We Lost The Beauty Supply Industry, Now Black Entrepreneurs Are Taking It Back

Generations of Korean Americans went to college, thanks to Black women. Korean Americans control roughly 70 percent of the beauty supply stores in the country but their children have little interest in taking over those stores. They aspire to careers they deem better than owning a beauty supply store. The education, career options and privilege these individuals have was paid for by Black women who shopped at those beauty supply stores for years but Black entrepreneurs are slowly taking the industry back.

Mae Smith working at Essential Beauty Supply, one of her three beauty supply stores located in Tennessee. She opened her first store in 1986.

Since the 1970s Korea has been the epicenter of hair imports and exports. That fact ultimately led to Korean immigrants becoming beauty supply owners and distributors. The control of distribution, ultimately, locked out Black owned beauty suppliers. The result was in 2017 Black consumers spent $54 million on ethnic hair and beauty aids, along with $473 million in total hair care — the overwhelming majority of which created a life for Korean American children that many Black children can only dream of. Something had to change and it is.

Koreans used to control the market, now they are selling the stores back to us because their kids do not want to take on the store” – Sam Ennon, President and CEO of The Black Owned Beauty Supply Association

As Korean Americans abandon the business, they are happy to sell to Black entrepreneurs. In addition, as the natural hair business grows, distributors that wouldn’t sell to Black entrepreneurs in the past lose leverage. Black entrepreneurs are buying stores, creating the products we need and taking back the business. Black beauty supply stores are increasing in number across the country. Today there are around 3,000 Black owned beauty supply stores and the numbers continue to grow. Still, there are challenges and a long way to go.

Lady Lana store owners Star and Johnnie Waller and Blythewood, SC Mayor J. Michael Ross, center, cut the ribbon during the grand opening. Joining them are, from left, Kesha Harrell, Ebony Allen, the Wallers and mayor, Carri Edwards, Priscilla and Arthur McCoy. | Barbara Ball

In the near future we will feature more content about the Black beauty supply industry. Black people are the chief consumers in this space and for too long have been happy to hand over their dollars to other communities. We have enriched others, sent their children to school and often been mistreated, while paying millions to do so. Things are shifting but it’s completely up to Black consumers to make sure that we take our businesses all the way back and keep them. Stay tuned.

23 comments
  1. Orlando Coombs
    Orlando Coombs
    July 9, 2019 at 2:50 am

    Let’s take it back and keep it. All we gotta do is go natural and that’s it.

    Reply
    • Darlene
      Darlene
      July 15, 2019 at 10:44 am

      THANK YOU GOD, I am so tired of going in these other establishments who have taken over the BLACK HAIR stores. I do not know any black hair stores in my area which is Maryland.

      Reply
  2. Marcus White
    Marcus White
    July 10, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    This is pure motivation to me. As a black business owner in the beauty supply industry; I’ve often wanted to punch my ticket bc I cannot compete with the Koreans in my town. This read, has given me new light and I aspire to hold on and keep chipping away on my taskings of breaking the mold of our generational curses.. Thanks for this!

    Sincerely,
    @BlueBundles

    Reply
    • Sid
      Sid
      July 12, 2019 at 4:26 pm

      What town are you in?

      Reply
  3. AnTwain Gilmore Sr
    AnTwain Gilmore Sr
    July 10, 2019 at 10:30 pm

    Are you able to provide links(websites, emails, other contact information)?

    Reply
  4. Karena
    Karena
    July 12, 2019 at 4:09 pm

    This is awesome to read just starting an online hair extension store. I hope to one day have a store open.

    Reply
  5. Malik Saleem
    Malik Saleem
    July 12, 2019 at 4:19 pm

    Excellence, lets keep our own money in our community and build up our community then we will see crime go down.

    Malik

    Reply
  6. Sid
    Sid
    July 12, 2019 at 4:29 pm

    We have to market and educate our people on the principle of purchasing from our own stores in our communities. I plan on opening stores in my area just to compete with them and put them out of business in our communities. It will take a collaborative effort from a team of entrepreneurs willing to win back business, promote, and hire future business owners in our communities.

    Reply
  7. Evelyn Cain
    Evelyn Cain
    July 12, 2019 at 4:33 pm

    I’m INTERESTED in owning my own Beauty supply business but dont know where to start. Please help. [email protected].

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri
      July 12, 2019 at 11:08 pm

      Miss Evelyn. Check out wefundblack.com start a fund raiser for your business, and eventually you’ll get the money you need to open up a store.

      Reply
  8. Janet
    Janet
    July 12, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    Something about this article didn’t sit well with me. I am all for black ownership especially in this field. However, the way the article states that we now have the opportunity to get into this business because the Asian offspring no long want to take it on because they’re doing bigger and better things…… sounds demeaning. As if this is the only reason, not through your own devices but because we’ll let you have it.

    Reply
  9. Karl Newman
    Karl Newman
    July 12, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    We must continue this positive trend and expand to ALL the other areas of business and commerce that we currently have little to no OWNERSHIP participation
    in. The reality is that the encouraging of support as well as the desire to own businesses must be taught from day one in the home by whatever parent(s) are
    raising the black child. Typically, the woman of all races is the FIRST teacher from the critical ages of 1 – 5 which are the formative years, so we need to be
    ready to indoctrinate / educate at the earliest opportunity to foster the correct attitude of self love and respect so as to put the needs of the Black community
    first in ALL things especially when dealing with other ethnicities.

    Reply
  10. Tanesha Merriweather (Bobo)
    Tanesha Merriweather (Bobo)
    July 12, 2019 at 5:53 pm

    I am a new upcoming beauty supply store owner online of Queen’s Desire Beauty Supply. Thanks to Stylist Solutions for making a amazing platform and lead at for this opportunity to happen doe me and thousand of others. I one day pray to open a brick & mortar to secure my seven children future and also to service our communities with the best customers service, great affordable hair care brand products, and fast shipping. My job I had before let me go due to my disability, so I decided to take what little income i had and invest in myself. I’m still growing my business little by little but one day God will bless me with more income to build my brick and to help others do the same . I love my people, the color of our skin (Black), our strength and who we are as One!! Let’s Support One Another. http://Www.queensdesirebeautysupply.com
    https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=2839448882763801&id=100000961518379

    Reply
    • Kerri
      Kerri
      July 12, 2019 at 11:14 pm

      Miss Tanesha. You should check out http://www.wefundblack.com it is owned by the owner of webuyblack.com it is a fundraising website. Where two projects have been successful. One such project made about 400,000 dollars.

      Reply
    • Tasha
      Tasha
      July 16, 2019 at 12:41 pm

      Hello Tanesha! I would love to have a quick chat with you. I recently purchased a black owned beauty supply, and wanted to use stylist solutions for my website, but I had a few questions. I can also speak to you a bit about the store front side. Please email me at [email protected]. Thank you!

      Reply
  11. Lynnette Washington
    Lynnette Washington
    July 12, 2019 at 7:19 pm

    This is phenomenal! In addition to owning our own beauty supply stores, we need to also be able to control the supply. We don’t want to have to rely on them to supply hair or other products either. Out with those people, we got this! One step at time.

    Reply
  12. Genevia Bone
    Genevia Bone
    July 13, 2019 at 11:34 am

    I’m so happy to read this article. Many times I see Korean owners frowned when Black customers come in to buy black products. It’s time to take back our birth-rights.

    Reply
    • Geraldine
      Geraldine
      July 16, 2019 at 6:14 pm

      Fully agree, I died a little bit each time I had to buy from these stores.

      Reply
  13. EMMA ADAMS
    EMMA ADAMS
    July 13, 2019 at 10:36 pm

    THANK YOU ALL!!! For years I have tried to get into the business and it has been HARD. I am in Texas and have a small wig store , leMothsho Essence Wig’s. I would welcome any knowledge you might be willing to share. I have been in business for more than 15yrs… I am 72yrs of age.

    Reply
  14. EMMA ADAMS
    EMMA ADAMS
    July 13, 2019 at 10:42 pm

    Do any of you know that the
    Manufacturers are opening large stores here and putting their people in there to run then, and competing with us…THEY SELL US THE HAIR AND THEN UNDERCUT US BY SELLING CHEAPER THAN US, WE CAN’T COMPETE WITH THAT..

    Reply
  15. Geraldine
    Geraldine
    July 16, 2019 at 6:12 pm

    This is music to my ears. I hated going into these non black owned businesses.
    It it just a matter of time until this happens.
    Let’s do this with integrity, the sky is the limit.

    Reply
  16. Leslie Allen
    Leslie Allen
    July 16, 2019 at 8:10 pm

    Yes I started the 1st black owned and ONLY beauty supply in the state of UTAH

    Reply
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