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Beauty Supply

16 mins read

Black Owned Beauty Supply Store Preparing to Launch Franchise

Cova Beauty is a Black-owned beauty supply store that specializes in cosmetics, organic care products, hair extensions, and accessories.

We previously interviewed the owner Dianna Foster about her experience running the largest beauty supply store in Stockbridge, GA.

We caught up again to see how business is going and to find out about some exciting plans she has in store.

Black-owned beauty supply store
Dianna Foster, owner of Cova Beauty

When we first spoke, you had plans to open a second location. Any updates to share? 

We are looking to expand by franchising Cova within the next two years. I am ensuring our franchisees are equipped for success and that I am available to support them every step of the way.

I know firsthand the challenges that can arise in launching a retail location, and my franchisees will have all the tools needed to prevent them from making some of the mistakes I made initially.

I’m super excited to expand into new communities and enlarge our retail territory! 

What type of growth has your business experienced since its launch in 2016? What do you attribute that growth to? 

We’ve had a gradual increase over the past few years. In 2016 we made just under $200,000 in the first year of business and we’re projected to be in the seven-figure range at the end of this year.

There are many things that have contributed to our growth but I’m happy to share what factors were essential for us.

1. Inventory

Expanding our inventory and being able to offer a more diverse product mix for our customers was huge for us. We opened with less than 10 vendors, and we currently have over 100 plus. When we launched, several large vendors would not allow me to open an account with their company. However, I stayed persistent and built relationships with smaller vendors.

If it was an account I was really interested in, I would follow up consistently to see if there was anything we could do to be approved, and after 6 years we were finally approved for one of the largest vendors in the industry. However, during those 6 years, I did not sit idle, I applied to several smaller companies that carried the same products to ensure my customers’ demands were met and we were able to stay competitive.

To secure those vendors, I was required to go through an extensive credit check, I had to be sure that I wasn’t in an over-saturated market, and I was required to show how I could add value to the vendors by meeting or succeeding fulgent guidelines. We also expanded the fixtures in our store to accommodate 60 new product lines. This new direction allowed us to provide a more immersive experience and increase the time customers were in store by giving them more options which increased our average units per transaction. 

2. Strategic Staffing

We hired the right people. Having the right staff remains a top priority for us. In addition to having positive, like-minded employees, I feel hiring a fashion-forward team is critical in this business. I look for candidates who aren’t afraid to take risks with their hair and makeup.

I like when beauty comes naturally to them, and they enjoy it. This helps keep me up to date on the latest trends because they love social media and are always finding cool things on YouTube, IG, and TikTok. Social media being a part of their culture is a bonus for me as well. I love it! 

3. Accounting

Most importantly, I had to understand the financial health of my business. When we opened, managing a store, and selling products was easy for me but I quickly realized If I wanted to truly elevate, I needed to educate myself on the health of the business.

I work closely with my accountant monthly. During our meetings, we identify areas preventing us from being profitable and formulate a plan to increase our profit margins & average ticket sales, etc. would strongly encourage new business owners to partner with an accountant to create a plan to ensure that their business is profitable and that they are able to take advantage of the programs that are designed to support small business owners. 

Black-owned beauty supply store

When the pandemic first started, did your business experience any challenges? How did you address them? 

Absolutely. When the Pandemic began in 2020, we were forced to close for about nine weeks. It was difficult because during that time, our employees lost their primary source of income. I’m sure you can imagine the devastation as a business owner trying to provide solutions for a staff I care deeply for. My main concern was figuring out how they would support their families financially while we were closed. I also realized I had to ensure they felt safe and comfortable to return once we were cleared to open. 

Additionally, all our vendors in the US closed and our supply chains were interrupted. We had no idea or indication of when they’d reopen. It was a lot, but it was important for me to focus on what I could control. I couldn’t control vendors and shipping, but I could take care of my staff. It was a time of confusion and uncertainty and the last thing I wanted them to worry about was their jobs. 

When we were cleared to reopen, thankfully, all our employees returned and while we were happy, we were in for a new challenge. Due to social distancing, we had to change our entire customer engagement strategy. We pride ourselves on offering concierge-like service and we had to completely pivot. The little things that contribute to the Cova experience had to be nixed and boy was it an adjustment. Not going the extra mile had to become our new normal. How do we continue to go the extra mile for our customers without going the extra mile? We had to do the best we could within our mandated parameters. 

So, our new normal looked like creating a new environment where my staff felt safe enough to work with Covid-19 safety protocols. The personal touches we placed on customer service had to stop. We could no longer walk them bags around the counter and thank them for their business. I felt like we couldn’t provide an experience for our customers anymore. We had to limit and then discontinue the option to try on wigs.

Now that may seem small, but our customers love trying on wigs at our vanity bar. The casual and cool conversations were no more as customers wanted to purchase their products and leave. We were no longer able to do what we do best. Ensuring everyone was healthy was the only priority. 

I had to restructure certain guidelines according to the CDC. Small things became challenges. If an employee called out because of Covid symptoms or being exposed to someone with symptoms, informing my team could cause alarm even though we were adhering to CDC guidelines. Callouts impacted daily operations. Employees having to quarantine for two weeks meant the remaining staff were forced to cover additional shifts. These challenges eventually led to a decrease in employee morale. We were able to

quickly adjust to the challenges with a new way of interacting and the team became engaged in a positive way. I can’t say enough how grateful I am to my team. 

Lastly, our supply chains were interrupted. When we reopened, many of our products were no longer available because some vendors had to unfortunately close or there was a delay in their inventory which caused delays in our inventory. We were certainly in no position to wait for vendors to untangle themselves so as a solution, We began partnering with larger vendors and over ordering. We stored the additional products in our warehouse and used that as our backup. That ensured that our shelves were always stocked. 

Black-owned beauty supply store

Why have you decided to launch an “Every Door Direct Mail” campaign?

Prioritizing fruitful relationships and valuable encounters with our customers was a part of our mission before Cova opened its doors. I realize the importance of connecting with them in thoughtful and meaningful ways. 

After reviewing our data analytics and the genuine relationships we’ve cultivated with them over the last 6 years, I decided it was time to expand with a new approach to our outreach matrix.

An EDDM Campaign is not only efficient, but it gives us the opportunity to introduce Cova organically to those within the community we haven’t had the pleasure of meeting yet. This excites me because we can connect with them on a personal level with targeted marketing.

While Digital Marketing allows businesses to reach consumers in a very short amount of time, EDDM allows me to strategically saturate an entire market and track the results. I’m hopeful this will contribute to my goal of building name recognition and brand awareness in the community while reaching a strengthened, more diverse audience. 

You carry a number of Black-owned brands in your store. How do you select which brands to carry? 

I would like to start by saying yes! We do carry several Black-owned brands in-store. 

Some of my personal favorites are The Doux, Alikay Naturals, and Camille Rose. I am often approached by amazing Black-owned brands and while I wish we could carry them all, there are so many factors to consider and I’m happy to share our product selection process. 

The first and most important is that each product must meet a certain standard. We always must make sure that the product is safe for consumers, properly labeled, in compliance with all laws and regulations, and manufactured in an environment that will not cause them to become adulterated. 

In addition to product safety, I must consider the demographics, my location, the season as well as the buying patterns of our customers. Stockbridge is a family-oriented community and what sells well in the city of Atlanta, differs from in the city of Stockbridge. 

I’ve had the opportunity to work in my store almost daily for the past 6 years which has been a tremendous benefit. It’s taught me what works well in my store because I’m able to listen to my customers, and trust me, they know what they want.

We also visit Beauty Trade Shows to stay ahead of the trends and to be sure we’re stocking the right brands. I also meet with my vendors monthly and request a ranking report to select products based on what works well in my store. A ranking report is helpful because it ranks their top-selling items, and we all know popularity matters. 

When hand selecting products for the shelves, it takes planning where I must consider package sizing, chemicals, price point, and demand. Proper planning is a huge factor in my success. I personally hand-select each item that we carry and that’s over 170,000 ticketed items. 

Have you noticed any change in customer preferences or demand for certain types of products over others? 

Absolutely, I think the social injustice in our community has prompted a renewed sense of awareness. And our customers want an accurate representation of who they are, what their hair texture is, and how this brand can help them be their best selves.

I’ve increased the number of Black-owned brands we carry because of customer demand. We want to support our own and I’m honored to be a link in that generational chain.

 

-Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

How This Black Owned Beauty Supply Store Is Readjusting To Changing Times

Due to government-imposed mandates, many Black owned beauty supply stores have seen foot traffic decline or completely stop.

However, some have found ways to meet the demand for their products. One of those businesses is Glendale, CA based Blessed Beauty Supply.

black owned beauty supply
Lexus Allen, owner of Blessed Beauty Supply

What inspired you to start a beauty supply store?

I started transitioning to natural in 2015 and I became a bit of a product junkie. I started loving my natural hair/curls, keeping it healthy, and trying new products. I loved shopping for products but didn’t really know anyone else who enjoyed it as much as me.

So, I decided to open my own store where I could create a community/environment to meet other people who loved it as much as I do, and to help other women and men on their hair journeys.
Black Owned Beauty Supply Store

How has the Coronavirus outbreak affected your business?

Initially, the coronavirus slowed business down a bit but things have begun to pick up again. I’ve been getting new customers from all over the world, which is great. Beauty supplies, especially Black-owned products online are in higher demand now more than ever before.

What new strategies have you implemented or do you plan to implement in your business?

Luckily, I already had an online store setup. Having that in place made adjusting to the pandemic much easier. I’ve switched to solely selling online, and I’ve also implemented curbside pickup for those that live locally and don’t want to wait for shipping.

Although our shipping is pretty quick (usually 1-3 days). I’m still strategizing on any other ways I can make this time easier for my customers because I want them to always have a good experience when shopping with Blessed.

If you had one ask of your community right now, what would it be?

Support and patience. During this time and any, I ask that the community unconditionally support Black-owned businesses like they do other business or larger corporations such as Wal-Mart, Target, Sally’s, etc.

Black owned beauty supply stores need patience because we are working overtime to make sure all your beauty needs are being met right now. A lot of us are selling out of items and during these times it’s harder to restock on some things.

If I don’t have something at my store and can’t get it in a timely manner, I will gladly refer you to another Black-owned establishment that may have it. It’s all about support and patience right now, especially for me because I’m a fairly new business and learning as I go.

5 mins read

Meet the Owner of the Largest Beauty Supply store in Stockbridge, GA

Cova Beauty is a black owned beauty supply store that specializes in cosmetics, organic care products, hair extensions and accessories.

They are also the largest beauty retailer in Stockbridge, GA. We caught up with the owner, Dianna Foster to find out more about her and her business.

black owned beauty supply
Cova Beauty owner, Dianna Foster

What inspired you to start your business?

I’ve always loved everything about beauty, hair & fashion. I was the girl known for always switching my hairstyles up and trying new things. This love blossomed into a passion. As I was in a season of inner exploration, looking to determine my next professional career move, I was inspired by the lack of options in the beauty supply industry.

black owned beauty supply

There were certain things I needed and couldn’t find from products to experience. I stepped out on faith to create a space that offered everything I would want and need. I’m so grateful that our customers are enjoying it.

What has been the most challenging and the most gratifying thing about owning a business?

In the beginning, one of my challenges was delegating. My business is my baby, I love every part of it and enjoy doing the work. However, I had to quickly become comfortable with delegating so I can focus on our growth. The cool thing about that is it encourages growth, empowers and gives confidence to my staff. It’s been amazing.

The most gratifying part of this journey will always be the customers and the relationships we’ve developed with them. The joy I feel when our regulars visit us is indescribable. The gratitude I’m overcome with is immeasurable when a woman tells me she drove over an hour to visit Cova.

Knowing we’re a part of their lives now is so humbling. It makes me so happy. Nothing else can compare to that feeling.

What skill have you developed over time that has had the biggest impact on your business?

Self-discipline. Discipline affects every aspect of this business. You must have the discipline and work ethic to complete tasks, be resourceful and execute day in and day out.

When I’m not feeling my best, discipline kicks in. Without it, none of this would be possible. You cannot maintain any level of success without discipline.

How easy or difficult was it to source Black-owned brands to sell in your store?

Fortunately, we’ve had really positive experiences with Black-owned brands and haven’t had much difficulty supporting them here in our store. We have so many great relationships and I’m so grateful for that!

What advice do you have for others who want to start a beauty supply store?

Do your research. Develop self-discipline. Don’t move too fast. Don’t rush the process. Know your worth and make sure your work ethic matches it. Make sure you love it because it’s not a walk in the park.

There will be challenges, man have I had them, but my love for this keeps me going through it all. I really love what I do and I know its that love that had me here 7 days a week, 12-16 hours a day. It refocused me when I needed course correction.

Where do you see your business in 5 years?

I definitely see us expanding and scaling Cova. We’re actually scouting locations for store #2! I’m also planning to roll out an e-commerce extension as well. We get so much support from people across the country that want to shop with us so it’s coming! Cova Beauty will be a household name!


Tony O. Lawson

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5 mins read

Meet the Youngest Beauty Supply Store Owners in California

According to the Beauty Supply Institute, the beauty supply industry generates about $15 billion per year. Although 96% of the customers are Black, less than  3% of ownership within the industry is Black.

Breaking into the beauty supply industry is no small accomplishment. That’s why we were thrilled to discover that Kayla Davis, 19, and Keonna Davis, 21 had opened their own beauty supply store, KD Haircare Supply.

We had a chat with them and this is what they had to say:

SB: How did KD Haircare Supply get started?

KD: We started planning in the summer of 2014 and launched our online website March 2015.

SB: What made you decide on the beauty supply industry specifically?

KD: We did some research on the hair industry and since one of us is  natural and the other wears weave, we figured why not begin a natural & weave beauty supply store. We knew it was a good idea since our area lacks the natural products that are popular in the south and on the east coast.

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SB: Do you have to juggle school or any other obligations?

KD: When we began, Keonna was out of school and Kayla was a high school senior. The business was online so it pretty much ran itself.

In order to effectively manage our time, we have to schedule events on days when we are closed or request coverage from other individuals. Mainly, we just focus on our storefront and attend social or personal activities outside of business hours.

SB: How is it working with a sibling?

KD: Well, very funny question! As siblings, we know each other too well. We have different strengths and we seem to be able to fall into our own roles to take care of business related tasks. We find that working with each other is probably easier than working with someone else.

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SB: How has your age either helped or been a challenge as business owners?

KD: In the beginning, a lot of people probably didn’t take us seriously. Getting a lease was interesting because we’ve never had a storefront and owners were reluctant to lease to us.

However, our mom stepped in to help with that. She assured the owner that we were serious and able to handle our obligations.

We believe our age is the main reason for the social buzz now. Our community and the community across the country have been very supportive and we love it!

SB: Who or what inspires you? 

KD: Our community inspires us to do the best and to continue on our business journey. Our mother also told us to be self employed and that there’s nothing more fulfilling to work for yourself. Being in the beauty supply industry has given us a sense of pride in ownership due to all the support.
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SB: What are your future plans for KD Haircare supply?

KD: We hope we’ve just scratched the surface. We have plans to expand into different locations. We’re not sure if we will franchise but we plan on having more than one location.
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SB: What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs or people who want to start a business?

KD: We would tell them to be persistent, to research their market before jumping into it, and to network with other individuals in their industry. We also would say not to be discouraged because people will say no. But, if they feel their vision is what they want to pursue, then pursue it. Never say “I can’t “. Remove those words from your vocabulary.
KD Haircare Supply LLC is located at 4453 Sunnymead Boulevard, Moreno Valley, CA 92553