What It's Like to Be Young and Black in the Beauty Industry
What It's Like to Be Young, Black, and Hungry in the Beauty Industry
With a growing emphasis on the need for diversity in all parts of the industry, the ambition of Black creators and entrepreneurs is at an all-time high. Still, there are disadvantages to being young. Amber Hughes, 20, has had dreams of modeling since she was a kid, but a lack of confidence and not being able to see others like her in the industry almost deterred her from pursing the career path altogether.
"Growing up, there was such little representation of Black models," she told POPSUGAR. "It seemed so far away. My beauty wasn't represented well enough in the industry for me to think that I was able to be a model."
Beyond representation, there's also the general lack of business experience that comes with being young, and access to capital and mentors continues to be a barrier from Black entrepreneurs.
Take Cherie Amor, who wanted to be a hairstylist for as long as she could remember. After working under the leadership of celebrity hairstylist Nikki Nelms in her early twenties, she had big plans to open her own salon and expand her celebrity clientele — but she was quickly hit with the reality of what actually goes into operating a business.
"I couldn't do the things I wanted to do or flourish in the industry.
"I always wanted my own salon, but it wasn't until I worked in someone else's business that I realized bills and other expenses came with it," she said. "I was at a standstill because I couldn't do the things I wanted to do or flourish in the industry."
According to survey data on e-commerce platform Shopify, launching a business these days can cost up to $40,000, putting young, Black entrepreneurs at a disadvantage from the get-go. "For women of color, there's a huge lack of funding and resources to help jump start your business," Olowe said. "I pitched to over 100 investors until I was able to raise our seed round."
Ciara May, 26, can relate. "It took several 'nos' for me to figure out that my idea wasn't landing — not because it wasn't a great idea, but because my audience didn't understand what I was talking about," she said. May recently founded a brand of plant-based hair extensions called Rebundle after experiencing excessive itchiness and scalp irritation from wearing synthetic hair. It's an experience that's incredibly common among Black women, though trying to get approval from people who couldn't relate proved to be an obstacle.
"I knew that my idea was strong, but I had to tell it in a way that anyone could understand, not just other Black women who wore braids," she said.