place. I love the fact that Sephora recently put out the 15% shelf space dedicated to Black- and Brown-owned brands. There are other retailers like Target who have recently launched a Black and Brown brand badge on their website just acknowledging their footprint in the space. I think having metrics in place ensures that they are at least considering Black-owned brands. If that becomes something that continues for years to come, I think that’s definitely going to be a game-changer.

What’s your message for other Black-owned business owners like yourself who are trying to create their own space in the hair industry?

My advice would be to really be differentiated. Figure out what is your unique value proposition. Also, think about how you are going to grow the business. Beyond creating a great product, you must fall in love with creating a real business. That’s what really determines the subpar companies from the great companies. You can build a great product and you can also build a great business. Get a holistic understanding of what you’re getting ready to take on because it’s not an easy feat but it’s one that you definitely can achieve and obtain. Definitely shoot for the stars. Nothing is impossible.

Jamila Powell, Owner and Founder of Maggie Rose Salon

Finding a salon that can cater to all hair textures is somewhat of a rarity nowadays. However, Jamila Powell has made it her mission with her South Florida salon, Maggie Rose. Named after her daughter, Powell’s salon is dedicated to inclusivity and works with all hair types and curl patterns. It is no wonder that Maggie Rose has made a name for itself as one of the top texture salons in the country. 

The Tease: What role do you think you and your salon, Maggie Rose, are playing in helping the Black hair industry at large?

Jamila Powell: I think that the role that we’re playing is basically creating an environment where everybody can really embrace and love their texture. We get a lot of moms that have straight hair that bring their daughters in and are basically learning Texture 101. They’re fighting the grain and going against people that are telling them to “just straighten her hair out and give her a keratin because it’ll be easier.” I love the fact that we’re a part of the education and knowledge that we’ve given out to people to learn about their texture and truly love it.

When it comes to the hair industry, there’s a definite lack of hairstylists that are able to cater to textured hair. Do you think the issue starts with cosmetology schools?

 I think that it starts with the media. It starts with the cosmetology schools. It starts with the companies that are deemed industry leaders and who people are looking to for their stamp of approval on who’s the “it” salon or stylist.  I think that it all plays a role. For me in South Florida, your top schools are typically Aveda or Paul Mitchell. The reality is that most people think going to a non-black salon is the way to go because that’s how you make money and those are the prestigious salons. They’re seen that way because the industry leaders are giving their stamp of approval to salons that don’t typically have a majority of Black people. 

I really had to work hard to create a brand that would make these schools or stylists say,  “I want to be a part of that. They’re doing something over there and I see it.” I’ve also had to take myself away from wanting those stamps of approval and realize that it just may not come. I just have to chart forward and be exceptional in my own right.

Why do you think it’s so important for Black people, especially Black women to create products or offer services that cater specifically to the Black community?

I’ve never had a business that’s not been supported by my own community. I mean, 100 percent I don’t think that I would be in business without the Black dollar. That’s a fact to me. People of color are creating quality products whether it’s for Black people specifically or everybody in general. There are a lot of products out there that are Black-owned that just don’t have the platform and aren’t receiving the recognition that other brands are receiving.

Even with the Black Lives Matter movement, I think it’s great that we’re being highlighted but it needs to be consistent. It needs to be all the time. There’s just some really dope Black brands out there that aren’t even dope just because they’re for Black people but, because they’re a great brand. They have great branding, packaging, and ingredients and I just love to see it. Even though it may not be me specifically being highlighted,  if anybody is being highlighted from our community, it’s a win for all of us and I just love to see everybody winning.

What’s your message for other Black-owned business owners like yourself who are trying to create their own space in the hair industry?

My message is just to stay true to your vision and realize that even though you may not be accepted, in regards to all the major publications, or get the recognition that you deserve, that doesn’t determine your success. Just chart your own path and be motivated to be your best at whatever you do.

Interviews have been condensed and edited for clarity.

Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung
Camille Nzengung is a Features Editor, based in Georgia, covering all things hair at The Tease. You can find her writing about the best hair products, the coolest hair trends, and all the exciting new hair launches.