Entrepreneurs Jeffrey and Sade discovered a market niche in Brownsville, where pharmacies like Rite Aid were the neighborhood’s only carriers of haircare and skincare products
Despite grossing over $10 billion in sales annually, the beauty industry is fraught with barriers to enter and the constant risk of ever-evolving trends. But entrepreneurs Jeffrey and Sade discovered a market niche in Brownsville, where pharmacies like Rite Aid were few and far in between and the neighborhood’s only carriers of haircare and skincare products.
Their new store, Jeffrey Beauty Supply, opened its doors this past Thursday on the corner of Eastern Parkway and Saint Marks Avenue, supplying weaves, braids, wigs, hair color and other accessories. Sade said the store “caters to the full beauty spectrum,” but that 85 percent of the products target African-American customers.
“There’s a lot of money being spent by African Americans in this industry, especially women, and there’s just not as much representation in ownership,” said Sade. “So we wanted to take that challenge head on and start the tidal wave.”
Even as socio-cultural platforms like the annual CurlFest have kick-started powerful movements toward celebrating African-American hair – crimps, curls and all – the majority of beauty supply stores retailing hair weaves, curl creams and other products marketed to black women are owned by Korean-American entrepreneurs, who have dominated the market since the 1970s because of their close ties to Korean wholesalers.
It was after watching a documentary on the 2014 opening of the Flatbush-based Black Girls Divine Beauty Supply and Salon, owned by African-American sisters Judian and Kadeian Brown, that Jeffrey felt inspired to enter the beauty industry.
“I researched them and researched the obstacles that they had to go through,” Jeffrey says. “And it was all very discouraging. But I decided that this was what I wanted to do.”
In the beauty industry, retailers compete on location, price point and product diversity. And while Jeffrey Beauty Supply serves a hyperlocal clientele that allows it to circumvent competition from big-name retailers, Sade admits to feeling the threat of franchises like Feel Beauty, whose nearest outlet is in Flatbush.
Being newly opened, the store’s inventory is limited and a few shelves were empty pending shipments due to arrive on Monday. “If you walk into a traditional beauty supply it’s ceiling to floor. It’s inundated with products,” she says. “We explained it to our customers and they’ve been very receptive to the fact that we’ll get there one day soon.”
A year ago, Jeffrey and Sade were strangers. The entrepreneurs met through the Brownsville Partnership, a program offered by the nonprofit Community Solutions, which is vested in local economic development through entrepreneurship. They found themselves paired together after responding to the same Facebook ad, and realized they had a common interest: business ownership and the beauty industry. They now run the business together part-time while juggling day jobs.
“I think when something is the scariest, that’s when you should do it,” Sade said. “So I decided to really push and make it happen. We’re getting there.”