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Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith of Brown Beauty Co-Op

In the last few years tremendous strides have been made within the beauty industry for women of color. As new, inclusive makeup lines have continued to emerge and have great success, WOC have finally felt the diversity and inclusivity that has long escaped them. This is why the new beauty space to open in Washington D.C.’s Dupont Circle is so important—and it’s all thanks to two best friends.

Longtime besties Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith both had their own successful beauty businesses before they decided to go into business together and provide WOC in the D.C. area with the beauty essentials they need and desire. Kimberly is the the founder of Marjani Beauty, an online retailer that sells a curated selection of skincare and makeup products for women with darker skin tones. Product Junkie helps women find hair products and tools for natural hair and is the start-up run by Amaya.

Together, they have teamed up to bring Brown Beauty Co-Op to Dupont Circle, which will house a mixture of skincare, hair and beauty products specifically for WOC in a 1,000-square foot store located at 1365 Connecticut Avenue Northwest. The space is scheduled to open this December and is sure to be to the delight of many women residents of the D.C. area.

Customers will have the ability to browse from a specially curated selection of products from up-and-coming and established brands at a variety of price points, which are all designed with darker skin tones in mind. Some of the featured beauty brands include Marena Beauty, Hue Noir, Christal Cosmetics, and Joliette by Afrodeity. The products offered from the brands range from high-quality foundation and blushes to eyeshadows and various lipstick shades. Brown Beauty Co-Op is also focused on healthy and environmentally friendly beauty options, as it will predominately stock natural and organic products that can prove to be challenging to find for WOC.

In an effort to ensure potential customers that WOC doesn’t only focus on black women, Kimberly and Amaya stress that “brown beauty” includes a variety of ethnicities and skin tones.  “We want to be able to serve a lot of other women who are underrepresented in the market like Indian and Latino women,” they explain. “It’s important to acknowledge there are a lot of similar experiences across cultures.”

As many WOC are already painfully familiar with, going into a local retailer and trying to find beauty products that fit your complexion needs is a lofty, frustrating task, one that propelled Amaya to start the Brown Beauty Co-Op. “I’ve gone to the ethnic aisle in Target or CVS… and it is like chaos and comedy in there,” Amaya says. “Women of color have always sort of been relegated to this random aisle where people are like picking up paper towels and toilet paper, meanwhile, you’re trying to figure out what product works for you. We wanted to create a store that said ‘this is for you.’ A space that carries beauty products that affirm you and actually meet your needs.”

Similarly, Kimberly, who has lived in D.C. for a decade, voiced her own frustrations with the lack of beauty products for women of color despite living in a very culturally diverse area. “Having lived and worked here for the past ten years, it has always just surprised me how culturally diverse it is, yet when it comes to beauty, I can still go into stores and not find products for me,” she says. “To me that’s quite unbelievable. It’s not like we are in middle America. In this region we make up a huge percent of the population at all different levels of socioeconomic status.”

As Amaya emphasized, you don’t have to do much research to know that black women lead the way with consumer trends and our buying power is at an all-time high, not to mention that black women are the largest group to start small businesses. She continued to add, “You have this movement of ‘black girl magic’ where black women are excelling at a lot of different things—business is just one of them—but there is a lot of emphasis on how we grow black consumer brands and businesses and how we invest in them. We are at a really opportune moment with Brown Beauty Co-Op and fulfilling a consumer need that I think has always been there.”

Brown Beauty Co-Op will also have a salon space for makeup application, hair tutorials and open for both appointments and walk-ins. Kimberly and Amaya are stacking their calendar with rotating pop-ups shops and events that will hopefully position the store as a community space where women of color can feel empowered.

As Kimberly so simply put it, “The girls are wanting it. They are excited for it because they need it.” We are too ladies, we are too.

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