And now, with the natural hair movement in full swing, the competition is becoming increasingly fierce.
Enter Doris Hair Care New York, a small but steadily growing mom-and-pop-style business that began as humbly as now nationally recognized brand Carolâ€™s Daughter â€” which has counted Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige as partners â€” and has the same amount of potential.
Launched in 1974 by Jamaican immigrant Doris Duperley inside the kitchen of her familyâ€™s two-story home in Queens, New York, it wasnâ€™t until 2008 that she made her homemade hair remedies available to non-clients of her euphonious neighborhood salon of the past 40 years. But as her customersâ€™ cries grew louder for her to sell them commercially, Duperley, now in her 70s, finally agreed.
â€śIâ€™ve always been in awe of what my momâ€™s able to do with all different types of Black hair,â€ť says Marlene Duperley, one-half of the mother-daughter team that owns and operates the 100 percent Black and female New York-area business. â€śWeâ€™ve even had women who had lost their hair due to cancer use and our products help them grow it back,â€ť she continues.
â€śMy mom knows just about everything there is to know about growing happy, healthy hair because sheâ€™s done it for four decades. You name the problem â€“ extreme breakage around the hairline, bald spots, chemical over-processing â€“ sheâ€™s faced it and beat it. There is forty years worth of love and expertise that goes into every bottle, every jar, every tube we sell, and thatâ€™s what makes our products different from the rest.â€ť
A dedication to using primarily natural ingredients as opposed to relying on potentially harmful chemicals sets Doris and Co. apart from many of their contemporaries. True to the Duperley familyâ€™s island roots, many of the product lineâ€™s 10-piece collection include essential ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil â€“even heavy, Jamaican castor oil â€” hail from their homeland.
Celebrities like â€śSoul Foodâ€ť star Nicole Ari Parker have gotten on board with Doris, as have notable hair publications and industry stylists. Though fans canâ€™t yet purchase the products in stores, the entire collection is available online, and are currently shipped to countries around the world.
â€śWe also sell our products at conventions, trade shows, and, of course, my momâ€™s salon,â€ť offers Duperley, â€śand in addition to www.dorisnewyork.com we are also currently considering offering our popular olive oil hair cream, scalp oil, reconstructive shampoo and newest items at some specifically targeted stores. â€ť
Though Marlene has a degree in business administration from Long Island University, she says much of what she and her mom have learned about running a successful business have come through years of trial and error as small-business owners.
â€śMoney is always the biggest challenge,â€ť admits Duperley, who said it cost roughly $150,000 to get their family business off the ground. â€śUnless youâ€™re blessed to have financial backing you have to pay for all the ingredients, packaging and promotion yourself, and that gets expensive. Weâ€™re grateful that we already had a loyal community behind us when we started this,â€ť she says.
She says an ambitious venture like the one she and her mom set out on is not for the faint of heart.
â€śMake sure you have the passion and the love for what you really want to do before you start a business,â€ť she advises. â€śYouâ€™ve truly got to love it because it may not give you any immediate financial profit. Also understand that youâ€™re going to work harder for yourself than you will ever work for anybody else. If you work, say, an eight-hour day at a regular job, double that. Youâ€™ll be working at least 12 â€“ 16 hours a day with your own business. But in the end it will be worth it.â€ť