Culture

Meet The Two Women Who Opened A D.C. Based Beauty Store Specifically For Women Of Color

Meet The Two Women Who Opened A D.C. Based Beauty Store Specifically For Women Of Color

Photo: Erin Martin 

Longtime friends Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith are on a mission to help women of color feel more included in the beauty industry. Last month, the duo opened The Brown Beauty Co-op, which is a D.C. based retail store that serves as a one-stop shop for black and brown women to find all of their beauty needs.

“We want to mainstream brown beauty,” Kimberly tells Because of Them We Can. “I don’t know why some people consider brown beauty a niche market because it is not. We should not be relegated to an aisle. We are the demographic that is out here spending and so the services and the products on the market should match.”

According to a Nielsen report, Black consumers in 2017 spent an estimated $473 million in total hair care products, $127 million in grooming aid products and $465 million in skin care products, signaling the strong purchasing power of African Americans.    

Yet, despite the clear benefits of creating inclusive products for everyone, many women of color still struggle to find the hair, skin and makeup items that meet their needs. That’s why, says Kimberly and Amaya, a space like The Brown Beauty Co-op was needed to fulfill a need that the beauty market lacked.

Photo: Erin Martin 

Kimberly, who is an attorney by background, first entered the beauty industry in January 2017 when she launched Marjani Beauty, an online retail store that sells skin and makeup products for darker skinned women. She says the idea for the online shop came out of her own frustration with shopping and not always finding what she needed.

"As Black women, brown women collectively, we spend so much money but we are not always getting the best product and we are not always the priority when products are being made," she says.

With a desire to one day open a brick and mortar store herself, Kimberly says she and Amaya started discussing the idea of The Brown Beauty Co-op in March of 2018.

Amaya, who founded the Product Junkie as a way to help women find the best products for their natural hair, says she’s always had a passion for beauty and like Kimberly, wanted to one day open her own store as well.

Photo: Erin Martin 

"I consider in my mind beauty to be an accessible luxury," she says. "If you want to buy a really expensive shoe it can cost you about $800, but if you want to buy a really nice or expensive lipstick then it will still likely be under $20." 

With both she and Kimberly's beauty passions combined, Amaya, who is from the D.C. area, says opening up a local one-stop shop experience to fill the beauty needs of women of color sounded ideal.

"It's like we are operating two separate stores in one store," adds Kimberly in regards to her and Amaya bringing both of their business ideas together. "But, it's more than a retail store. It’s also an incumbent for beauty brands and an event space for brown beauty people to host events."

Overall, the duo explains that their goal is to create a platform that changes the beauty conversation and business as it relates to women of color.

"We want to be that platform," says Kimberly. "If you are an emerging brand then we want to give you the approval of The Brown Beauty Co-op and we want to be the leaders in really changing what brown beauty means."