The natural hair trend has taken off in the African-American community. In fact, according to 2013 research from Mintel, sales of relaxers have dropped. They now account for just 21 percent of Black haircare sales after a 26 percent decline since 2008 and 15 percent since 2011.
And Mintel?s research found that nearly three-fourths (70 percent) of Black women say they currently wear or have worn their hair natural (no relaxer or perm), more than half (53 percent) have worn braids, and four out of 10 (41 percent) have worn locks.
So it’s no wonder natural haircare expos are growing. One of the first was created by Visions Beauty Distributors in Birmingham, Alabama. They are now gearing up for their Fourth Annual Natural Hair and Health Expo on March 28th. The event will include interactive workshops and seminars for consumers and stylists to learn more about products and services related to natural hair, health and wellness.
The Natural Hair and Health Expo, The Naturalz In The City, and Girlz Night Out events were created by Jeffrey and Victor Simmons, owners of Visions Beauty Distributors.
Here, we talk to them about the expo and more.
TNJ.com: What made you launch the expo?
Jeffrey Simmons: We started seeing a change in how Black women cared for their hair. We also noticed that there was this surge of women embracing their God given beauty and hair texture. Yes, we cover the needs of natural hair care, but we wanted to address health education and provide information on certain diseases common in the Black community: high blood pressure, diabetes, aids, obesity and heart disease. There was need to provide an atmosphere where women could share information and learn more about taking better care of themselves from head-to-toe.
TNJ.com: What were some of your initial challenges?
JS: Creating a budget for the event and implementing it to fit the company?s agenda. And my whole team was on board, so it made the budget aspect minimal.
TNJ.com: There has been a boom in the natural hair industry; this must be great for the expo. Did you foresee this coming?
JS: It is, of course, the core of the expo and the main driver. We observed other events geared towards the natural movement and saw how they grew in event participation. We felt the need to bring it to Alabama. The needs of our customers? clients were changing. We were selling fewer relaxers and more products that supported women transitioning from relaxed to natural hair. Then when Design Essentials released their natural line, we definitely wanted the public exposed to its benefits.
TNJ.com: What are some of your goals for this year?
JS: Having another successful expo while better controlling costs; increasing awareness with our consumers and ensuring that they are satisfied with products and services; and striving to make the expo a number one event in the industry.
TNJ.com: What are some of your long-term goals?
JS: To strengthen our brand, Visions Beauty Distributors, and continue to grow with Design Essentials. A strong company brand will help solidify a successful future for our sons should they choose this industry. They know what the business entails and have worked with us whenever and wherever possible.
We also want to continue to stay knowledgeable in hair and beauty trends and stay apprised in hair care advancements. We also want to search for better ways to educate and service our clients in the great state of Alabama. We have even tested opportunities in our own online store.
TNJ.com: What are the benefits for companies that want to participate in the expo?
JS: Our vendors and sponsors have had great exposure not only in Alabama, but in different states. We have visitors and participants from different states who attend our expo. About 60 percent of our vendors/sponsors have participated since our first expo in 2012. It?s great to see vendors exchange business ideas and form alliances.
TNJ.com: What has been your biggest business lesson?
JS: To pay closer attention to logistics and the bottom line. Even though all of our expos have been successful, there have been new lessons to learn and things to change after each expo. We are always exploring ways to streamline the way we do things. And we want to make sure that you are getting what you pay for when it comes to services.
TNJ.com: Is your sole focus the expo?
JS: No. We are dedicated to providing the best products and services to our clients across the state of Alabama. They are our number one priority. Our business has spanned three generations. The pride and joy we gain from having such a fantastic client base is immeasurable.