Temika Morris says customers are usually surprised when they see her, but it brings them a sense of pride to see a black woman owning a beauty-supply store that serves people like her.
The 37-year-old turned her passion for hair into a reality by creating, along with her daughter, Ms. Melanin Beauty Supply and Salon on the Southeast Side in June 2017.
Morris had owned other businesses, but realized she wanted to open one that caters to black women’s beauty needs after a deal fell through on a hair store that she explored with a business broker.
“It is an honor to be able to represent black women who put a lot of the money into this industry,” she said.
There are an estimated 350 to 500 black-owned beauty shops in Ohio, including a handful in the Columbus area, and that number is continuing to rise nationwide, according to the Black-Owned Beauty Supply Association.
Located at 3601 Gender Road, Ms. Melanin Beauty Supply and Salon sells natural hair products, weaves, wigs and accessories. It also sells hair-straightening products, such as relaxers and perms (chemical and non-chemical).
In the past year, the store also has added a fashion boutique and salon services, including hair, eyebrows, eyelashes and makeup services.
The store’s product lines reflect interest among black women in the natural hair movement, which has women embracing their naturally curly hair rather than trying to chemically alter it, Morris said. Many black women look for natural hair products that care for their curls without drying them out, she said.
As the natural-hair movement continues to grow, black consumers are less willing to shop in stores that don’t understand their specific needs, said Sam Ennon, president and CEO of the beauty-supply association.
Black women spent $54 million this past year in the black hair-care industry, according to a 2018 study by Nielsen. Yet black beauty shops are predominantly Korean-American owned, according to the association.
Of the more than 35,000 beauty-supply stores in the United States, about 2,500 are black-owned, compared with more than 7,000 that are Korean-American owned, the group says. Those figures, however, could be changing, Ennon said.
“There is now a rise of black-owned beauty shops because of the want to get back into the business,” he said.
Koreans began to dominate the beauty store industry because they started businesses early on, when hair products were high in demand, said Sam Hwang, vice president of the National Federation of Beauty Suppliers.
“They provided a service where the community could purchase a product they needed,” Hwang said.
Hwang says the number of Korean-owned beauty stores is shrinking because first-generation Korean owners are retiring and closing the stores.
“A lot of the kids don’t want to continue the businesses their parents did,” he said.
The biggest barrier that black beauty entrepreneurs face is that many small businesses do not have the capital to buy bulk inventory and offer products at the lower prices found at bigger beauty stores, according to the Black-Owned Beauty Supply Association.
“People always complain about black-owned businesses being expensive, but they have to understand businesses like us are funding all of this out of one pocket,” said Morris’ daughter, Kayla Morris.
It takes more than just your race to attract customers; it takes knowing and learning about the business, Temika Morris said.
“I don’t want people to support us just because we’re black-owned,” she said. “Support us because we care about our customers.”
Sherman Willis, vice president of Willis Beauty Supply Co. at 1499 E. Livingston Ave. on the South Side, said he’s been running his shop alongside his brother, James Willis, since 1967.
“It has been rewarding, and I can consider it successful that we still have our doors opened,” Willis said.
Rondala Jeffers lives in Canal Winchester and visits Morris’ shop frequently, happy to have a black-owned beauty-supply shop near her.
“The employees are very friendly and make you feel like family,” Jeffers said. “Sometimes, I’ll even come in to just talk to everyone.”
Another customer, Tiffany Jones, who lives in Berwick on Columbus’ East Side, heard about the shop from Facebook, and said she loves that the owner is black.
“It’s important to have black-owned beauty stores because it’s hard for someone to know what to put in your hair if they don’t know much about it,” Jones said.
Although Temika Morris says her shop still has room to grow — she’d like to expand her inventory — she believes she’s making a difference in her community.
“I’m proud I created this and have been able to sustain it this long,” she said. “It makes me hopeful.”