The Brown Beauty Co-op Isn't Just a Beauty Boutique — It's an Experience
In an industry that's been criticized for its lack of diversity, sometimes all you can do is carve out a special place for yourself and the countless other women who often feel underrepresented — and that's exactly what Washington, D.C., residents Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith did in 2018 with The Brown Beauty Co-op.
The two women — who are best friends, not sisters — joined forces over a year ago to create their D.C.-based retail space that offers a curated selection of makeup, hair, and skin-care products made by and for people of color. The business is a cooperative of Kimberly's Marjani Beauty, an online shop selling women of color-marketed makeup and skin-care products, and Amaya's Product Junkie, a collection of natural hair products from Black-owned brands.
With Kimberly being a corporate healthcare attorney by background and Amaya, a former communications executive at a nonprofit, their partnership was birthed as a result of their frustration with the beauty shopping experience for women of color. "We approached it as consumers," Amaya told POPSUGAR. "We were dissatisfied with our shopping experience when it comes to beauty. Whether it's going to a prestige retailer or a big-box retailer, the experience just didn't match what our counterparts were receiving, and it didn't match the amount of money that we know women of color — specifically Black women — spent."
"This truly is a passion project versus something that was an extension of our careers in beauty."
Any Black woman can tell you that shopping for beauty products is often exhausting, mostly because of the lack of options that are made available to people with darker skin tones. The Brown Beauty Co-op is an effort to resolve that issue, though Kimberly and Amaya have previously made clear that the products they sell are meant to make all women from underrepresented groups feel seen. In total, the store sells from over 60 Black-owned brands including Scotch Porter, AJ Crimson Beauty, and The Doux.
"This truly is a passion project versus something that was an extension of our careers in beauty," Kimberly said. But the women don't only use their space in D.C.'s Dupont Circle to sell products to customers — they also host beauty-related events in partnership with other women's organizations in which those same consumers can network and learn about the products they buy. Marjani also provides in-store makeup lessons in which people can learn the basics of any kind of glam, from bridal to bombshell.