Black women outspend
other women by a
factor of two to six times (depending on which source you believe) when
to hair care. While we represent less than 10% of the
we spend most of the money spent on hair care in this
black woman will take care of her hair- no matter what the cost. Hair
care is deeply embedded in our
culture as India.Arie so eloquently described in “I Am Not My Hair
This is tremendous spending power that is being spent largely
outside of our community. The vast majority of the money
black women on their hair is going to large white-owned corporations,
and to Asians who have effectively cornered the market on distribution
and retail of black hair care products. As a black owned
servicing the black community, this is something we are obviously
interested in and concerned about. How did things get this
Is there anything we can do about it? Should we do
something about it? Why should you even care? In
this article, we will address all of these questions.
The first question we will address is "Why should you care?"
you're getting the products you need at a good price, should you be
concerned with who you are buying them from? This needs to be
considered from two perspectives. First, there is the
cost/benefit to you of doing something different than what you are
doing today. Secondly, there is your responsibility,
to the community.
We established Treasured Locks
in April of 2002 because we simply could
not find high quality products for African Americans in our
neighborhood or city.
Living in a largely white area, when we went to the local
stores and grocery stores to find products, we found a huge variety of
products for Caucasians, ranging from poor quality to pretty good and
some even very good. But, when it came to African-American
products, we found an extremely limited selection and the products that
were on the shelves were mostly full of cheap fillers. Even the local
beauty supply store sent us to the "Asian beauty supply stores" located
in the Black neighborhoods. When we ventured over to the
beauty supply stores, we found not much better quality (if any better)
products and a lack of service. The people behind the counter
knew nothing about our hair care needs and concerns. Wanting
the best products for our hair and skin, we chose not to settle for the
inferior products we were being offered and turned to an alternative
source (the Internet) to get a greater selection. Today,
after having had our business for a few years, we receive emails from
women on a daily basis thanking us for providing them good information
on their hair and skin care needs and for providing them with choices
of products that are actually good for them. We also find
even with brands such as Black Opal that are distributed nationally,
that many local stores don't carry the entire line or have dropped
Black Opal entirely. Women write to us thanking us for making
these products available to them again. Our customers have
that they can have
choices not being offered in their local stores by shopping with us.
They have also found that they can find experts to talk with
share their experiences and can give them advice.
If you can find the products you need (quality and selection) at your
local Asian Beauty Supply store, should you go out of your
buy them somewhere else? How far should you go? How
more should you pay? Only you can answer those questions.
running poll on BOBSA shows that most of the women who answer the poll
say they will make at least some effort to buy from black owned
companies. But, polls are often skewed simply by who the people are
being polled. The women answering the poll on BOBSA's site
a.) on the Internet and b.) on a website all about trying to improve
the situation of Black Suppliers in the beauty industry. We think that
skews the results. Our intuition tells us the broader population buys
from the source that is the least expensive and most convenient.
And, more than ninety percent of the time that is going to be
Asian Beauty Supply store on the corner or the White-owned grocery or
We are big believers in capitalism and the American way of life.
We think the free market is a wonderful thing. It
us with almost unlimited choices and opportunity as both consumers and
as business people. But, we believe that there
are also responsibilities that go along with being a consumer.
Are you spending your dollars wisely? When you
money is your spending in line with your values? You might
have considered how buying a bottle of shampoo or a relaxer is a moral
decision. But, on some level, it is. We prefer to
businesses that are in our "community",
all things being equal. Community can be geographical (we
merchants over national chains) or along class lines (being
entrepreneurs, we like spending with entrepreneurs) or racial lines (we
prefer to shop with black owned businesses). As a company,
of our suppliers are black owned companies. Personally, we
consciously avoid certain corporations even though
their prices might be cheaper and they have the same products as others
simply because of the way they treat their employees or the community
or even their customers. We're not masochistic about it.
Ultimately, we end up doing what is best for us. But, when
deciding where we're going to spend our hard-earned cash, the
supplier's values and position in the community is one
of the factors we take into consideration.
The state of the ethnic hair care market is this. Currently,
market is about $1.5-2.0 billion/year in the United States.
products make up the largest single group of this market.
the Black community is economically disadvantaged, if we could buy from
and sell products to ourselves, this would be a great way to help
ourselves out of the hole we are in. We trail in business
ownership, income, wealth and in just about every economic category
there is. By sending our hair care dollars out of the
we are passing up a tremendous opportunity to help ourselves.
What has happened is
mostly White-owned companies manufacture the products we buy and Asians
distribute and retail the products. We even have a term for
their beauty supply stores- "Asian beauty supply stores".
mid-America (Cincinnati, OH), Asian beauty supply stores dominate the
landscape. Walk through the black neighborhoods of any city
likely to see the same thing. For the most part, Treasured
buys directly from manufacturers. But, on those occasions
we have had to buy through distributors, our experience has been the
great majority of them have been Asian owned and operated.
most of our experiences have not been pleasant.
Coincidence? The Koreans
have done a wonderful job of creating their own supply chain and
helping each other into the chain while effectively keep
African-Americans out. They do a great job of taking care of
their own. Some have accused the Asians of racism and
predatory businesss practices. Some of that may be true. But,
view is, for the most part, they have been shrewd business people and
we have simply handed the market to them. When a large African-American
owned ethnic manufacture does manage to spring up it seems that
end up selling out to large White-owned corporations who see the value
of the market that, for the most part, Black people are not stepping up
to serve. In
April 2002, we founded Treasured Locks for several reasons, one of
which was to be a Black-owned company serving the Black community.
As a small company with limited resources, we cannot go
head-to-head with the established corporations who are placing their
on your grocery store or drug store shelves or even with the Asian
Beauty Supply stores in the Black neighborhoods. One of the
questions we get on a daily basis is "Can I buy your products
locally?". The answer is "Not yet.". But, we have
niche that we think we fill nicely and will expand as our growth allow
us to. Through the Internet, we have found a way to serve our
community, to help a few small manufacturers that we represent and,
hopefully, to provide a living for our family and to raise productive
members of the community (our children).
We find the term "Asian Beauty Supply Store" to be extremely ironic.
And, frankly, annoying. Do they supply products to
Asian community? No. The vast majority of their clientele is
Black. Where else do you hear of a store called by a term,
based on what it sells or to whom they sell it, but named for the
ownership of the store? We think this is a sad state of
and would like to see this trend reversed, if possible. If
interested, there are a couple of videos available that document this
in much more detail. One is the Black Hair Care DVD available
purchase at: http://blackhairdvd.com/
viewing free at You Tube
(it's in several installments including periodic updates). If
this link doesn't work, go to YouTube and do a search on Aron Ranen
and/or Black Hair Documentary. Another is also on YouTube
. Some claim this
isn't "fair" that
Koreans have taken over the market. But, we're not even going
go there. The fact is they have, and the question is "What,
anything, are we going to do about it?. It begins with
and education. We hope that this article will prompt you to
about whether you choose to do anything about it and what you will do.
If Black people vote with our dollars, we can effect a change
this situation. We are certainly not powerless.
There is an organization called BOBSA
Owned Beauty Supply Association) that is attempting to do
something about the state of the Black Beauty Supply industry.
learned of BOBSA through viewing the Black Hair DVD. The idea
sounds promising. But, a review of BOBSA's website didn't instill us
with a lot of confidence that the organization has a solid plan for
correcting things in the industry. This is not a criticism of BOBSA.
But, we have joined other organizations and paid dues that
seemed to go into a black hole. So, admittedly, we're a
skeptical. We plan to keep our eye on BOBSA to see if
we find worthwhile comes out of it. We're hoping it
So, what are we asking from you? First, of all, just to be
of the state of things and to be conscious about the decisions you
make. We are not suggesting you boycott Asian Beauty Supply
Stores or stop buying your favorite L'Oreal or other products.
We're not asking you to break the bank to buy from Black
companies. If you can find your favorite shade of Black Opal
lipstick at your corner store for less than you can buy it from us,
there's no reason for you to pay more to us. We are asking
you consider giving Black owned businesses a chance and to consider
other factors besides just price when making your purchasing decisions.
Ultimately, if a Black owned business is not providing you
any value, you are not doing anyone any favors by buying from them-
because they will not be in business long. Treasured Locks
an effort to provide value in several ways- great products, great
selection, personalized service, availability anywhere in the country,
availability of information and advice, etc.
We hope you find this helpful. If you'd like permission to
reprint this article or post it on your website, please contact us
through our website.