Late last year I was charged with conducting an ethnography on a cultural group. I choose to take a closer look at the lives of women who call themselves natural. Natural women are typically of the African diaspora. Naturals are women who choose to wear their hair in its natural state (chemical free).
IamChrisjtaylor.com: Has the growing culture of natural women created a micro-economy?
Anifowoshe: When it relates to black people there are many micro-economies. I suppose it has, as the need for quality products to serve naturals was not in existence in the past. Products made for most consumers are not of the highest quality in relation to health that is why the Green movement has surfaced as well. So you can say that it has but it also part of a bigger economy as naturals will also look more into Green living as well as quality natural hair products.
iamChrisjtaylor.com: It seems many naturals run small businesses or blogs marketing products primarily to other naturals, do these women become entrepreneurs because they became natural or because they were already entrepreneurs?
Anifowoshe: If you look at the trend of small business growth in the U.S. Black women comprise of the fastest growing segment of all small business in the U.S. I do not believe that a woman becomes a business owner just because she is natural no more than a woman becomes a business owner because she is relaxed. The Asians have traditionally been the major players in the black hair community with the weave hair and relaxers. In the natural hair segment, it may pose different opportunities for Black people to serve their own communities. There is a paradigm shift in hair care when it comes to natural hair that sets a different set of dynamics in place in relation to black hair care. If being natural makes on an entrepreneur than the Hair has even more power than I first thought. So to answer your question, those who will be naturalpreneurs were most likely already entrepreneurs who have targeted natural marketing. My biggest question is “How come there was not this much scrutiny to Black consumerism when Asians and others were the primary winners. Now that it appears that a few black owned companies may have a little say in the market it is suddenly a question of intent?” Furthermore, being an entrepreneur does not minimalize one’s contribution to the Cause. Just as the gentleman who owns Tom shoes monetizes his business, it does not take away from the fact that he still gives away one pair for every pair sold.
Finally I want to say on the issue of Black businesses. I think we should be held to the same accountability that we are asking from others who have historically gained from black dollars and that is “What are you going to give back to the communities that purchase from you? Being a black owned business is not enough if you are still not going to sew into your community and create jobs within your community or reach out through civic duties.