Another Haircare Industry Legend Lost: Remembering Joan Johnson
I was saddened when I heard about the loss of Joan Johnson founder of Johnson Products. Launched in 1954, Johnson Products would dominate the market for black personal care products for decades, with famous trademark grooming products like Afro Sheen, Ultra Sheen and Gentle Treatment, and would become the first black-owned company traded on the American Stock Exchange.
During the ‘70s, Johnson Products also became the first company to sponsor Soul Train, taking the historic music variety show from local Chicago television to a national audience.
Mrs. Johnson and her family paved the way for people like myself to launch black hair care businesses and sell to mass retailers.
What many people don’t know is that selling to major retail outlets like Target, Walgreens, CVS and others was not always that easy. People like Joan Johnson of Johnson Products, Comer J. Cottrell of Pro-Line, Fred Luster Sr. of Luster Products, Nathaniel Bronner of Bronner Brother, along with other members of AHABI fought tirelessly to break down the walls and integrate mainstream retail to include black hair care products. It is only been in the last forty something years that black products have been available in major big box retail as they were traditionally sold only in beauty supply stores or mail order catalogues.
As an entrepreneur, I have made it a point to learn from our industries pioneers, many of whom have mentored me and giving me great advice about how to take the company to the next level. So blessed and grateful for the sacrifices of the Joan Johnson and the Johnson family. You have my condolences and are in my thoughts and prayers.
Check out the Chicago Sun-Times beautiful highlight about her life and legacy.