On a typical day, Regina Clark sees about 25 customers at her store, Clark’s Beauty Supply in Raytown. For the past nine years her store has been open, Clark has counted every person who has come in each day. She meticulously writes down what time they came in, what they wanted and if she had the product they were looking for.
During those same nine years, she’s watched other beauty supply stores, mostly Korean-American owned, have 25 people customers every 30 minutes and she wants to build that same clientele.
At 70 years old, Clark says it’s not about the money. Her goal is bringing Black dollars spent on beauty supplies back to the Black community. Doing this, will help provide another path for local Black success.
“If it was about the money, guess what, I would have closed two years ago because I’m not making money. I’m making inroads to my people,” she said, “and I’m going to stay until it happens.”
There are only five Black-owned beauty supply stores in the Kansas City metro area. In the US, Korean-Americans dominate the multi-billion-dollar beauty supply industry.
According to a 2018 Nielsen demographic spending report, more than 80% of spending on ethnic hair and beauty was attributed to Black consumers, while about three-quarters of the country’s beauty supply stores are owned by Korean-Americans.
How is it that an industry that is a staple in the Black community is not majority Black-owned?
BOOM IN WIG INDUSTRY
It all started with the explosion in the wig business in the 1960s when South Korea became the main manufacturer and exporter of packaged human and synthetic hair.
Korean-American immigrants had direct connections to manufacturers and distributors, and it gave them a leg up in the industry. They had access to the best and newest wigs, which continued with access to the best hair, when importing bulk hair for weaves exploded.
Success literally bred success, with family members and employees of those Korean-American-owned stores opening copycat stores.
ROADBLOCKS TO SUCCESS
Clark and other Black-owned beauty supply stores all over America say manufacturers refuse to sell them certain popular synthetic hair brands like Free Tress and Model Model, which further limits their success.
“It’s like the Mafia,” Clark said. “They won’t let you in and they will not allow you to make it.”
Devin Robinson, an economics professor and author of “How to Become a Successful Beauty Supply Store Owner,” told Madame Noir that the problem is that distributors will often discriminate against Black-owned beauty supply stores.
“Distributors are mainly non-Blacks and they handpick who they will distribute products to. This oftentimes leaves aspiring Black owners disenfranchised,” he said.
That’s why the five Black-owned beauty supply stores in Kansas City try to work together to obtain the products they need.
James Davis, owner of Your Beauty Supply in Lee’s Summit, said other challenges for Black-owned beauty supply stores includes having to pay for their merchandise up front combined with dealing with longer shipping times, most often because they lack the connections in Korea their competitors have to help expedite their shipping.
YOUR BEAUTY SUPPLY
Davis opened his beauty supply store in 2018 after he had a bad experience at one. He was looking for beard dye and could feel the store staff watching him closely, following his every move around the store.
“I know when people look at me, they think bad of me because I’m a Black man,” Davis said. “They always think negative about me, but when I went in that store, I really felt it.”
When he told his wife about the experience, he was baffled by her response.
“That’s normal treatment for us,” she said.
“How do we as Black people accept that as normal?” he asked. “Why do we support them, but they mistreat us?”
In one month, he opened Your Beauty Supply hoping to give African Americans a more welcoming and affordable place to shop for beauty supplies.
As soon as he opened, customers came in describing their negative experiences at non-Black-owned beauty supply stores. They were pleased to have a Black-owned beauty supply store nearby.
“We need to boycott these stores for a month or two to let them know that we’re not going to take this anymore,” Davis said. “No more following us around. We are your customers. Respect us.”
Clark and Davis are encouraging Kansas Citians to find out where their closest Black-owned beauty supply store is, take time to talk to them and support them.
“We need to come together as a community,” Clark said. “We know how important our dollar is.”
Helping the Next Generation of Beauty Supply Owners
Davis, who has owned multiple successful businesses since he was 19-years-old, believes Kansas City’s Black community needs to do more to support each other, so he is helping other African Americans open their own beauty supply stores – free of charge.
So far, he’s helped a store open in St. Louis, two in Kansas City, and is helping an entrepreneur open one in Chicago.
He’s trying to find someone to open a store in Wyandotte County, where there are no Black-owned beauty supply stores.
“If you want a beauty supply store, you should have one,” Davis said. “We need to start learning how to build wealth.” To learn more, contact Davis at (816) 434-5600.
KC Metro Black-Owned Beauty Supply Stores:
Your Beauty Supply – 651 SW 2nd St, Lee’s Summit, MO
Clark’s Beauty Supply – 5226 Blue Ridge Blvd, Raytown, MO
Ahzi’s Beauty Depot – 6714 Prospect Ave, Kansas City, MO 64132
Imani Beauty Supply – 1702 MO-7 HWY, Blue Springs, MO 64014
Genesis Beauty Supply – 9909 US-40, Independence, MO 64055
The Curl Code (Online KS/MO-based) – www.thecurlcodebeautysupply.com