Reprinted with permission from our glorious sister site, xoVain.
The world of beauty is a tough one to navigate for women of color. We’re bombarded at all angles with well-meaning recommendations for products and salon treatments that aren’t made with us in mind, and finding products that work for us as individuals- much less products that are even made for our broad demographics -is akin to searching for a single bronze needle in an ivory haystack.
Thankfully, however, there’s an outlet willing to do the strenuous task of not only searching for and testing these rare gems for us, but gathering them all in one convenient place: DooBop, the brainchild of founders Jodie Patterson and Benjamin Bernet. I was recently lucky enough to talk with Jodie to talk about DooBop, her business philosophies, and her feelings as a woman of color on today’s beauty industry.
Lauren: A lot of women of color have very similar frustrations when trying to find beauty products or retailers that cater to our skin or hair, and I was wondering if there was a specific incident that you can pinpoint where you decided to start being entrepreneurial about fixing this issue.
Jodie: I think sometimes that entrepreneurialism runs in my blood; my family. It wasn’t so far from what was natural to me; I’ve been doing it for a couple of decades now. I last had a full-time office job was in fashion, I was director of PR for Zac Posen. At the time I was about to have my second child; I have five kids now, and I was on the way to having my second. I just thought fashion wasn’t the best industry for me. I wanted to be the mother of many children and I wanted to be involved in their lives. So I started getting into my passion, which was beauty, so really it was a passionate move to get into beauty.
I thought it was interesting that we’re such beauty consumers-- particularly with haircare products: black women outspend eight to one sometimes on haircare. We are beauty enthusiasts and we shop vigorously, but yet the industry isn’t focused on us. We don’t lead the industry, and often times we are forgotten about in terms of our specific needs. I thought that was really interesting, and I thought that I could change that with my own little boutique that I opened up in Houston. That was really the impetus to getting into it; I felt there was a space for a more intimate approach that comes from a personal understanding of the needs [of women of color]. When I opened the store I also launched my own product line at the same time. The store that I opened up was in many ways the same thing as DooBop.
The store that I opened up had beauty products from all over the world, with the brown skinned woman with textured hair in mind. We were looking for the type of woman that’s very similar to myself, and I was looking at products from all over the world; taking her outside of the “ethnic aisle,” not making her stuck in that little space, and giving her the option of great product from all over the world. That did really well, and I had customers from all over the world, actually, not just brown women, and they were loving all of the products that I purchased. That was the first understanding: that women in general, beyond ethnicity, like to shop by need. We want product that doesn’t just speak to us as ethnic people, but as women with hair needs and skin needs. And that’s really my starting point: what does that individual person need, beyond the ethnicity, beyond the ethnic perspective?
When I met my partner Benjamin, who was coming from L'Oreal, he was feeling and seeing the same things in the beauty industry and saw the gaps as well. His marketing and business expertise really had him investigating the ethnic market from a business approach. I was looking at it from a customer driven perspective. When we met, we launched DooBop, and it had been sort of a long time coming for us.
How do you select brands for DooBop? Had you been given recommendations from other women of color who have used them in the past?
A bit of that! I personally explore beauty, and my mom kind of taught me that. Whenever we travel, we ask around, and ask the women what they’re using. I ask my friends what’s in their cabinets. It’s kind of in my nature to beauty explore, but a lot of the brands that we work with are brands that I’d been using and loving for years, and they came from all over the world. We launched with about 25 brands, and now we’re up to around 65. That is an extension of that same philosophy: travel, conversations with women, and sometimes just looking at ingredients. Sometimes it’s not a brand at all: we’re looking at ingredients, what is it that women like for their hair, what is it that women need for their skin, and doing some research on brands that have similar ingredients.
If time and energy weren’t an object, would you consider making your own cosmetics line?
Yes! Always about time and energy, because again: as a mom of 5 with two businesses, it’s super difficult to say no to what already exists. I can’t say no to my kids, I can’t say no to my man, I can say no to my businesses to take on something else that I would be very passionate about. I’d have to figure out how to duplicate myself!
Makeup we are, as a company, considering it all the time; it’s just about when, and how. I think that is something we’re looking at. Something that’s skin, makeup, and health, combined.
As a closing question, what are you future hopes for Doobop and the future clients you bring in?
I hope that Doobop is the first, and one of many, brands that start to look at women on a deeper level. I think the customer is more important than the brand, and I think companies have to recognize that; she is the ultimate at this point. I want DooBop to be one of many to focus on the woman as the most important, and as really complex. Our approach as a company toward that woman is also complex, because it has to match her.
So, how do I see us? I see us growing, I see us being massively successful, but I see us doing that by being the most relevant company. It’s not so important to grab product and grab sales, without thinking. For us, it’s more important to be very relevant, and that means listening to the customer, understanding the customer, and then choosing products, creating content that is relevant to her lifestyle and changing with her. This woman that we’re looking at is not staying still for very long, and so I see us growing and changing fairly quickly with her…Conceptually, I just want us to be extremely relevant to a woman who’s extremely complex and complicated.
I think that for us, when you start talking about beauty, we’re actually talking about a lot more: we’re talking identity, and family history. When you ask someone about her hair texture, then you find out all about her mom, and her sisters, and her cousins, and where she grew up, and how she grew up. I think that this conversation that we’re having around beauty is extremely deep, particularly for women of color, because identity means so much for us. For me it’s a feel good conversation, because the customer is actually me, and my mom, and my sisters, and my best friends: very close to home.
Reprinted with permission from xoVain. Want more?