In early 2021, Briana Willis was working as a registered nurse when she decided to open a beauty supply store in Wichita. On September 5, she quit that job to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams, opening Bebe’s Beauty Supply at 519 S. Woodlawn.
“I loved being a nurse, always having had a passion for health and wellness, but I knew that wasn’t what I wanted to do full-time for the rest of my life. I wanted to be my own boss and be an entrepreneur,” said Willis.
BeBe’s Beauty Supply, which specializes in hair and beauty products for Black women and men, is one small shop in a multibillion-dollar industry centered around Black culture and textured hair. Beauty supply stores are staples of the Black community, where women stock up on hair care items like relaxers, edge control, extensions and wigs, and Willis wants to see more Black residents owning them.
“I always took issue with going to the local supply store and the owners weren’t knowledgeable about our products, our culture, and our hair. They’re just trying to sell their products, and growing up, that used to drive me crazy,” said Willis.
However, Willis is among only a few hundred black owners of the more than 39,000 beauty supply stores in America. The market for stores catering to Black beauty supply shoppers is dominated by Korean-Americans with Koreans owning nearly 70% of those stores while less than 10% are Black-owned.
Willis feels, as one of the number one consumers in the beauty industry, Black women are not getting the treatment they deserve. That’s a concern Willis addresses at her store. Unlike other supply store owners, she’s built her business model around partnering with local beauty companies and working one-on-one with customers to ensure they get the correct product and information that matches their specific needs.
” I only want to promote products that will strengthen and grow the customers’ hair. Beauty stores often carry products from large companies that contain alcohol and other ingredients that are damaging to our hair,” said Willis.
Since the launch of BeBe’s Beauty Supply, Willis has seen a steady stream of customers coming into the shop. – One challenge Willis faced when opening BeBe’s was picking a prime location that would best suit her business needs. In Kansas, beauty supplies stores must be at least two miles apart.
“I was trying to think of the best location to serve the community, and at the same time find a location that was far enough away from the other beauty supply stores, ” said Willis. “There used to be a beauty supply store down the street that did not last very long.
Willis is currently in the process of developing an online platform for BeBe’s Beauty Supply, but to see more her their product offerings follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BeBesBeautySupply\
BeBe’s Beauty Supply’s Hours of Operation are: Tuesday-Saturday, 9:00 a.m.- 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, 10 a.m.- 4 p.m.