Tag: black-owned beauty supply stores

Beauty Supply Store Owners Judian and Kadeian Brown on Forefront of Growing Business Opportunity for Black Women: Hair Care

Kadeian Brown, left, and Judian Brown own Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon, off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn. (Kirsten Luce for The New York Times)

Not much seems unusual about Judian Brown and Kadeian Brown’s storefront in a tidy plaza off Church Avenue in Flatbush, Brooklyn, a neighborhood where every block seems to have its own African hair-braiding salon.

Posters of African-American women with long, sleek hair fill the window. Round jars of shea butter belly up to slender boxes of hair dye on the shelves. Wigs perch on mannequin heads.

What makes Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon’s visitors do a double-take is the skin color of the proprietors. “I go, ‘Look at all the faces on the boxes,’ ” said Judian Brown, recalling other shopkeepers’ and customers’ surprise when they realize she is not an employee, but the owner. “Who should be owning these stores?”

The Brown sisters’ is one small shop in a multibillion-dollar industry, centered on something that is both a point of pride and a political flash point for black women: their hair. But the Browns are among only a few hundred black owners of the roughly 10,000 stores that sell hair products like relaxers, curl creams, wigs and hair weaves to black women, not just in New York but across the country. The vast majority have Korean-American owners, a phenomenon dating back to the 1970s that has stoked tensions between black consumers and Korean businesspeople over what some black people see as one ethnic group profiting from, yet shutting out, another.

A growing awareness of this imbalance has spurred more black people to hang out their own shingles. The people producing the products have changed, too: As “going natural” — abandoning artificially smoothed hair in favor of naturally textured curls and braids — has become more popular and the Internet has expanded, black entrepreneurs, most of them women, are claiming a bigger share of the shelves in women’s medicine cabinets.

“We’re aware of where our dollars are going, we’re aware of the power of our dollars, we’re aware of the cultural significance of the way that we choose to wear our hair,” said Patrice Grell Yursik, the founder of Afrobella, a popular natural-hair blog. “There’s been a lot of taking back the power, and a lot of that is from the Internet.”

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Devin Robinson’s Beauty Supply Institute Earns $10 million in Revenues for Urban Communities

In 2005, Devin Robinson was threatened with a golf club by a store owner while shopping in the owner’s beauty supply store. Out of anger, two months later Robinson had his own store. Eighteen months later he had two additional locations.

Black-owned beauty supply store

Another Black-owned beauty supply store opens. In this $15 billion industry, 96 percent of the revenues come out of Black pockets, but only 3 percent of the stores are owned by Blacks.

In 2007, he self-published “Taking it Back: How to Become a Successful Beauty Supply Store Owner” and launched Taking it Back University to train others how to be successful in beauty supply ownership too. In 2008 he was featured in Ebony magazine and appeared in the documentary, “Black Hair.” In 2009 Devin Robinson led a national boycott against non-Black-owned beauty supply stores. Since then, he has rebranded Taking it Back University into Beauty Supply Institute.

Beauty Supply Institute staffs 11 people working in two divisions: Training Operations and Field Operations. The company is in its sixth year of business, in its fourth year of two annual conferences and recently partnered with Herzing University to offer a nine-month beauty supply ownership program. The company also has online courses, materials, on-site consulting and full store opening services.

By the end of 2012, the revenues of stores Beauty Supply Institute is responsible for opening topped $10 million. When asked about this accomplishment, Robinson said: “Putting these revenues back into the hands of Blacks and in urban communities is severely important to me. For the past six years when aspiring entrepreneurs ask how to open a beauty supply store or how to become a beauty supply store owner, I wanted us to have every single answer for them. I am very pleased with my team. In this industry, we have more answers now than any question a client can ask us. I view the problems in this industry as an economic hate crime against Blacks, thus making entrepreneurship the 21st century civil rights issue.”

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