The Black Beauty Collective, a hair and beauty product supply store exclusively selling Black-owned brands, will open in East Hyde Park in early April.
After a 15 year stint in the corporate world and a modeling career, owner Leslie Roberson said she decided to open the store in the Del Prado building, 5305 S. Hyde Park Blvd., due to there being few beauty supply shops on 53rd Street.
“It's not just Black products, it's amazing products, with a period,” she said. “It’s not creating a space that is only for the Black shopper, it’s creating a space that is inclusive of the Black shopper.”
Her shop’s wares include makeup, shea butter, lotion, shampoos and edge controls. So far, the shop has signed 45 brands for in-store and online sale and aims to sign 100 by the end of July.
Unlike at a traditional retailer, customers won’t purchase products from Roberson but rather through the businesses, which rent out shelf space. Rental fees range from $200 to $1,400 but businesses will receive 100% of their total retail sales (after taxes and credit card fees).
A Bronzeville resident, Roberson isn’t new to 53rd Street. She ran her other business, The Velvet Collection, a luxury linen rental company, out of the Del Prado storefront for the last three years. She relocated that business to Winnetka last May but kept renting the space.
With the new venture in mind, she began visiting beauty supply stores on the North Side, along Milwaukee Avenue, to do market research for the store. At one, she was shown a small sample box of a few products by Black women — the only Black-owned goods in the store.
At that moment, Roberson said, she decided her store would only carry brands that are at least 51% Black-owned.
“The Black consumer is really just the end user,” Roberson said. She cited a 2021 study that found that Black Americans make up about 11% of spending in the $60 billion U.S. beauty market but only own 2.5% of beauty brands.
“(Black-owned brands) are not hard to find,” Roberson said. “At this point, I’ve probably met over 300 entrepreneurs.” She sourced businesses through pop-ups in different cities, a nationwide pitch competition and other scouting.
“The average entrepreneur is a solo-preneur,” she added. Roberson said she hopes the collective can act as a “stepping stone” for these small businesses to grow.
Eight of the 45 brands are Chicago-based, such as Tori Prince Beauty of Englewood.
Though she’s carrying products by small businesses, Roberson’s operation is anything but. She’s in the process of opening a second location in Houston this fall, then stores in Atlanta and Washington, D.C. by 2024. The Hyde Park location, she said, will be her company’s flagship store.
She wants to hold pop-ups at big events like Essence Festival in New Orleans, the African American Film Festival in Martha’s Vineyard, AfroTech in Austin and Black Wine Week in Napa.
On Wednesday, the same day she was profiled in Forbes Magazine, Roberson said she was let go from her job at Meta (formerly Facebook) as part of the company’s latest round of mass layoffs. She was among about 10,000 employees cut.
A silver lining in the layoffs, she said, is the opportunity to focus on the business full-time.
“I’m grateful to have had something in the works that I’m passionate about, that I’m dedicated to,” Roberson said. “This has provided a sense of security for me, where I don’t feel as much panic centered around my life and what’s next, because it gives me an opportunity to become a full-time entrepreneur.”
The “boutique, upscale-feeling” store is growing “faster than I could ever imagine,” she added. Roberson is actively hiring for four sales associates, called “beauty advisors,” for the Hyde Park shop.
The store will officially open on April 8, following a 4-day rollout of private events with the collective’s brand owners.
The store will be open Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
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