There are thousands of beauty supply stores in the Atlanta region to choose from. However, Charis McWhorter and Dana Hawkins are cut from a different cloth. These two women are the founders of Zoet Beauty Supply on Veterans Memorial Highway in Mableton. What sets Hawkins and McWhorter apart is the fact they own every step of the supply chain that typically most Black business owners do not have within the beauty industry.
“In 2017, we started selling bundles, virgin hair bundles online, then we expanded it into the beauty supply store,” McWhorter explained. “So once we got into the industry, that’s when we started learning more about how they try to keep us out by not giving us certain accounts, [certain suppliers] would deny us for no particular reason. So that’s when we started to say, Hey, you know, we were looking for particular brands or hair, we were saying, ‘Hey, let’s get this in.’ And we will try to place orders, however, the supplier would tell us they’re out of stock. But the stores up the street are getting their products by the box loads.”
Less than 10% of the beauty and barber supply stores are owned by African-Americans, yet 90% of the products in the stores are purchased by African-Americans. Hawkins and McWhorter believed the gap between what was needed and what was available as part of a larger challenge.
“The first part of the battle is financial literacy and having your stuff in order because there are people that will work with us,” said McWhorter. “Now, will everyone, absolutely not. So, we don’t focus on the ones that don’t want to work with you. You focus on the ones that do and then embrace your customer base. So that was part of our strategy.”
That was the moment Hawkins and McWhorter began developing their product lines such as crochet hair and locks, detangling brushes, and parting combs, to name a few. Hawkins and McWhorter placed emphasis upon quality over quantity.
Speaking of quality, the ladies at Zoet Beauty Supply said the COVID-19 has not slowed their business, citing consumer confidence as more individuals began to take charge of their beauty needs while in quarantine. They also noted their ability to carry sanitizing products, including KN 95 face masks, they were able to pivot and supply first responders with PPE.
“It put us on the map because a lot of people who didn’t know about us, learned about us and we were able to stay up,” said Hawkins. “So people drove from all over Georgia just to come here and get those supplies and to get stuff to take care of their hair.”
Even though Zoet Beauty Supply is currently in year two at their storefront in Mableton and in fourth year in operation, Dana Hawkins and Charis McWhorter credit their quest to learn more about themselves as a key tactic to stay ahead of the curve. More importantly, the duo learned they have boundless amounts of work ethic as they worked in corporate America during the day and their hair care business at night.
We both worked jobs before. So we thought, ‘oh, we’re tired,’ Hawkins explained. “But now we started this and we haven’t seen ‘tired’ yet. There have been plenty of nights where we were up to two o’clock in the morning because we were trying to just get it done. And just so we can check it off and still have to get up for our regular jobs.”