Mia Wilson and Rico Ozuna-Harrison, two University of Michigan students, understood the assignment when they realized how hard it was obtaining Black haircare products in Ann Arbor, Michigan, a predominantly white area. So they decided to deliver on that challenge and sought to solve a unique problem.
The nearest beauty supply store was 20 minutes away in Ypsilanti, requiring students to grab only desperate essentials at neighborhood stores.
“Supplies aren’t directly on campus, and there are no stores or beauty supplies for students of color nearby. The stores on campus are just Walgreens and CVS,” Wilson told AfroTech. “So, oftentimes, you can’t find the proper products that will best suit our hair types in those stores.”
This nuisance prompted the college students to create their own means of Black beauty supply accessibility by establishing the YOUniversity Beauty Supply Machine through their business Innovending LLC.
The goal of their beauty and skin supplier is to advocate and instill confidence for Black and Brown students at the University of Michigan.
“Innovending as a whole finds social inequalities, and we fix them. So, our YOUniversity vending machine is a business that gives students a voice,” said Harrison. “We want Black and Brown students to have something that is theirs, and in the future, we also plan on having some Black and Brown-owned businesses by students in our vending machines.”
The YOUniversity Beauty Supply Machine resides in the university’s Student Union building basement, where hair oil, durags, bonnets, hair ties, brushes, lip gloss, lashes, and more are available for purchase.
They want to remind students that although Ann Arbor might feel as if they don’t belong, these “vending machines will serve as an affirmation that they do belong here.”
Thanks to Wilson and Harrison’s participation in OptiMize’s Social Innovation Challenge, where students pitched a project that would create social impact, the duo was able to fund this passion project by winning the grand prize of $10,000.
Innovending L.L.C. plans to expand across campuses nationwide and even segue into healthcare.