Black Hair Care Industry 2017

Posted by Brian D. Smith on May 5th 2017

Several years ago I wrote an article about the state of the black hair care industry. At that time, most of the retail locations that served black communities were Asian owned.  Most of the companies that made products for African-Americans were not owned by black Americans, with a couple of notable exceptions.  And, most of the products on the market were not well suited for the needs of ethnic hair care.  Sadly, two recent news stories in our industry highlight the fact that things haven't changed much and reminded us why we started Treasured Locks in 2002.  

We got our start, 15 years ago, when we discovered a company out of New York called SheaMoisture.  SheaMoisture was using this "new" ingredient from Africa, shea butter. At that time, most people hadn't heard of shea butter even though it had been used in Africa for generations. We started on line selling SheaMoisture and Nubian Heritage products in the days when few small retailers had on-line operations. We loved the SheaMoisture products and remember the original packaging of Nubian Heritage when they had "100% Black Owned and Proud Of It" prominently displayed on the package.  We had several conversations with Rich Dennis, one of the founders of Nubian Heritage, back in the day.  We have stuck with Nubian Heritage and SheaMoisture over better and worse years for both of our companies.  We have seen as they have morphed their packaging to suit a wider audience, brought in outside investors, and removed "100% Black Owned" from their packaging.  Things change, companies grow, companies come, and companies go.  In the last couple of weeks there was a big kerfuffle as SheaMoisture launched an ad campaign that many felt disrespected their base by featuring white women in the ad and kicking off with a black woman talking about hating her hair.  We've seen a few companies makes these steps and how their customer base reacts to their changing product linse and marketing strategies.

Then, after that, there was a story about a CEO of a black hair care company who will no longer do business with a certain Asian beauty supply store.  Good for him!  We remember the days of going to the "Asian beauty supply store" to get products. We didn't refer to them as "Asian beauty supply" because they sold products to Asians, but because the neighborhood stores were exclusively, or nearly exclusively, owned by Asians. The products were usually full of cheap filler ingredients. The people working in the stores didn't know about our hair care needs.  Even worse, they didn't care. And, we never felt quite comfortable or welcome in most of these stores.  The story that ran about the way this particular store was treating its African-American customers was a reminder of the days when we had to endure that just to get the products we needed for the girls.

Treasured Locks has gone through our ups and downs in the last fifteen years. We've faced challenges from suppliers, increased competition, the sudden passing of our daughter Shayna, and having to find new ways to reach customers in an increasingly crowded space.  It hasn't been easy, but we are still standing.    We have not gotten a distribution deal like many of our former online competitors. You won't find our products at Target or Walmart. We still sell from our home, direct to our customers, over the internet.  We are still 100% black owned (and proud of it).  From those early days, we have grown into a company that not only represents others products, we have developed our own, high quality line of products. We are grateful for those customers who have stuck with us, who have spread the word about us, and who continue to support small black owned businesses trying to serve our community.  Thank you!