Studies have projected steady growth for the $1.8 billion men’s grooming market, but until recently the specific needs of black and Latino men had been overlooked. Now, entrepreneurs are bringing top-quality grooming to the African American and Latino male and carving out a niche.
“It’s a growing market,” says Cheick Dukuly, president and CEO of Primetime Media, one of New York’s leading independent media buying agencies. “It’s been untapped and overlooked for years. Whoever comes up with a good product is going to lead the market.”
Brenda Braxton and Anthony Van Putten are two such market leaders. The husband-and-wife team own BBraxton (www.bbraxton.com), a Harlem- based salon that provides first-class grooming in a luxury setting for men of color. Providing services from maintaining dreadlocks to manicures, pedicures, and straight- razor shaves, BBraxton has attracted customers from as far as Washington, D.C.,who indulge in salon extras that include networking and an open bar.
“You only have one chance to make a good first impression,” says Chris Hayes, founder and CEO of Barc (www.get barc.com), a company that develops skincare products. Barc products are formulated with glycolic acid to exfoliate and include ingredients such as chamomile extract to calm and moisturize while reducing irritation, ingrown hairs, and razor bumps—a painful and disfiguring problem, particularly for black men. “I don’t think black men are becoming more self-conscious about their appearance,” Hayes says. “I think there just haven’t been a whole lot of products out there.”
With a diverse clientele including lawyers and professional athletes, Barc product users and BBraxton clients represent a growing sector of professionals who prefer a refined appearance.
“You want to sit and relax when you get your grooming services done,” Braxton says, “but a lot of times we need a networking place, so it is great if you can have a cocktail or coffee and network with another gentleman who is having services done.”
Retailers are noticing the business opportunity as well. Barc products are now being carried in Studio at Fred Segal, a premier boutique in Santa Monica, California. And shirt designer Ike Behar has a custom-shirt area within BBraxton. The companies themselves are also expanding. BBraxton is now in negotiation to open a salon in Houston this fall.
“We’re just the tip of the iceberg,” says Braxton, who intends to host a workshop on how to duplicate what she and her husband have done. “Between Houston, Atlanta, New York, and elsewhere, there’s enough room for everyone.”