Brittney Ogike is the brilliant mind behind BEAUTYBEEZ, an LA-based beauty supply store that offers a unique and elevated retail experience that celebrates Black beauty. We sat down with her to discuss her vision for the space, and what having a beauty business means to her as a daughter and a mom.
What is the origin story of BEAUTYBEEZ?
We started BEAUTYBEEZ in 2019. We launched officially online that summer and then in August, we opened up the store. It was inspired by these very authentic/nostalgic experiences shopping for beauty as a Black consumer. Growing up, you go to the local beauty supply with your mom and you do feel like a kid in a candy store at that age, because you're looking at all these hair care products for you. It’s a space that's designed for all of your needs. You’re seeing all the hair barrettes and ribbons, everything you know your mom needs to do your hair that Sunday. It was a great feeling. But as I got older and wiser, and started going to the beauty supply store myself, then you start realizing the prejudices, the discrimination, that uncomfortable feeling that you get when you’re walking the aisles and someone’s staring at you to make sure that you’re not stealing something. After having my own kids and taking my daughter to the beauty supply, I was like, we’re repeating this generational cycle. I didn’t like the experience we had and we couldn’t find what we wanted. A few days later I was back at the beauty supply with my grandmother to help her shop for a wig. I hated the way we were treated and how I felt. You’re basically in there alone, they can’t help you and if they do decide to help you it comes with an attitude or they don’t know what you need. It’s very dismissive. At that time in my life I was looking for something I was passionate about and it kind of clicked. I thought, maybe this is a problem that needs to be solved. I started talking to a lot of my girlfriends, asking if they even shop at the beauty supply anymore because I know a lot of people have moved away from that - because of these experiences. I asked, if there was a better option, would you choose that? I did a lot of research and I realized that if I do this, it needs to be very intentional - I wanted to solve every pain point that the Black consumer is experiencing while shopping for beauty.
What are those pain points? When you were designing the space, and thinking about what you want to fill it with and the kind of experiences you wanted customers to have, and those pain points - how did that all factor into how you created the space?
It goes back to that feeling of being a kid in a candy store. When people walk in I want them to feel like this space is for them. The product curation is very important for me - we want not necessarily all products, but products that are effective. We want to prioritize Black-owned brands. There’s been a renaissance in Black founders in beauty, so making sure that we have those products and brands in our store and that we educate our customers about them is important. Education was a big part of this because I felt like that’s what was lacking in the beauty supply stores. When you go to Sephora and ask questions, they’re so knowledgable about everything and you leave feeling satisfied, like I got everything I needed - I didn’t feel that at a beauty supply. So customer service and product education was very important. So was the look and feel of the store, I wanted to replicate that Sephora-like aesthetic - pleasing to the eye, calming, modern. We’re very intentional about customer service, the way our customers feel is very important to us - we want to make sure we greet everyone that comes in the store, we approach them and ask what they need and when they tell us what they’re looking for, we fact-find to make sure we’re providing effective solutions. Those are the pain points that we’ve tried to solve and integrate into every layer of the business.
You mentioned Black-owned brands being a priority in the space. There seems to be a big personal aspect to this business, building relationships with not just your customers but other founders too. What has that meant to you and the business?
As a Black women in this industry, I realized that we were a minority, even though it’s an industry that caters to us. So it’s really important to build those relationships with other Black founders and let them know that we’re here to support each other. I try to reach out to the founders of these brands and let them know why we exist, and that we’re here to promote your brand. We also know that it’s important to our customers. They’re mostly Black Gen-Z and Black millennials and we’re becoming increasingly conscious of how we spend our money. You’d be surprised by how many customers want to know what’s behind the brand when they’re making a buying decision. So we make sure that our sales associates are very familiar with brand stories, because it’s so important to our customers.
What has the response to the store been since you opened it?
It’s been great! Our community has supported us through all the highs and lows. We opened in August of 2019, then we had the pandemic, so we had to close our store. Luckily we had e-commerce, so we were able to pivot and focus more of our intentions on the website and we got a lot of response. One thing that we realized was that beauty supplies are not online, so we were getting orders from everywhere around the country, around the world! People were stuck indoors and couldn’t go to their local beauty supply, and local stores don’t have websites to ship edge control or Baby Tress brushes! So that showed me again that there is a reason why we exist. We get new customers every day and a lot of that is based on word of mouth. We get moms coming in and then bringing their daughters the next day. Or daughters coming in and then bringing their moms. Friends, church groups, everything. And that’s how we’ve grown, it’s been very organic.
What do you want the future of BEAUTYBEEZ to look like and what do you want its legacy to be?
I want it to be accessible to everyone, around the country and around the world. We want to be the leader in Black beauty retail. You have your Sephoras, you have your Ultas, but I want BEAUTYBEEZ to be a part of that conversation and whatever that looks like, that's where we're willing to go. We want to meet the consumer where they are. In terms of our legacy - again, I want to create that kid-in-a-candy-store feeling for everyone, not just for children but for women our age and of all generations. I want them to look to BEAUTYBEEZ as the standard of what we should be expecting as Black consumers shopping for beauty.
You’ve mentioned your mom, your daughter and your grandmother when you’ve spoken about your beauty experiences. How was your relationship with beauty influenced by your mom, and how do you think that influenced what you pass down to your daughter?
I’ve always looked up to my mom - her beauty routine, what she did we her hair, what type of makeup she used. She used Lancôme when I was a child, and for my first makeup, she took me to Dillard’s in South Carolina to buy Lancôme for the first time and I loved that! We always saved Sundays for hair day, which was always surprising to me because historically, the beauty supply stores are closed on Sunday, and that’s when we do our hair! So I made sure BEAUTYBEEZ was open on Sundays, even if it was for an abbreviated schedule, just for that mom who’s trying to do her daughters hair and realized they ran out of conditioner. That was us all the time and the beauty supply was closed. Doing hair on Sundays is very ritualistic for me, and I’ve passed that down to my daughter. She knows on the weekends, it’s time to do your hair. It’s very nostalgic for me. I love that time I spent with my mom, between her legs, sitting on the floor, probably watching one of her shows, and she would do my hair. That was our time together. I loved it at the time, even though I did complain, and I love doing that now with my daughter. I want to mimic that because I think it set a standard for me in terms of making sure my hair's always done and I look presentable because that was very important to my mom as a Black woman living in the south - always be presentable. And I’ve definitely passed that down to my daughter. She will not leave the house if we forget to do her hair. We'll run out, it could be to the grocery store or something, and she's like, ‘wait, my hair!’ Her birthday was yesterday, she’s seven, I bough her a Healthy Roots doll. A Black girl founded the doll company, and the doll’s hair resembles Black hair - 4C/4A textured hair. I told her, ‘I want you to learn how to do your hair, my mom taught me how to do my hair.’ I didn’t have a doll like this growing up, I had to work on Barbies. So passing those traditions down is very important. And I do think beauty is important, I think it’s how we present ourselves, it’s how the world sees us, whether we like it or not, so I think it’s important to pay some type of attention to it.
How do you think your relationship with your hair has changed over time?
A: Oh, it's changed drastically. Again, I'm going to go back to my mom because I had a relaxer at a very young age, which is very taboo now. My mom straightened my hair because she didn't know how to manage it, we have very different hair textures. So over the years growing up, I've always thought that straight was better - that's just how I grew up and I don't fault her for that. And again, for her it was more, ‘I cannot do your hair, it has to be straight in order for me to maintain it and for it to look neat.’ But growing up and being in college, seeing black girls wearing their hair curly, and then this whole natural hair movement came - I started embracing my curl pattern more. And now I wear my hair more curly than I've ever done in my entire life.
Why do you think that is?
I think it’s two-fold. I think it’s because of the society we live in now and how it is more acceptable. But it’s also about access to products. Back then we didn’t have all these products, which is why my mom had to straighten my hair. But now there are so many different products out there that are effective and can help me manage it. Because it is a lot to manage, especially with my 4C hair. I’ve straightened my daughter’s hair once and she doesn’t prefer it straight, she likes it curly, she loves her puffs. I think it’s me growing as a person and society being more accepting of it.
What do you think is most exciting about the cultural conversation around hair and beauty at the moment?
I think it just goes back to acceptance and inclusivity. I think it's creating this path that will lead to less discrimination in the world. I think about my kids as they get older, I have two boys, and I want to braid my sons’ hair. My husband is Nigerian and doesn't think that that's the best way for his son to go out into the world. But I’m think the world's different now. The narrative is shifting so I'm hopeful that because this cultural shift is happening, people are more accepting of certain styles that are very natural and acceptable in our community.
The curation of the store is really impressive, from the products to the services. Some of the products aren’t even directly related to traditional beauty. How did you think about creating the whole ecosystem of the space?
It was very organic. Part of the space was empty and we were thinking about doing eyebrow threading at the time. Braiding hair is our number one category and our customers kept coming in and asking for referrals for braiders. I realized that we had this empty space and it could be put to good use where there was obviously a demand from customers. So we set up the salon and now provide customers with the service of getting their hair done in a beautiful, elevated space, because that can, unfortunately, be a rare experience for Black women.
What’s behind the name BEAUTYBEEZ?
I wanted it to be immediately clear to the customer what it’s about - beauty. But I also wanted to personalize it, and bring myself and my daughter into it. The B is for me, Brittney, and the Z represents her - her full name is Chizarankem but we call her Zara. This business is a part of my legacy and hers too.
Visit BEAUTYBEEZ IRL at 6522 Laurel Canyon Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91606.
Follow BeautyBeez on Instagram: @beautybeezstore