"We thought that we deserved to have a space that was welcoming and inviting, that had the energy where women of color could just feel disarmed and truly experience beauty not just as a transactional experience, but something that could be fun," Amaya said. "[We wanted] somewhere that you could come network and meet people, learn something — we wanted it to be more than what was out there."
"We thought that we deserved to have a space that was welcoming and inviting, that had the energy where women of color could just feel disarmed . . . "
She continued, "I think we took it a step further than just saying, 'Come here and shop for your products.' We also made it more about community and affirming who we are as Black women." Of course, with so much of the business's lifeline being the in-store customer experience, it would be crazy to think that the boutique, much like tons of other small businesses, hasn't been hit hard by the recent spread of COVID-19 in the US. The ladies mentioned that they've seen a significant decrease in revenue since March because of the amount of foot traffic they've lost because of D.C.'s shutdown.
"It's definitely been something that's been pretty devastating to the bottom line," Amaya said. "From the beginning we started quickly pivoting, trying to figure out ways to expand our online presence, to bring more awareness to the business despite COVID-19 and despite what's going." It was a hard pivot, but they've made it work. Over the last few months, they've hosted a series of Instagram Live happy hours, virtual shopping events, and fireside chats with Black beauty founders and experts.
For now, you can still shop from both Marjani and Product Junkie online, though the store also has special "COVID hours" where customers can pick up orders in person from 3PM to 6PM on weekends. Additionally, the co-op has started a GoFundMe where those interested can donate money to help keep the store open as it bounces back from a temporary closure. But those are just the ways that you can monetarily support The Brown Beauty Co-op, as they both mentioned that supporting Black-owned businesses is about more than just buying products.
"There's a lot of free ways to help Black businesses. Go on Yelp, review a business and give them good reviews, recommend them to your friends, do a little bit of the extra legwork to figure out if there's a Black alternative that you can purchase instead of going into convenience stores. Actively support these Black-owned businesses as much as you support these white-owned businesses." To add, supporting these businesses is an act that should be sustained and shouldn't only happen as a result of online activism.
The ladies continued, "As a community, rallying around these businesses and figuring out how to support them are good ways to sustain this movement."