One day in 2019, Crystal Young sat in her car remembering her cousin Joseph “JoJo” Felton. Felton had kidney issues and was on disability, which made it harder for him to find a stable job and take care of his children.
A licensed cosmetologist, Young had already registered her beauty supply store, The Hair Store, and made a decision to hire her cousin.
“My plan was to have my cousin work in my store because who doesn’t want somebody working in the store that people just love,” Young said. “I know how much my family and his friends loved him. So I knew that any customers that came into my store were gonna love him, too. He just was a lovable guy.”
But before that could come to pass, Felton died of kidney failure. Young was devastated, and one day as she sat in her car crying, she made a decision. She cranked up her car and drove to Tallahassee to the Florida Department of State to change her business name to JoJo’s Beauty Supply.
“If I put my cousin’s name on something, I’m going to work hard for it. I’m not gonna put his name on something that’s not good,” Young said. “That’s how I got the name. I went and changed it and I just went hard (on running the business) and it kind of helped me through the grieving process.”
Now Young owns the only Black-owned beauty supply retailer in Escambia County. Next weekend, she will get a boost in her public profile as she was chosen by Chris Hendricks and BantuCola, a platform dedicated to bringing awareness to Black businesses in Pensacola, as the next stop for the second annual Black Business Weekend on Feb. 4 and 5.
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The goal of the event is to have over 1,000 people from all walks of life stop by and invest $20 at the shop. The event starts Feb. 4 with a ribbon cutting at noon and later that afternoon three local entrepreneurs will talk about their journey starting a business. There will also be games like Jenga.
On Feb. 5, vendors will be selling their products, more entrepreneurs will provide education on starting a business, there will be a “braider battle” with a cash prize, and a poet set showcase.
Hendricks started BantuCola in 2018 because he wanted to create a platform that recognized and uplifted Black businesses in Pensacola and Northwest Florida.
“I wanted to create a platform where I knew all of the Black businesses in the area because I wanted to be intentional about where I spent my money,” Hendricks explained. “We say support the neighborhood, always give back, practice group economics, but I can’t do that if I don’t know what exists out there.”
Hendricks said group economics is a way to circulate money and revenue with the community to build and maintain its own stores, shops and other businesses, and for them all to grow and profit together. Black Business Weekend is a way to help facilitate that.
Last year, the first Black Business Weekend happened at The Busy Bee, Mercantile & General Store, which is the first Black-owned fresh foods grocery store in Pensacola. It is situated in a food desert on Ninth Avenue between two Publix Super Markets. It was opened to provide fresh foods and even have a food bar to provide hot fresh foods for the community without an accessible supermarket. The Black Business weekend happened last January and garnered over 400 who attended.
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This year, Hendricks chose JoJo’s Beauty Supply after a friend told him about Young’s store. Hendricks noted the beauty supply industry is supported by a lot of Black women, who buy the products but rarely own the shops.
In an interview with Beauty Independent, Sam Ennon, founder of Black Owned Beauty Supply Organization, said there are over 9,000 beauty supply stores in the United States but only 3,000 of them are Black-owned.
Young was inspired to open a beauty supply store because of the lack of knowledge from the store owners on Black people’s hair.
“When it comes to buying hair products for my hair, it’s already a journey within itself because you have all these products, and now you have to choose which one is specifically designed for your hair texture,” Young said. “So that’s already frustrating within itself, but then you also are in a store where you can’t really ask the person behind the counter anything about the product, because they don’t use the products.”
Hendricks saw the niche Young was working to fill and wanted to support her.
“Making people aware that she exists and by doing that, that also creates branding, marketing and infrastructure for her business to help it grow and flourish, despite the overwhelming pressure of capitalism from joint forces who are trying to keep her from getting a piece of that pie and carving out her own slice,” Hendricks said. “ And that keeps that money in the community, and as it stays in the community we can grow the community with more capacity.”
Young opened her store Jan. 9, 2020. The following month, COVID-19 swept the country and businesses were closing down. Young couldn’t do any marketing because of the uncertainty of the virus so any promotional events she had planned were useless because people couldn’t gather in crowds.
The rest of the year for Young was just as difficult.
Her father was diagnosed with stage four cancer in April and passed away May 29. That September, Hurricane Sally made landfall in Pensacola, knocking down her store’s roof and flooding the building.
Because she wasn’t getting the business she needed to keep her store open, she had to work another job to keep the place running. Young also had two employees, and when there wasn’t enough money to pay them from payroll, she had to use money from her personal paycheck to pay them.
Even with all the setbacks in life, she keeps pushing forward through her faith.
“I was raised in the church and I was raised to pray. But I also know through life things get very difficult where it can be hard to pray. Those are the times where I have to pray anyway,” said Young.
From naming her business after her cousin, to the hardships and challenges she has had to press through, Young wants to keep going for all of the people who are watching, for her family, friends, peers and most importantly, for the Black community in Pensacola.
“I understand it is important for me as a Black woman to have ownership in the beauty industry, because it doesn’t exist,” Young said. “So it’s important for me to stay here and to change the narrative. We need to see these images. We need to be able to go into a beauty supply store, and buy our beauty products from Black people.”
Black Business Weekend will take place at JoJo’s Beauty Supply starting at noon Feb. 4 and starting at 10 a.m. Feb. 5 at 3312 E. Nine Mile Road. For more information, go to JoJo’s Beauty Supply’s Facebook page or the BantuCola website at bantucola.com or its Facebook page.