Looking for an entirely for-us, by-us, one-stop shop for hair and beauty products? Welcome to the Dooplex, a new online marketplace hoping to elevate the black beauty industry to the next level.
Launched on Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2018, the Dooplex is the brainchild of CEO Kevin Lyles, who left a corporate career in Texas to return to his native Gary, Ind., to help his family’s 29-year-old beauty-and-barber supply company, Milizette. Witnessing the ways that his hometown was dying because of the loss of industry and jobs, Lyles sought to give back to the community and help small black-owned salons and beauty suppliers stay afloat by selling their product online.
Enter friends and partners Roger Fountain, Jacob Williams and Rebekah Sager, who are helping Lyles bring his vision to life through the Dooplex. In addition to offering options from lesser-known black- and minority-owned skin- and hair-care brands, starting with Dr. Earles Skin & Hair, KitiKiti, BBD King and Indigo, the team are also offering community and kinship through their blog, Doo-Rag. The blog is edited by established journalist Sager, who tells The Glow Up:
We are political, and we’re not afraid of being political. We’re not afraid of saying who we are and having that open communication and conversation that black women have every day, like they would have in a salon. But this way, they’re going to have it online.
Their autonomy to craft and convey their own unique message, as well as curate offerings specific to the needs of women of color, derives from the fact that the Dooplex is independently funded. While their pace of growth may be slow and steady compared with other startups, there are no venture capitalists editing their messaging or watering down their products, each of which is salon-tested and professional-grade. Says Sager:
I think it’s important that we make sure that our customers know that the lines that they’re buying are black and minority-owned. ... It’s never been more relevant than right now. And that is something our customers really respond to—it doesn’t have to always be these big cosmetic companies that are the powerhouse. You know, these smaller lines are out there; they’ve been chugging along in the black community doing really well for women for a long time. It’s just that now we have a national platform for them, through e-commerce.
As the Dooplex continues to grow, future plans include a possible in-house label, which would create local jobs, as well as philanthropic efforts to help revitalize the city of Gary, potentially through the creation of a nonprofit. But for now, that growth depends heavily on word of mouth and ensuring that the customers the Dooplex was created to serve know that a space exclusively for them now exists, as Sager tells us:
We want to say that women of color are not an afterthought; this is not the “ethnic aisle.” This is for them, with them in mind, with them in the front of our minds, and we want to offer products to them that work. ... For us, first and foremost are our customers, and what works for them and what they need.