Los Angeles, CA--Lia Dias is convinced that if the Black community understood what Black beauty supply owners go through, we would be more mindful of where we spend our money. She hopes that more Black people become informed consumers because of all the unnecessary barriers Black beauty supply owners go through in the hair care industry.
Dias can tell you a thing or two about hair product distributors and their discriminatory practices towards Black people from personal experience. She launched her beauty supply chain Girl Cave Beauty four years ago and currently has locations in South Central, Inglewood and Compton under the Girl Cave banner.
The entrepreneur and mother of three says that the vision behind launching her business did not come from the desire of getting rich.
“It’s about making money and putting the capital to the side so that I can become the distributor. This way, I can help other Black women become retailers.”
Dias is also a cast member on this season of L.A’s Married To Medicine which airs Sundays at 9/8 central on Bravo.
Just like many women in the African-American community Dias shopped at Asian owned beauty supplies out of habit. They are often located in Black communities providing hair products that are highly desired by Black women.
Dias said that she never questioned why she was buying hair products from someone who did not look like her. Now that she is within the world of beauty supply ownership, Dias, along with her business partner Ashli Brown have done a lot of research to understand their market.
“When my parents were growing up, Black people owned the beauty supplies in their community. Black people also went door to door selling hair products as well as wigs.”
Dias says that once the Asian community learned how to mass produce wigs in a cheaper way, they began to fiercely corner the hair market.
“Once they got a lock on the hair market, they got the U.S government to make it illegal to ship hair from any country other than theirs. That’s how they gained the capital. Then, after they gained the capital from selling the hair, they cut out the retailers from buying and they became the distributors.”
Understanding these dynamics is why Dias says she is clear with customers when they ask why she doesn’t carry certain products. She uses these experiences so that Black women think twice before they buy a product or before they shop at a store.
“When you come into my store and ask for a product like Freetress or Shake-N-Go, it’s not that I’m not carrying it because I don’t want to, it’s because they will not sell to Black owners. If I could carry everything, I would. But I can’t,” Dias explained.
When Brown and Dias realized certain distributors did not want to sell to them they had to get lawyers involved, which took time and capital.
“You call, you submit all the paperwork and they say someone will get back to you but they never do. Or, they might say we can’t sell to you because you are within radius of another beauty supply. You go into the stores they are talking about and realize there are multiple stores within a zipcode selling Shake-N-Go,” Brown detailed.
“It’s not true what they are saying, they are just choosing not to sell to us.”
Brown is the first Girl Cave Beauty franchisee with her Compton location. She is a native of Compton who was able to build upon the framework Dias established. Brown says she is grateful for the opportunity because growing up she did not see many options of business ownership in her community.
Dias comes from a two parent home where her and her siblings were always encouraged to do their best. Despite small bumps along the way, Dias is continuing to make her family proud and lift other women in her community while she climbs.
“They blocked us out of the market by pooling their capital, buying in bulk, becoming the distributors and the middle-men and eliminating us from the retail space. Black people can take back this market, it just takes capital. You need the money to buy it directly.”
Now that Dias has been within the world of beauty supply ownership for a few years, she has established relationships with distributors that allow her access to many of the products on her shelves.
This came from years of paying accounts on time and showing distributors that she meant business.
Dias says that her biggest goal is to provide job opportunities for Black people in her community, especially paths to ownership. She understands that discrimination against Blacks in Los Angeles stretches far beyond hair care distribution.
“You go to McDonald’s on Manchester and Normandie in the heart of South Central and you don’t see young, Black kids working there,” Dias expressed.
It is important to Dias to employ people who look like her from the neighborhood.
“People are hungry for opportunity, but they just aren’t there.”
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