Photo: iStock

Are you a female hair-care entrepreneur?

Professional beauty-supply juggernaut Sally Beauty recently launched a business-accelerator program specifically designed to help female beauty entrepreneurs grow their businesses. Sally Beauty Cultivate—For Women by Women is actively seeking out the next line of innovative hair-care products, offering one phenomenal female-owned brand entrepreneurial mentorship, $25,000 in financial support and distribution through Sally Beauty’s website.

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Said Carrie McDermott, president of Sally Beauty:

We are thrilled to launch the Sally Beauty Cultivate program. We continue to be inspired by all of the terrific women entrepreneurs we have met over the years and believe in supporting women who are developing products to make her best accessory, her hair, even better.

The black hair-care industry has seen a huge boom in growth in recent years, thanks in large part to the explosion of the natural-hair movement. But the interest in the market hasn’t always corresponded to success for its often homegrown brands and hair-care entrepreneurs, as noted by the Los Angeles Times in 2017:

[W]ith 71 percent of black adults in the U.S. wearing their hair naturally at least once in 2016, according to research firm Mintel, natural hair has now hit the mainstream. And with black consumers spending an estimated $2.56 billion on hair care products in 2016, it’s no surprise others are eager to edge into the market. ... But it’s also forcing independent black-owned companies to compete with corporations that long ignored the natural-hair market, resulting in sometimes uncomfortable changes for customers and business owners alike.

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Sally Beauty was the first national beauty retailer to provide distribution and development support to several minority female-owned hair-care brands, including Made Beautiful, Mielle Organics, the Mane Choice and Carol’s Daughter’s Pracaxi Nectar product line, among others. Currently, nearly 1 in 3 of the retailer’s hair-care and hair-color sales support brands created or owned by women, while 1 in 5 textured-hair sales support brands founded by African-American women.

One of those women is Mielle Organics founder Monique Rodriguez, who spoke with The Glow Up about the impact that her partnership with the retailer has had on her now-booming business.

Monique Rodriquez, Mielle Organics
Photo: Mielle Organics

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The Glow Up: You’ve had the benefit of working with Sally Beauty as a retail partner. How did that relationship begin, and how has it developed?

Monique Rodriguez: My relationship with Sally Beauty began February of 2016, and they were actually the first retail store we entered. I happened to be in Dallas, Texas, with my husband and children for my daughter’s gymnastics competition and I got a call from Sally saying they wanted to meet with us. I didn’t have a babysitter for my girls, but I also wasn’t going to miss out on the opportunity. I took them with me to the meeting, which made it even more special because they were a part of such a pivotal moment in my career.

Initially [we were placed] in 95 stores to test and see how the products would do. We informed our consumers that the products were finally available in retail stores—and they shut Sally’s down! The same day we launched, the products sold out in every store we were in. ... I’m happy to say today we are in over 2,000 Sally Beauty locations [as well as other retailers] and our product line has grown tremendously.

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TGU: As a black female business owner, what were the specific challenges you faced breaking into the beauty industry? How do you think your business might’ve benefited from a business incubator like Sally Beauty Cultivate?

MR: Personally, my biggest challenge in breaking into the beauty industry was not having a mentor—I had to do tons of research and figure a lot out on my own, and with that, mistakes are made. ... Most entrepreneurs, particularly in the beauty industry, have the goal of getting their product into major retail stores. [Sally Beauty Cultivate] offers that as well as mentorship, which is what I personally struggled with in building my own business. I wish something of this magnitude was around when I was building my business, because it is truly an asset.

Mielle

TGU: What can we expect next from Mielle Organics?

MR: We have a lot coming down the pipeline that we are ecstatic about! My consumers are my No. 1 priority, and it is my goal to let them know that I hear their requests and I am going to keep them happy and satisfied with new innovative products.

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The opportunity to develop as an entrepreneur and retain ownership over one’s brand is significant. While acquisition by major cosmetics companies—like the 2014 sale of Carol’s Daughter to L’Oreal—can mean major expansion for the brand itself, but what does it mean for black- and female-owned business, or the community at large? After all, as the Times noted, “The [natural beauty] movement emerged because big beauty companies were ignoring their wants and needs.”

Business incubators like the one Sally Beauty is offering can present amazing opportunities for growth and development generally not afforded to small business—growth that will hopefully be channeled back into the community from whence it came.

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Speaking about the launch of Sally Beauty Cultivate, Jamira Johnson, vice president of Digital and Innovation, had this to say:

We’re excited to identify the next wave of women entrepreneurs and help support them through the Sally Beauty Cultivate program. ... We believe there is so much hair-care innovation happening every day in women’s homes, salons and communities, and we want to encourage that innovation to thrive and grow.

The Glow Up tip: If you think you have the next innovative product in hair care, visit Sally Beauty’s website here to enter the Sally Beauty Cultivate competition before July 18.

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