6 Black Entrepreneurs On The Breakthrough Products That Gave Them Their Starts

Skye Bannister
·5 mins read

For better or worse, the pandemic has changed the way we shop, whether that's becoming savvier at scouring deals online, mastering the art of contactless pickup, or supporting small businesses — the mom-and-pop retailers that have been most affected by current events. And with today's civil rights movement on the forefront of our minds, Black businesses in particular have seen an outpouring of support over the last couple of months.

To help continue that effort, we've partnered with Target to spotlight the journeys of six Black entrepreneurs and their signature products. From coffee and a looks-good-on-everyone lipstick, to leave-in conditioner and a game-changing mousse, every item embodies the dreams of its creator. Ahead, read the stories behind the products that made these brands what they are today — a representation of Black excellence and innovation at its finest.

<h2>Rochelle Graham-Campbell, Alikay Naturals </h2><strong>The Product: Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner</strong><br><br>As a college student vlogging about her hair journey, Rochelle Graham-Campbell couldn't find products that worked for her texture — so she started making her own. Inspired by lessons about herbs and natural remedies she learned from her grandmother as a child in Jamaica, Graham-Campbell created Alikay Naturals using ingredients like coconut, aloe, honey, and sage. A cult favorite soon emerged: the Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner, a lightweight cream- and water-based formula that keeps all hair types soft and strong. <br><br><strong>Alikay Naturals</strong> Alikay Naturals Lemongrass Leave-in Conditioner, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Falikay-naturals-lemongrass-leave-in-conditioner-8-fl-oz%2F-%2FA-15114758" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Rochelle Graham-Campbell, Alikay Naturals

The Product: Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner

As a college student vlogging about her hair journey, Rochelle Graham-Campbell couldn't find products that worked for her texture — so she started making her own. Inspired by lessons about herbs and natural remedies she learned from her grandmother as a child in Jamaica, Graham-Campbell created Alikay Naturals using ingredients like coconut, aloe, honey, and sage. A cult favorite soon emerged: the Lemongrass Leave-In Conditioner, a lightweight cream- and water-based formula that keeps all hair types soft and strong.

Alikay Naturals Alikay Naturals Lemongrass Leave-in Conditioner, $, available at Target
<h2>Denise Woodward, Partake Foods</h2><strong>The Product: Top 8 Allergen-Free Cookies</strong><br> <br>North Carolina native Denise Woodward spent most of her career in corporate America, but after discovering her young daughter Vivienne's multiple food allergies, she realized she couldn't find any snacks that fit her "nutritional standards and satisfied Vivenne’s taste buds." She didn’t want her daughter — or the average "two kids in every classroom in America" who have food allergies — to not be able to fully participate in playdates and birthday parties, so she started baking. After collaborating with a food scientist, Woodward unveiled eight types of cookies under the name Partake Foods, including triple chocolate, chocolate chip, birthday cake, and gingersnap. Free of the top eight allergens, Woodward's treats relieve much of the stress for those dealing with daily allergy management.<br><br><strong>Partake</strong> Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Fpartake-gluten-free-vegan-chocolate-chip-cookies-5-5oz%2F-%2FA-79473870%23lnk%3Dsametab" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Denise Woodward, Partake Foods

The Product: Top 8 Allergen-Free Cookies

North Carolina native Denise Woodward spent most of her career in corporate America, but after discovering her young daughter Vivienne's multiple food allergies, she realized she couldn't find any snacks that fit her "nutritional standards and satisfied Vivenne’s taste buds." She didn’t want her daughter — or the average "two kids in every classroom in America" who have food allergies — to not be able to fully participate in playdates and birthday parties, so she started baking. After collaborating with a food scientist, Woodward unveiled eight types of cookies under the name Partake Foods, including triple chocolate, chocolate chip, birthday cake, and gingersnap. Free of the top eight allergens, Woodward's treats relieve much of the stress for those dealing with daily allergy management.

Partake Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies, $, available at Target
<h2>Melissa Butler, The Lip Bar</h2><strong>The Product: Vegan Matte Liquid Lipstick in "Bawse Lady" </strong><br><br>Melissa Butler grew up watching her family of entrepreneurs “chart their own path” in her native city of Detroit. It instilled in her the confidence to create her company after years of frustration with the makeup industry's "lack of diversity" and use of animal products. She wanted to create a brand that was vegan, inclusive, and founded on the belief that "with a swipe of color on the lips, a person could gain the confidence to take on the day." After conducting many focus groups, the Lip Bar launched "Bawse Lady," a blue-based red lipstick that complements every skin tone — and is so user-friendly that it can fit into the lifestyle of anyone who might need a boost.<br><br><strong>The Lip Bar</strong> Vegan Matte Liquid Lipstick, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Fthe-lip-bar-vegan-matte-liquid-lipstick-0-24oz%2F-%2FA-51757470%3Fpreselect%3D52860820%23lnk%3Dsametab" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Melissa Butler, The Lip Bar

The Product: Vegan Matte Liquid Lipstick in "Bawse Lady"

Melissa Butler grew up watching her family of entrepreneurs “chart their own path” in her native city of Detroit. It instilled in her the confidence to create her company after years of frustration with the makeup industry's "lack of diversity" and use of animal products. She wanted to create a brand that was vegan, inclusive, and founded on the belief that "with a swipe of color on the lips, a person could gain the confidence to take on the day." After conducting many focus groups, the Lip Bar launched "Bawse Lady," a blue-based red lipstick that complements every skin tone — and is so user-friendly that it can fit into the lifestyle of anyone who might need a boost.

The Lip Bar Vegan Matte Liquid Lipstick, $, available at Target
<h2>Calvin Quallis, Scotch Porter</h2><strong>The Product: Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner</strong><br> <br>Even as a child, Calvin Quallis would observe how clients would leave his mother's salon feeling "almost like they were a different person." With the transformative power of grooming in mind, Quallis built Scotch Porter to cater to the underrepresented groups of Black and Brown men with textured hair, focusing on natural ingredients like shea butter and kale protein to nourish dry, brittle, and thin hair. One of the standout products that came to be is SC's Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner, which softens and strengthens while reducing frizz. Pro tip: These products work for all hair textures, so we're not <em>not </em>saying you can't buy a bottle to use on your ends.<br><br><strong>Scotch Porter</strong> Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Fscotch-porter-hydrate-38-nourish-beard-conditioner-4oz%2F-%2FA-76579659%23lnk%3Dsametab" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Calvin Quallis, Scotch Porter

The Product: Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner

Even as a child, Calvin Quallis would observe how clients would leave his mother's salon feeling "almost like they were a different person." With the transformative power of grooming in mind, Quallis built Scotch Porter to cater to the underrepresented groups of Black and Brown men with textured hair, focusing on natural ingredients like shea butter and kale protein to nourish dry, brittle, and thin hair. One of the standout products that came to be is SC's Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner, which softens and strengthens while reducing frizz. Pro tip: These products work for all hair textures, so we're not not saying you can't buy a bottle to use on your ends.

Scotch Porter Hydrate & Nourish Beard Conditioner, $, available at Target
<h2>Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson, BLK & Bold Coffee</h2><strong>The Product<em>: </em>Limu Ethiopia Coffee</strong><br> <br>Childhood best friends Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson wanted to create a business that not only gave them the opportunity to build something of their own, but also had social impact and supported the Black community. With Pernell’s eight-plus years of experience in the retail/merchandising industry and Rod’s career in nonprofit fundraising for academic and healthcare institutions, the duo ultimately came together to create sustainable and delicious coffee. After vetting the "sourcing, sample roasting, testing integrity, measuring consistency" of more than 30 coffees, they landed on a blend with notes of chocolate and fruit flavors, processed in a way that requires significantly less water — and allows them to work closely with the Black-owned importer Keffa Coffee<em>.</em> <br><br><strong>BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages</strong> Limu Ethiopia Natural Processed, Light Roast Steeped, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Fblk-38-bold-limu-ethiopia-natural-processed-light-roast-steeped-12oz%2F-%2FA-78594616" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson, BLK & Bold Coffee

The Product: Limu Ethiopia Coffee

Childhood best friends Pernell Cezar and Rod Johnson wanted to create a business that not only gave them the opportunity to build something of their own, but also had social impact and supported the Black community. With Pernell’s eight-plus years of experience in the retail/merchandising industry and Rod’s career in nonprofit fundraising for academic and healthcare institutions, the duo ultimately came together to create sustainable and delicious coffee. After vetting the "sourcing, sample roasting, testing integrity, measuring consistency" of more than 30 coffees, they landed on a blend with notes of chocolate and fruit flavors, processed in a way that requires significantly less water — and allows them to work closely with the Black-owned importer Keffa Coffee.

BLK & Bold Specialty Beverages Limu Ethiopia Natural Processed, Light Roast Steeped, $, available at Target
<h2>Maya Smith, The Doux</h2><strong>The Product: Mousse Def Texture Foam</strong><br><br>In 2009, Maya Smith started cultivating her business in Germany while her husband was stationed there. She eventually opened a salon called The Doux, where she was inspired to whip up products her clients could use between visits when they expressed frustration with the long "amount of time it took to detangle, style, and dry their curly hair." After three years of research, development, and moving her salon to Georgia, Smith created an all-in-one wonder that detangles, defines, sets, <em>and </em>conditions. <br><br><strong>The Doux</strong> Mousse Def Texture Foam, $, available at <a href="https://go.skimresources.com/?id=30283X879131&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.target.com%2Fp%2Fthe-doux-mousse-def-texture-foam-7-fl-oz%2F-%2FA-52537423%23lnk%3Dsametab" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Target" class="link rapid-noclick-resp">Target</a>

Maya Smith, The Doux

The Product: Mousse Def Texture Foam

In 2009, Maya Smith started cultivating her business in Germany while her husband was stationed there. She eventually opened a salon called The Doux, where she was inspired to whip up products her clients could use between visits when they expressed frustration with the long "amount of time it took to detangle, style, and dry their curly hair." After three years of research, development, and moving her salon to Georgia, Smith created an all-in-one wonder that detangles, defines, sets, and conditions.

The Doux Mousse Def Texture Foam, $, available at Target

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