Celebrating black-owned businesses in August: Black Business Month.
Black Business Month was founded to recognize the significant impacts of black-owned businesses. According to the US Census, only 10 percent of the businesses in the US are black-owned with the highest concentration of ownership in New York City followed by Atlanta. With a month dedicated to celebrating the contribution of black business owners, there is an opportunity to raise awareness of the strides that innovative business owners have made to society as well as raise awareness of this underrepresented community when it comes to building wealth.
Black business owners dating back to emancipation have left lasting legacies worth remembering and celebrating and today we celebrate 3 key entrepreneurs that have made a lasting impact in the health and beauty industry that paved the road for us at Phil’s Better to bring natural skin and hair care products to our amazing customers.
Madame CJ Walker: 1867-1919
Sarah Breedlove was born to former slaves on a plantation in Louisiana. inspired by educated black men and women, she found herself longing to find a way out of the poverty life she was born into. After experiencing hair loss and a failed marriage, Sarah launched her own line of hair products for African American Women and rebranded herself as Madame CJ Walker. As a business owner with mail order success, Madame Walker created opportunities for other African American women and men and at one point had 40,000 employees. She also founded the National Negro Cosmetics Manufacturers Association in 1917. Not content to simply be successful and wealthy, Madame Walker never forgot her roots and was generous with her wealth. She paid for the education of students, advocated to end lynching, and in the final act of philanthropy left more than half of future net profits to charity.
Sarah Spencer Washington:1889-1953
Sarah Washington was one of the first black women millionaires with an empire that included beauty and cosmetics, schools, publishing, and even a golf course. It was the study of advanced chemistry at Columba University that launched her. By day she ran her salon and in the evenings she sold her own products door to door. Her products were African American women’s hair. She also created cosmetics that included perfumes, face creams, and lipsticks for her customers. The Apex empire spanned the country and internationally with beauty schools that educated women on how to style and treat their hair with Apex hair care. Washington was able to grow her business during a down economy after World War I and continued to build profits through the depression. She is quoted as saying, “ Now is the time to plan your future by learning a depression-proof business.” She proved that the beauty industry can be depression-proof. She believed women will always find a way to feel beautiful. Much like Madame CJ Walker, Washington shared her fortune and gave back to her community by establishing an endowment for a young girls' home and a donation of 20 acres for an African American campsite. A part of her lasting legacy, the Apex College of Beauty in Philadelphia is America's oldest black institution of beauty technology
Eunice Johnson: 1916-2010
Fashion Fair Cosmetics, founded and started by Eunice Johnso, came from necessity. Johnson worked as an executive at Johnson Publishing Company and launched the Ebony Fashion Fair in 1958. The traveling fashion fair was a tour that highlighted fashion for African American women. The dark and golden tones of the models had trouble finding makeup to match their
skin. Models used different shades of brown eye shadows mixed with liquid foundations to make the colors needed. The world of makeup was available for fair porcelain skin tones and neglected the shades and hues of beautiful brown-skinned women. To answer the call and meet the need of so many women, Johnson launched Fashion Fair Cosmetics in 1973 which was sold exclusively in major department stores across the country. Cosmetic lines that traditionally only catered to fair skin audiences were now forced to see a huge market share go to Fashion Fair Cosmetics which became the premier cosmetics line for brown and golden-hued women. It didn’t take long for other cosmetics companies to take note and soon try to stake a claim in the market. Companies like Revlon, Avon, and Max Factor launched competing lines, but the innovative and well-needed Fashion Fair Cosmetics held tight. After years of holding the top of the market, Fashion Fair was sold when Johnson Publishing filed for bankruptcy. The great news is Fashion Fair has updated its cosmetics and is officially relaunched. It can be found in over 225 Sephora stores and is vegan and fragrance-free: a bonus for natural-minded ladies.
For all those that went before and paved the road, we are thankful! We would love to expand our offerings to local establishments and retailers near you. If you know of someone that may be a great contact for us, reach out.
Today African American health and beauty lines and products account for less than 10% of the total market but account for more than 10% of total beauty spending.
Phil’s Better is a proudly black-owned business that continues to share a natural solution to skincare and hair products and give back to our communities. By supporting a black-owned business, you aren't just helping generate revenue, you are helping lead the next generation to create more job opportunities, develop local economies, and give back to communities.