Who Owns the Black Hair Industry?
A new social media trend emerged after many Black people began realizing that their favorite Black hair brands weren’t Black owned at all. “The Brand vs The Owner” is a way to highlight small, independent Black owned businesses through the power of social media and community support.
Some, however, are wondering why the owner of a brand is significant at all. Here are some disappointing facts about the Black hair industry that explains why people are a little upset.
1. In the US, the Black hair industry is worth over 2.5 billion dollars according to Mintel, but Black people own just 14% of the market. Black Women have a significantly lower portion of that percentage.
2. Between the 80s and 90s Black owned businesses were on the rise. White companies started to realize that the Black hair industry was extremely profitable so they began buying up Black owned businesses, and employing tactics to control the market.
In 1993, African Pride, a white owned company tried to sue a small Black owned brand over use of the word “African” in their name. Sounds silly, right? Well, while African Pride ended up dropping their suit eventually, this is a common tactic to exhaust the funds of small businesses. It was also seen as an attempt to exploit afrocentrism.
Today’s Black owned businesses face similar issues. Dr. Kristian Henderson of Blk and Grn wrote “When a White Company Wear Blackface” after Black Opal attempted to oppose their trademark. She described it as, “claiming to own the stylized “BLK” version of Black, despite being very far from being a Black-owned company.”
3. A majority of Black hair products have highly toxic chemicals linked to various health issues. EWG estimates that over 70% of our hair products are toxic, which is 30% more than products for “all women.”
4. Black people own less than 1% of the beauty supply industry. Many owners report that Korean distributors, who dominate the market, refuse to sell to them or overcharge them to make their business less competitive.