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The Rise and Fall of a Black Owned Beauty Supply Store

January 14, 2013

we are closed
There is this true story of a beauty supply store owned by a black lady who had an interesting perspective. She started up her business in a great location with no competition. Her sales were great. She could afford staff and keep inventory on her shelves. A few years later, future competitors came sniffing around.

I’m not going to be coy about it. They were Korean. They would come into her store browse aisles, listen to customer requests, compare prices and a watch how her inventory moved. When her employees brought it to her attention, her response would be, “I’m not going to stoop to their level and kick them out of my store!” Basically, they were inspecting the “existing”. It’s normal. They did it to me too. Within the next year, 3 Korean owned stores were setup around her and she had to let all of her staff go. Since then she has had to reduce her inventory to nearly nothing and made most of her space a spa.

There is much to discuss in her story. We can either say those Koreans are ruthless or we can say it’s the nature of business-you must simply adapt. We can even say (what I say)… Interrogating a spy is not stooping, it’s protecting.

When you setup a business, you set it up to make money from customers, not to show the playbook to your competitors. If you own a private car and someone jumped into your back seat, handed you a $20 bill as fare and demanded you drive them to a destination, would you take them? I’m guessing you would tell them your car isn’t a taxi and they need to get out, correct?

This is no different. Cars are used for different reasons (including taxiing) but if someone tried to use yours for purposes you didn’t intend, you would simply correct them. So if your business is setup to accommodate customers and not for show-and-tell, correct who comes in there to inspect it.

Somewhere along the line we developed a culture where we would say yes to others even when they always say no to us. We often confuse business with freedom fighting. We sometimes dangerously approach business as some type of peaceful civil disobedience where nobility is displayed by us having open non-resisting arms. We invite people in everything, even in an arena where not being inviting is expected (in business) instead of having stern conviction. Koreans aren’t ruthless. They are astute. Middle-Easterners aren’t instinctually hateful. They are direct. Don’t confuse it. Business includes competition. This is where we lose our footing. We think business is steered by friendship.

In America, it’s that attitude that oppresses us. Just to digress for a second. In our community, the minute a friend Is made, the friend put away their checkbook. We assume that once an acquaintance is made, no transactions should take place; we shouldn’t have to purchase-we are entitled to the secrets of our friend’s business. And over the years, this belief has been hurting our feelings over and over.

If you think showing your business’ playbook is a nice and friendly thing to do, then you won’t ever make it to the SuperBowl, nor will your children benefit from second generational wealth.

I want to hear from you though. What do you think? Do you think the way she handled her situation was the righteous thing to do, does courtesy supersede business?

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46 Comments leave one →
  1. January 14, 2013 8:05 am

    Well Professor Robinson I think courtesy and business goes hand in hand. There is a way to show courtesy with your business and that all depends how YOU want to run your business. Many build businesses to make money and the finest things in life and really don’t give a damn about helping others. Some run their business to really help others and give respect and still make money for the finest things in life for them and their family. Everyone has a different opinion how they want to run their business. I think many that run a business should have a backup plan business just in case one doesn’t work, another will. It’s all about who you are and what & how you want to run your business. OK my business may not bring in the big dollars, fancy cars, homes, etc. But one thing for sure, it brings a new customer every day and the benefit of helping someone help themselves.~Have a great day!.

  2. laura permalink
    January 14, 2013 4:48 pm

    I am a black Beauty Supply Store owner and I have to ask the question: Do you open the door to the safe and invite the thief in or do you make him aware that you know he is about to rob you?
    I went into business for the joy of ownership and to be financially secure while leaving generational wealth for my family. I am located in a small shopping strip and there are no other stores within 10-15 miles of mine. Within the first month of opening, I was also visited by Koreans. One came then another and then another. It was not difficult to see what they were looking for. After making them aware that I knew their motives, the visits stopped. I could very well be where that other owner is today if there was a place near me to occupy!
    I agree with some of what lafaith is saying. We need to help one another but, we do not need to give away our children’s inheritance in doing so. Let’s not be so eager to help that we help ourselves out of business. Courtesy goes a long way but it doesn’t always pay! Why do you feel the need for a second back up business plan. Are you expecting failure or just throwing a few things up to see which one sticks?

    • Charles permalink
      January 14, 2013 5:53 pm

      Good post. Also it’s good to hear that you caught on, to what the Koreans was trying to do to you.

      • February 11, 2013 7:38 pm

        Love your comment Laura. Your intuitiveness was right on! and so is your whole comment. Finally, someone to speak out what others dare not to, in fear of seeming selfish. I love helping people and had done so, and been stabbed in the back by some I helped get their money. We pray that those we help are appreciated in us sharing the blessings of knowledge, but we also have to be careful to still protect our own. Lesson learned and doing something new and better.

    • Julio Edwards permalink
      July 18, 2013 11:58 am

      I am interested on opening a Black owned hair store im interested to hear your story!!

      • Julio Edwards permalink
        July 18, 2013 1:23 pm

        Very interested. If we don’t support our people we self destruct

    • Angie permalink
      August 12, 2013 12:13 pm

      good afternoon I am trying to open a beauty supply store in my area. Any advice as to where I could look for hair and supplies. I am having such a hard time locating the right sources. Any advice will help thanks

    • Kerenda permalink
      December 30, 2013 1:09 pm

      Good Post Laura. I love it…There are very few people who wish for you to succeed…helping others by all means I encourage but not when the intention is to put me out of business.

    • Gizelle Robinson permalink
      October 3, 2015 3:36 pm

      I agree, we are not in the “free business.” Love this post.

  3. Charles permalink
    January 14, 2013 5:48 pm

    Good article Devin. Black people need to say “no” to others and keep our “playbook” to ourselves. I’m thinking that if Black people wouldn’t of let non Blacks into our Black music (Jazz, blues, rock and roll, R&B, etc.) we’ve would of owned our own music industry.

  4. retia permalink
    January 14, 2013 8:39 pm

    Great Job Laura! Knowing what to say to the Koreans at the right time played a big factor in you keeping them out of your business. Courtesy is always great to anyone you are serving wthin your community. Knowing who is the competitor is even better. Anyone who owns and operate a Beauty Supply Store should have the smarts to know Koreans entering their business have no intention of purchasing anything. There is no courtesy in what the Koreans did when they entered her business to spy. Being direct, confronting the Koreans of spying is the best thing I would do. In every business, the goal should be to prosper. If not then, someone has their priority out of order. Courtesy goes a long way and it pays concerning those you serve in your community. Koreans are not included in that group. They only want your customers. Be smart and wise with the one business plan. Put God first even before the plan. But know when Koreans show up, they come to intimidate. Fear is not of God. Ask them to leave. I would.

    • January 19, 2013 7:34 pm

      I agree that knowing what they are in the store trying to do they should be made aware and put to a stop up front. On the other hand I am reading Mr Robinson’s books and planning to start his courses because I too want to open my own store. In the meantime I have been going into the Korean and black stores purchasing a few things here and there but also taking a mental note of how they run their busines; prices, setup , would they be any competition to the ideas I have ect… I dont dare ask questions to the Korean owners because I learned from in the past that doesnt work they just lie to you. I did ask the owner of what appeared to be a black owned store how long he had owned it, I was trying to find out if he had used Devin Robinson’s program without directly asking him and he said he bought the store from a guy named Muhommed. Interesting I thought. Cleary that by name of the previous owner that was a foreigner, but I wonder how he was able to have a relationship that they would sell him a store. Now I know: every business in the plaza where it is located including a grocery store has vacated. the hair store is by its lonesome except for a Family dollor across the way, and doesnt appear to be doing well. It’s a Dog eat Dog world out there, do what you gotta do to get yours but dont let anyone take advantage of you so that they can get theirs.

      • Dawn permalink
        January 24, 2013 9:58 pm

        It sure is a dog eat dog world, but my question is would I ( being a black woman thinking of opening my own beauty supply store) still open one knowing that the store a few streets over is black owned My answer is a simply no because I know how few of us there are out there. So I have come to a decision for my store, one thing the Koreans cant take away from me is how to style black hair. How many Korean hairdressers are out there doing black hair. Ive noticed that most of the successful black beauty supply stores have black hairdressers in them or next to them.

      • January 26, 2013 9:35 am

        Here in Columbus, Ohio there actually is a Korean Salon doing all black hair. Nothing but black women go in there and they love what they are doing. The Koreans seem to have mastered that too. They are doing relaxers, cutting, weaves and everything, playing hip hop music and the Salon is really nice. But that’s the only Korean Salon I know of thats doing that. The black beauty supply store I was referring to obviously didnt do their research before buying the store, however it wouldnt matter to me if another black store was down the street or around the corner, competition is competition whether its Black, White, Korean or whatever race. Location is key among some other factors. Im not saying however, that another black store would be like an enemy or anything, Black people actually need to take a lesson from the Koreans and form an alliance so tight that cant nobody get in.

      • February 11, 2013 7:42 pm

        I know of 2 Koreans beauty suppy stores here in Atlanta that have black hair stylist doing black women hair in the back of the shop. I asked myself, “don’t these females know what the Koreans are trying to do?”. Shrugs

    • akelia permalink
      August 9, 2013 11:37 am

      “Put God first, even before your plan” Retia you said it correct. If God gave it to you, then it’s for you. No man can take it away, just trust and believe.

  5. Preston Parks permalink
    February 9, 2013 9:51 pm

    There are a lot of ineresting points made in each response to the article. I own a beauty supply store that has 4 Korean owned stores within a mile of mine. My take is this. Let them come in and see what I’m doing and duplicate it all they want. What they can’t do is be BLACK. It is up to the consumer to decide where they shop and that’s where the rubber meets the road. I have Black people come into my store and say how they feel disrespected by the Koreans when they shop in their stores and how happy they are to find a Black owned store purchase products and I never see them again. If we as Black consumers make it a point to shop Black no matter what then that will determine who stays in business in our community and who doesn’t. Black people should know and understand that the Koreans are there simply to “take our money”. They don’t like us ..respect us..care about us as a race all they want is our Black dollars. This is a 13 billion dollar industry and there is enough money for a Black store to be a few blocks from another Black store and succeed. You don’t see the Koreans having any problem with a beauty supply store or a liquor store or a you buy we fry fish store every other block in our community. They know they there are enough Blacks there to support their families and then some. We need to educate the consumer and then they need to decide do I support my own or do I support a store that doesn’t respect me or my culture. Everybody knows that Jordan would get the ball when the game was on the line so what that wasn’t the problem the problem was stopping him. We all know they’re coming into our community to take our money so what do we do to stop them.

    • Ebony Dickerson permalink
      February 5, 2014 12:31 pm

      Well Stated Preston, our views on the topic are parallel. What city is your beauty Supply Store in?

  6. Henrietta Turnquest permalink
    March 25, 2013 9:38 am

    Thanks this article needs to go up on face book. I have been advocating the taking back of the beauty and barber businesses for years. In fact I have expanded my business and taken on the title: The Beauty and Barber Advocate. There needs to be a mass movement to take back our money. Congratulations Dr. Robinson on what you are doing. When will we get that being in business is being in a war for survival of the fittest. Business in the country takes no prisoners and why should we???

    • MsHoneybee permalink
      May 10, 2013 2:08 am

      How can I get started on my journey to opening my own beauty supply store. I’m in small country town and we need a beauty supply store here locally.. the closest is 20 miles away! Where can I find vendors! Help me please! Please feel free to email any helpful information! Thanks

      • Precious permalink
        February 5, 2014 7:09 pm

        I own a small beauty supply and am growing. We need to support our black beauty supply and let the Korean close down…… I can help u.

      • Jobel permalink
        February 6, 2014 3:59 pm

        Email me personally. Jobe@gmail.com

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

      • Janet permalink
        February 28, 2014 10:51 pm

        did you open your store yet. i am a black women in virginia and have had my store for almost two years, e mail me if you like. i hope you didnt give up.

  7. Kaj permalink
    April 18, 2013 1:48 am

    Hi this post is great and the comments are very informative I have been toying around with the idea of owning a beauty supply store…reasons being I’m frustrated with Asian owned stores that look at their black customers with blatant suspicion. My dream is to have a store with a friendly and unique environment that caters to the natural hair community with a small section for relaxed hair care if anyone has any advice please feel free to share

  8. Syl permalink
    April 25, 2013 12:50 pm

    It is a horrible how we as a people have allowed them to take over a product that 99 percent of of us on a daily basis. I purchase my products from Walgreens, Walmart etc.and black owned websites and wish all of us would do the same. We are not respected and are talked about by them. I do not purchase I’d rather go without. My daughters are natural do we font purchase hair weaves either. But when you speak to blacks they say well I don’t purchase that much but it does all add up. My dream would be to open my own hair supply store but I’ve been unsuccessful because I can’t find where to get products.

  9. Jen Means permalink
    May 11, 2013 2:24 pm

    Hey Syl – Here is one more resource I’ve found is a book by a black gentleman Devin Robinson. The book is entitled “How to Become a Successful Beauty Supply Store Owner” which he wrote after starting his own business.

  10. Gary Philippi permalink
    August 24, 2013 9:52 am

    GP,
    I see how the competition is going out there. I wanted to open a beauty supply store in South Florida for many years, but every time I go to the beauty supply stores just to obtain information on how to open up a store of my own, it seems like I was bothering people. I let that go until recently I was laid off from my job that I had for over 10 years so now I am looking to see what I must do to start the beauty supply store, if anyone can help please do so. I realize going to the Korean for help they will not help you because you are black and they want to keep the business to themselves. I am motivated by reading all the articles to open up my own beauty supply store in South Florida. I don’t know where to start but if anyone can help please provide the information and together we will bring the money in the black community. Ask and you will receive, knock the door will open. I have not heard where the Koreans ever give back to the black community they only come to take our money. So, it is time to help each other and we can give to our community. For us to change the world we have to start with ourselves first.

    Thanks,

  11. September 21, 2013 9:27 am

    This is a great post. We have to begin buying from one another and opening up businesses that are viable like beauty supply stores. It was good that you realized what the Koreans were up to.

  12. A. Davis permalink
    December 10, 2013 11:35 pm

    I am currently a retail business owner but my true passion is hair. Unfortunately, I was too lazy to do my homework and research to make my dream of operating a hair supply store come true. I often question why so many people jump at the opportunity to make Koreans or any other ethnic group, besides African American, more profitable. I personally believe that as African Americans we should spend our dollars within our community at black owned businesses. We must realize that we are targeted mostly by businesses that are not black owned. Koreans, Chinese, Caucasians, and other groups research us to find out what it is that our group likes. Once they master that then they begin selling these things to us but they don’t put a dollar back into our communities. Koreans have mastered the nail shops, hair supply, and liquor stores. For the above post that mentioned about Korean hair stylist, mark my word, you will see more of them. I was stationed in Yongsan, Korea and every block had a hair salon that would be packed with American soldiers. All it took was for you to provide them with a picture of the style and they made sure your hair looked exactly like the picture before you got up out of their chair. It’s not hard people: If you need to compete you must do what your competitor will never do. That’s exactly what I did when a Korean retail business popped up right up under me. I began doing more for my community by having Back-To-School supply giveaways, Thanksgiving Turkey giveaways, and Summer Splash for the kids. Now when I look out my store front I’m watching a Uhaul company instead.

    • Diva Discount permalink
      January 27, 2014 10:45 pm

      You must do what your competitor will not do.
      That’s the best advice ever.

    • jenn permalink
      February 6, 2014 5:24 am

      Bravo! you held it down according to your statement above. One thing I know for sure, Koreans are stingy, and they won’t give away a dead cat. So what you did was too far for them to fathom. Bravo!

    • M.Y. Blanton permalink
      February 6, 2014 11:41 am

      I agree with your concept A. Davis, of giving back to your community. Community is much broader than what most people are mentioning here. Yes, it is about the majority of people who are making purchases in your store and . . .using them. Community is also about your location, your workers and their families, the less fortunate who count pennies and yet still use their buying power in your store. Business is still business, as usual . . .a business can’t survive in the Red; Focusing on more than the bottom line goes a much longer way in keeping you in the Black.

  13. January 21, 2014 8:07 pm

    A.Davis your comment and many others are right on point. I wish everyone prosperity and good fortune on their journey! I am in the process of starting mine. And I know I will be successful. There its claimed. O side note: Desegregation had its negative side for us..have you ever thought about that?
    There were black towns, communities that were self sufficient: movies, banks , schools etc. But anyway I don’t know the whole story that’s only a small piece. I guess my point being we as the black community really need to pour back into each other so that we can prosper as well.

  14. Tracy permalink
    January 22, 2014 2:55 pm

    I am in motion of investing in a black own beauty supply store. They dont know anything about black woman period. They are so very rude and they are not concern about your business either only money. I have faith they if we take our rightful place, as community we can take on those Koren. I feel we can do it really. I am ready for the fight, the battke is not mind God will fight for us if we stand together.

    • Lola Oseni permalink
      February 5, 2014 7:07 pm

      Yes we can take the Koreans out. We are the ones that buy these hair mad know our products. We need to push and move forward.

  15. Diva Discount permalink
    January 27, 2014 10:43 pm

    I live in Virginia and I would like to start a black owned beauty supply store. Everytime I go to a asian beauty supply store, it such a weird experience. If we think about it, they are selling us what we use but they arent using it nor do they understand how the products actually work on us. I know that we can do all things through Christ and thats what I intend to do. If they come around our stores to see what we are doing we can ask them to leave, or call the police. We simply cannot continue to feed the beast, we have to feed ourselves and build tighter bonds for our families.

    • February 28, 2014 10:54 pm

      Yes. I am a Black owned beauty supply owner in Virginia. I would be happy to talk with you.Dont get discouraged.

      • KAJ permalink
        April 1, 2014 11:18 am

        Hello Janet I live in Maryland.I have a few questions how can i contact you?

      • KAJ permalink
        April 30, 2014 2:05 pm

        IM HOPING TO OPEN IN JUNE ANY INPUT WOULD HELP.
        THANKS

      • May 4, 2015 11:44 pm

        Hi! I would like to speak with you to see if I could gain any pointers from you! I’m just starting in this field … Any advice would be helpful. Thanks

  16. Precious permalink
    February 5, 2014 2:12 pm

    Great post. I have read everyone’s post. I own a small and growing beauty supply n boutique. It was hard but I say this black people don’t support black people. I just wish we as black people can support each other and dnt feel because a Korean opened a big store the black person with a smaller store shuld close here business beside the Koreans don’t know much and they dnt use out hair m products.

  17. Lola Oseni permalink
    February 5, 2014 7:05 pm

    You should focus on your own reason for opening the store,there are other big giant companies that exist, Safeway,Walmart , krogers and others sell similar things but haven’t moved or closed because of the other.You should develop techniques to keep you in business and not cry victim due to race.it is true that the Asians run the beauty supply system and not enough black people but guess what it is the same black people that patronize the, are we going to kick them out for opening a business for clientele to come to, the answer is no.There are a lot of Koreans in the business and they haven’t closed down because of their Asian counterpart. She was good enough to handle matters maturely.

  18. jenn permalink
    February 6, 2014 5:20 am

    Koreans took her down by doing a ghetto swot analysis of her store. She should of had them escorted out the store because they don’t need our products for their personal hygiene and hair practices. The enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. Point blank. This is what they did to her from every measure. In business, it’s a doggy dog world and you got to be ready for war. I’m black, and I live in a rural area with terribly stocked korean owned beauty supply stores, and I go in there to inspect because I’m considering becoming their competition. It’s the game.

    • Precious permalink
      February 6, 2014 4:04 pm

      You are right info the same to. Lol I go into there store to inspect I know we as black people can not open a big store like them in 1 month but we ll get there. Keep ur head up let’s do this beauty supply industry and run them out.

  19. KAJ permalink
    March 26, 2014 2:57 pm

    Does anyone have info on vendors?

  20. WIG LADY permalink
    October 13, 2015 4:32 pm

    SO TRUE I HAD THIS HAPPEN TO ME AND I WORK AT A FLEA MARKET A KOREAN MAN CAME AND JUST LOOK AT WHAT I HAD AND WALKED OFF IT WAS MY FIRST DAY OPENING DID NOT REALIZE THAT THE ENEMY WAS IN THE CAMP PLEASE SEND ANY INFO FOR ME TO USE SO THAT I CAN STAY IN BUSINESS I AM AFRICAN AMERICAN FEMALE !!THANKS.

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