8 Black Indie Beauty Brand Owners on How They're Finding Hope in a Time of Crisis
It's tough being a Black business owner on any day, but it's even more harrowing at a time like this, when the world is not only fighting a pandemic that has crashed multiple economies but also as the United States struggles to move forward in the aftermath of yet another Black man's death at the hands of police brutality. When the news of George Floyd's killing — as well as those of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Tony McDade — rattled the nation, COVID-19 was already affecting Black communities at a disproportionate rate, medically and economically, so to say that Black people are frustrated and exhausted with the current state of events is an understatement.
For those of us who are still fortunate enough to have jobs at a time like this, it's difficult to maintain professionalism at work while the livelihood of our community is being threatened on two fronts. Still, Black business owners are as hopeful as ever in their attempts to lead their companies through an extraordinary amount of darkness.
Read ahead to see how the founders of some of our favorite Black-owned beauty brands are coping and forging a path ahead for their companies in the midst of the current news cycle.
Alicia Scott of Range Beauty
"Right now, we've reached beyond a boiling point. As a Black woman, this has been my reality since the day I was born without even knowing it. Isn't that something? Coming into this world with a target on my back solely based on my skin color. As an adult, fearing for myself and family members at the hands of racists and police brutality. Sweating and heart racing, when a police car is behind or alongside me, even with me knowing I did nothing wrong.
Thinking about my business, even with the traction and revenue I made from bootstrapping my company, certain investors told me I just was not for them. So, I let them be and I turned my focus on grants and funding made for Black people by Black people. The fact that I created products to celebrate Black people in a space where we are often ignored keeps me going every day. That's what I do when I need strength through this horrific reality, I think about the Black community and who this fight is for, the justice we're fighting for, the rights we are owed.
I turn to my brothers and sisters, and we uplift each other as we always have, now and forever. I will say, something about the movement feels different this time. There has been a major shift, and I am much more hopeful about the future we intend to create."
Akilah Releford of Mary Louise Cosmetics
"As a Black and female founder in the beauty space, it's important for me to speak up now more than ever. The beauty industry has been notorious for lacking diversity, whether it be through product assortment or marketing campaigns. With that being said, I feel honored on a daily basis to create skin-care products for those who feel like they are not represented in this market. I think about my grandmothers, Mary (maternal) and Louise (paternal), and how I can continue to channel their voices and spirits through the work I do.
When I first started my company almost three years ago, I had zero connections in the beauty space and knew of very few Black female entrepreneurs in the skin-care space. What gives me hope moving forward as a business owner is the fact that, three years later, I now know of so many amazing and impactful Black-owned and minority-owned skin-care companies that are championing for diversity and inclusion in the beauty industry. My peers and my customers give me hope.
In the last few days, Mary Louise has been completely overwhelmed with love from so many people, and we sincerely appreciate the support. We will continue to do our part as a woman- and Black-owned brand to provide inspiration (and amazing skin-care products) for all!"
Gwen Jimmere of Naturalicious
"I've been asked how I'm handling everything so well in light of the current racial climate, and truth is, I'm not. I am the mother of a 9-year-old boy — who you may lovingly know as our Chief Candy Curator — who asked me if George Floyd could have been him. And, through tears, I had to tell him that yes, that's a very real possibility. He also asked me if his friend (who is white) would ever have to have the 'police talk' with his mom, and I had to, yet again, remind him how unfair it is that no, he will never have to have that talk.
I am the leader of a team of Black and brown excellence, and when my team tells me that they are having trouble even getting out of bed right now, I completely understand their pain, as I'm in the same boat. But at the heart of Naturalicious, we've always led with serving our community first and foremost. So I had to ponder what we could do to help right some of these wrongs in the most immediate sense.
We have made a significant contribution to the Minneapolis Freedom Fund. And we are also working to help bail protesters out in other cities. We're starting there. And there's more to come."
How to support Naturalicious now: Naturalicious Hello Gorgeous Hair-Care System ($56)
Dr. Christine Martey-Ochola and Anne Cheatham of Nuele Hair
"To be frank, we're worried, upset, and hopeful at the same time. Focusing on running a business is difficult when you also know that you're living in a historic moment in Black history . . . in US history. Nuele is an online business, but we empathize with the small-business owners in Minneapolis whose stores have been looted but find comfort in knowing that it was a part of a greater cause — because we would do the same.
As African women who have lived in the United States since MLK was assassinated, we're finding hope knowing that our [Black] voices are being heard around the world, and here at home. As Black mothers with sons and daughters and grandchildren, their safety and place in the economic world is always on our minds and hearts. We worry about what their present and future will be like.
When we look back to the civil rights movement and the work that MLK did, to what is happening now, it's easy to let despair and a sense of helplessness take root. But we know it is not a good alternative or place to be. We acknowledge the pain, the despair, the overwhelming helplessness and then make a conscious decision to grab onto hope. Every day, we find hope in the small steps we take forward as a community and in the incremental steps we take forward as a company."
Kay Cola of OrganiGrow
"I created my brand with a purpose, and that was to help people learn to love who they are by using clean products that help enhance who they are naturally. Living a purposeful life is both rewarding and exhausting. It has been heartbreaking to watch yet another unarmed Black man murdered at the hands of those who are paid to protect us while simultaneously watch the anger and frustration from my customers, loved ones, and friends. This is something, however, that is not new to me as a Black woman, and why being a business owner is so important.
Not only has OrganiGrow created a place for people who look like me to gain financial freedom, it has been a place where all people can come together and join in a conversation of healthy hair, skin, and bodies. We're able to mourn, celebrate, protest, and support our customers.
It has been difficult to want to work during this time, when you want to stay active and protest, but we know that just having a Black-owned business is a form of protest. Wearing our natural hair and encouraging those who have 4 type textures to wear their natural hair is a form of protest. Us being alive and successful and serving our community is a protest. So we press on and keep growing."
How to support OrganiGrow now: OrganiGrow Stimulating Scalp Beverage With Black Seed Oil ($21)
Jamyla Bennu of Oyin Handmade
"My concerns are about policy, structural changes, and social shift — and the more voices added to this push, the better.
We're a Black-and-woman-owned brand and have always emphasized self-care, quality ingredients, and wellness. In these times when our communities are hurting, we may jump on a hashtag as well, to be a part of a larger conversation, but we also feel like our core mission has always been supportive of the Black community — we provide excellent personal-care products and loving customer service. We try to show how deeply we value our community through our actions, every single day."
How to support Oyin Handmade now: Oyin Handmade Funk Butter Odor Absorbing Natural Deodorant ($8)
Jessica Pritchett of Ooli Beauty
"To wear locs is a statement of Black pride. I love being Black, and I love my locs. Ooli is very new and has been growing beyond my expectations. The fact that people are so interested in buying my products — which are designed specifically for locs — means that more and more Black people are expressing their sense of pride by wearing locs. It's also just so gratifying to see that Black consumers are speaking with their dollars by supporting Black-owned brands like mine. I feel that with increased awareness about where to find Black-owned brands, this will continue.
I am so encouraged not only by how my customers are supporting Ooli, but others in our community. Someone just purchased kits to give to front-line workers with locs, which truly touched my heart. Customers also send me the sweetest notes, saying how much they love the products. It means the world to me right now."