Ulta Beauty Black History Month Experience
On January 20, I awoke to dozens of happy birthday texts and well wishes, looking forward to taking a day to relax and spoil myself. About an hour or so into my morning routine, I received a call from Ulta saying they wanted to feature me during Black History Month as a founder and forerunner in the beauty industry. To say I was surprised and honored is an understatement!
Starting and maintaining a successful business is a huge task, whether you’re passionate about your products or not, but for me, hair care and beauty is my entire life, my passion, my dream manifested into reality. I started TGIN with the vision to uplift and inspire women of color to embrace their true beauty, whether they wanted to rock their 4c TWA or wear protective styles. And this is something that’s not even limited to me. My fellow Ulta Beauty forerunners are helping me blaze a trail, so up-and-coming Black entrepreneurs can follow in our footsteps, accomplish their goals, and redefine Black beauty.
Shea Moisture owner Richelieu Dennis completely changed the natural hair game when he stepped on the scene in 1991. With a goal to produce natural products for women of color, Richelieu went H.A.M., creating the viral #BreakTheWalls campaign that aimed to dismantle the drug store segregation between white and “ethnic” beauty consumers. With an estimated $700 million in value, Richelieu’s hair care companies, including Shea Moisture, have paved the way for other Black-owned beauty gurus to launch their own projects while focusing on organic, fair trade, and community commerce-sourced ingredients.
“When you’re doing something tha
t hasn’t been done before, and you’re trying to build something that hasn’t been built before on a platform that hasn’t existed before, you are going to make mistakes. The biggest advice that I can give is to not run away from issues when they occur. Own it. Your consumers deserve that.” —Richelieu Dennis
Cashmere Nicole is the founder of the newly popular cruelty-free makeup brand, Beauty Bakerie. In 2011, Cashmere launched her business after battling breast cancer, all while tackling the responsibilities of being a single mother from the age of 16. With zero industry connections, she created a range of functional makeup for busy women like herself. Utilizing social media buzz and a direct-to-consumer business model, Beauty Bakerie became profitable after just a few short years. The company is beautiful in every sense of the word, giving back to charitable oraganizations that help raise funds to end slavery in Libya and protect animals threatened by wildfires.
“Our world is made up of diversity. We are a world with colorful hues, different shapes, sizes, thoughts and pursuits. Why would we not represent or honor that in our art? Perhaps a better question is HOW could we not represent all… it is the collective that enhances the art. Not one individual piece.” -Cashmere Nicole
When Cornell McBride, founder of Design Essentials, launched his first hair care product, Sta-Sof-Fro, he did so with the vision of providing healthy hair styling products that address and satisfy everyone’s specific hair needs. With his eye focused squarely on the beauty industry, Cornell knew something was missing. Black men and women had very little knowledge about how to properly take care of their hair and what specific products could help them cleanse, condition, and nourish their unique, natural locks. In 1990, Cornell launched the Design Essentials hair care system, which helped to educate consumers on the effective use of premium-quality hair products from the comfort of their home. Today, Design Essentials, with Cornell as its captain, offers more than 40 high-quality beauty products to its international clientele through e-commerce marketing and direct-to-hair salon networks. The brand also has global ambitions.
“Compared to our beginnings, we have been widening our geographical footprint beyond our distribution network by partnering with larger chain salons and international suppliers in countries such as Jamaica. In 2011, we took our Naturals line to retail stores which opened up a plethora of distribution channels that we were not utilizing before.” – Cornelle McBride
Nigerian born Sharon Chuter is not only one of WWD 50 most forward-thinking executives, she is on a mission to bend, brand and redefine the rules of beauty with inclusivity. The esteemed industry executive has worked for several big brands such as PepsiCo, Revlon, L’Oreal and Benefit Cosmetics. She now serves as creative director for Uoma Beauty imposing radical thinking and implementation for the well-received brand. Uoma was one of the first beauty brands to prioritize inclusivity for all skin tones and the women that use the products.
“Many brands try to sell to Black women, but do not know the Black woman. It’s easy to drop a million shades of foundation, but we wanted to come in and drop some truth. You can have a wide range of products, but do you understand the person behind the foundation?” – Sharon Chuter
Feeling overlooked as a consumer, Frederick Benjamin founder, Michael James, took the leap of faith from his corporate job at in the beauty industry armed with the vision of providing men with quality grooming products that were not heavily fragranced, drying or excessively greasy. The men’s brand named after James’ late grandfather lives at the intersection of the multicultural and grooming segments that James foresees as a promising future.
“There was definitely resistance. There were a lot of people walking into barber shops selling CDs and candy or raising money for this that or the other, but no one going in with a haircare line speaking to the issues — dry scalp and hair, in particular — they saw time and time again. It was a different pitch,“Half were receptive and half told me they use what’s in the drugstore. The no’s pushed my confidence up. I knew how to respond to objections.” – Michael James
When I began TGIN in 2002, I had no idea what I was in for. Learning the ins and outs of the beauty and business worlds was a challenge on its own, but adding in the demands of customer requests and feedback kept me on my toes, as well. I’m truly grateful for the blessings I’ve been given, and I’m incredibly proud that my hard work over the years is paying off. My hope is that my love for beauty leaves its mark on each and every product I create. Thank you for being a part of this journey with me; your support and love mean everything!