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.
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.
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.