Pioneering Entrepreneur Talks Increasing Number of Black-Owned Beauty Supply Stores

Founder of Fabulous Freddy’s Beauty Supply Store, talks challenges of running a business in an industry typically dominated by Asians

(Image: Janice Fredericks)

It’s no secret African Americans purchase more ethnic beauty and grooming products (nine times more) than any other ethnic group, yet we own less than 1% of the market share in the beauty supply industry. For Janice Frederick, this discovery was enough for her to take matters into her own hands and open Fabulous Freddy’s, a Queens, New York-based beauty supply store. “It blew my mind that Madame CJ Walker was a pioneer in the beauty industry and the first African American self-made millionaire, yet we only own a few hundred beauty supply stores, said Frederick. “That was the moment when I decided that I wanted to pioneer a shift in those statistics.”

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Considering there are about 10,000 beauty supply stores around the country that sell hair products targeted primarily to African American women, caught up with the trailblazer to learn how she navigates a market, typically dominated by Koreans, and her tips for aspiring entrepreneurs.

BlackEnterprise.comTell us about your career prior to opening Fabulous Freddy’s.
Frederick: I was studying for my master’s degree in finance before I switched to the beauty industry. I graduated from St. John’s University with a finance degree and worked one year as a bank examiner. I had many successes in the finance industry; working for Goldman Sachs, Smith Barney, and the U.S. Treasury Dept. I loved finance, but I was not passionate about it. It was when I started working with women that I found my passion. Fabulous Freddy’s is a job that organically wakes me up in the morning.

What do you believe is your greatest achievement personally and/or professionally?
Being a part of the 1%; and opening and maintaining a successful beauty store in one of the most expensive cities in America is a huge achievement. It is my greatest achievement besides graduating college. Personally, getting baptized at 18 was my greatest personal achievement. I was raised in a Christian home, to finally give my life over to God was the start to my life’s purpose.

What, in your opinion, is a huge myth about entrepreneurship?
The glitz and glam are misconceptions regarding entrepreneurship. We have Instagram and I believe a lot of people see money, cars etc…and they start a business based on that. People underestimate the amount of work that is required to obtain success because some may make it look easy and it’s not. Entrepreneurship is simply not for everyone.

What do you wish you had known when you first opened your business that you know now?
I wish I knew how much money and inventory I needed to get started. I really should of have had more startup capital to sustain myself and the business simultaneously. My personal credit suffered because I didn’t have enough startup capital to support my personal expenses the first year.

What are the top three resources you use to manage your business?

  1. Christ is the plug! I pray over business decisions all the time. I even had a blessing ceremony for Fabulous Freddy’s when I first opened. I could not have made it through the days that no one walked in my store without knowing that God had my back.
  2. My family is my backbone. My sisters and I were the only salesgirls in the store for an entire year; we did everything ourselves from marketing, distributing flyers, accounting, finances everything ourselves.
  3. Networking- I am a part of a few organizations that helped me get my business off the ground FEGS Women’s Entrepreneurship, AKPsi, I utilized my local resources such as the NYC Business Solutions and Queens Economic Development Corp. These organizations have really helped me in maintaining Fabulous Freddy’s. The support of my community and other successful women who wanted to see me win also played a huge role in my success.

What qualities have helped you succeed thus far?
I faced so many obstacles trying to get into this industry and it was a tenacious attitude and a great sense of purpose that propelled me toward success. My faith combined with a great work ethic is the result of my success.

There’s a perception that Koreans dominate the beauty market and prevent African Americans from owning a beauty supply store. Can you address this perception?

When you call the distributors which are 99% owned by Koreans and don’t speak the language they either hang up on you or tell you need a ridiculous amount to get started. Some encounters I had were quite sexist I felt I wasn’t taken seriously because I was a woman.

The challenge was not having a fair shot with my business as stated above. I had to reach out to another black store owner to get inventory to help me get products in Fabulous Freddy’s because I was shut out at first. There were times, because I knew I wasn’t being taken seriously, I would have an older male (Dad) make phone calls for me just so I could get in-person appointments. I just had to tap into my resources to get things going initially and eventually I was able to prove myself and business to the distributors. My family was always very supportive and helped me to keep going. I never gave up no matter how many doors were closed in my face.

Do you think the problem lies in the distribution channel for beauty products or with the community showing support for black-owned businesses?
I most certainly think it’s the distribution channels that give the individuals that speak the same language less than others. We don’t get the same pricing and, therefore, tend to charge higher than other stores. This deters people from supporting because they find us to be “high priced.” African Americans want to support, but we are also very price conscious. I have received a tremendous amount of support from the community. I raised $12k through a crowd-funding website with the help of the community to open my second location in Brooklyn. I know that support from the community is not the problem. We need a fair shot at opening businesses and we just don’t have it.

What tips or advice can you give to an aspiring beauty supply storeowner?
Make sure to have sufficient inventory and capital before opening. Do a business plan every year to stay ambitious and relevant. Stay true to your purpose and mission statement.

Considering the lack of diversity within the industry, how do you stay motivated to keep running a business?
The motivation comes from serving my customers. So much purpose comes from serving women, I love it! When I am able to become a part of the transformation process with a cancer survivor and their self-confidence increased I am motivated; like this is what I am here for! I believe God’s purpose for my life includes this business and serving women. I am such a visionary and the vision and purpose for what Fabulous Freddy’s can become is the driver to my motivation.

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  • Frye

    I’m glad her business is doing well, but I feel the need to address a couple of her statements that could literally stop other entrepreneurs before they start. I have seen other Black-owned beauty supply stores close down because they were in a horrible location, offered poor service and/or non-competitive pricing. Black consumers are consumers and will demand the same standard they are used to as the local Korean owned stores offer. Her statement that, “We need a fair shot at opening businesses and just don’t have it” sounds very much like whining. Opening a candy shop or a law firm is about COMPETITION. You don’t have to be immoral, but no one is going to roll out the red carpet because you want to take customers from them. She also mentioned having her father make business calls for her based on sexism? What would she have done if her father hadn’t been there to make calls for her, etc.? Warning: Female business owners (and male), all’s fair in love, war and business. Be prepared to fight fire and fight fairly. I wish her continued success.

  • MsSouthernBeaute

    Not sure what to say about the previous comment about whining..but as fellow Black Beauty Supply Store owner I can agree with some of her issues with dealing with the industry. Some things are just not understood unless you attempt to do them yourself. Great spotlight and continued success in your business

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