Specialization presents the next evolution of inclusivity, as opposed to brands or companies trying to cater to every demographic. There have been recent improvements in the industry to assist in representation, from increased entrepreneurial support to Thirteen Lune and JCPenney’s partnership, however, there is still room to grow further.
According to McKinsey & Company, in comparison to non-Black consumers, Black beauty shoppers are three times more likely to be unsatisfied with the assortment of beauty products available to them. Part of the culprit is the fact that Black brands only constitute four to seven percent of the brands carried by beauty retailers, despite the fact that Black consumers’ beauty expenditures constitute 11.1% of overall beauty spending. McKinsey & Company sees a $2.6 billion opportunity in improving this racial inequality across the industry.
Part of that improvement is BeautyBeez. Described as a “one-stop shop for Black girl beauty,” it is determined to fine-tune the entire beauty retail experience for Black and Brown consumers. Founded by Brittney Ogike in August 2019, the enterprise has both a physical presence in North Hollywood, as well as an online retail platform. Ogike’s inspiration for setting up the company came from her own personal beauty frustrations, which entailed the need to go to multiple locations for various products: a beauty-specific retailer like Sephora or Ulta for color cosmetics, a big box retailer such as Target or Walmart for general haircare products, and beauty supply stores for textured haircare products and tools.
“There's no one-stop shop for beauty. At the beauty supply store, it's typically not a great customer service experience and they are predominantly Asian-owned, so it's not people that look like us and understand our specific pain points when it comes to beauty. All of these things were lacking, so that was the gap I decided to fill with BeautyBeez,” she explains. To date, the company has been seeing double-digit growth year-over-year, proving that Ogike was not alone in her desire for a streamlined and more interactive shopping experience.
“We are niche. I have no qualms with that label because we want to get it right. What I've seen over the past three years, when we have customers come into our space and they see people that look like them and products made by people who look like them, they feel seen, understood, and comfortable there,” she enthuses. “It's a space created for our unique communities, and I think the customers are getting that and feeling appreciated."
Given the timing of its launch, BeautyBeez’s online shop proved to be indispensable during the pandemic. “When we launched, I had maybe six months before the full-on closures hit, but our e-commerce store actually launched before we opened our physical location, so we just shifted our focus to digital,” she recalls. “It worked to our advantage because these local beauty supply stores did not have any online presence. We were fulfilling orders from all across the country and even from Europe, Canada, and Africa, just because those stores were closed.” In 2020, BeautyBeez’s retail weighting was roughly 70 percent e-commerce, 30 percent physical retail. Since restrictions were lifted, this weighting has reversed. “Before the pandemic, people thought retail was dead. Now when people are shopping for beauty, they want to be in-store, to feel and experience the products,” Ogike comments.
While the customer base in mind was initially the Black and Brown consumer, BeautyBeez’s product assortment and offerings have found fans across the board. “Is it just for women of color? Absolutely not. We get people of all races shopping at the store and finding what they need, but the products are geared towards women with textured hair, and color cosmetics are geared towards Black and Brown skin,” she adds. In-store services such as hair braiding, waxing, and facials are also tailored towards the unique needs of Black and Brown skin. Furthermore, BeautyBeez has launched Native, its own line of virgin Remy hair extensions.
The journey to setting up the self-funded company was challenging due to the lack of minority ownership in the industry, as well as the gated community of owners, distributors, and creators currently dominating the textured hair and multicultural haircare marketplace. “It was hard overcoming those challenges, meeting certain requirements to open up accounts, and dealing with contractors to build out the space—understanding the lingo and making sure I wasn't being taken advantage of. But I persevered. There was a great group of Black female beauty supply owners in the LA area that I became close with, and we shared resources and found out ways to navigate the uncertainty, the challenges, and hurdles,” Ogike recalls.
The launch of the Pull Up or Shut Up campaign in 2020 was an instrumental tool in increasing shelf space for Black-owned brands, and Ogike is continuing to champion beauty entrepreneurs in the retail space for 2023 and beyond. “There are companies who created more equitable funding for minorities, but I feel like it's dropped off a bit, especially two years removed from the Black Lives Matter movement. What we try to do is create opportunities for brands of color,” Ogike states. “We have a program that we use to spotlight minority-owned brands and give them some shelf space that some of these other retailers otherwise would not have given them.” BeautyBeez’s inaugural Indie Vendor Program, which provides support and resources to a chosen cohort of brand owners, spotlighted wellness-focused bodycare brand Arome; eye care-focused skincare brand Sweet Curly Beauty; and handcrafted, raw bodycare brand Frothe Naturals. Ogike’s support extends beyond the beauty realm, with her operating as the Board Chair of The Middleton Family Foundation, which helps underserved communities with local mentoring, social, and financial support.
When it comes to the top-performing brands at BeautyBeez, it’s the companies with less representation at large that are actually selling the most products. “A lot of these Black-owned brands that don't have shelf space in the premium prestige retailers are the ones that are actually effective for our haircare needs, and so we continually push them, they continually sell out, and they're continually our top sellers,” she comments.
Clean beauty, especially for women of color, has undoubtedly been one of the industry’s most hotly debated topics, but for BeautyBeez customers, solution-orientated products trump ingredient analysis. “My customer has been ignored for so long, they just want a product that works first, then they'll worry about it being clean later. Once they get in their groove and start finding really good products and understanding the ingredients that work for their hair, being clean, organic, or natural comes later. It may change over the next 10 to 15 years, but right now, it's not a huge factor in their decision-making process,” Ogike proclaims.
Hair has surpassed skincare as BeautyBeez’s most popular product category. Top sellers include Sensationnel Lace Front Wigs, Well Tressed Twist & Tie Microfiber Hair Towel, and As I Am Restore & Repair Jamaican Black Castor Oil Shampoo. Its most requested in-store service is hair braiding, while colorful strand add-ins also are well-loved.
As for future endeavors, BeautyBeez is looking to improve its omnichannel experience with increased investment in the digital space, as well as another potential physical retail location. “We just want to meet our customers where they're at. It’s talking to our customers and seeing what other gaps need to be filled in beauty,” she adds. Given Ogike’s business intuition in starting BeautyBeez, the conversations are sure to spark fruitful activations for the coming year.
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