What once was an idea has manifested into a dream that Fareed “Reed” Johnson is grateful for—owning his own beauty supply store in his hometown.
In 2018, he opened one of the few Black-owned beauty supply stores in Gainesville. Blush Hair Extensions Company opened its doors to Downtown Gainesville on Main Street in March selling natural hair products, cosmetics, and bundles of hair.
Johnson pondered on the name for his hair extensions business back in 2015.
“I was looking for something that was feminine but one word and that our customers would be able to relate to,” Johnson said. “When I thought about it, I said ‘Well I’m selling hair extensions. I want something that will make the customer blush.’ And Blush Hair Extensions is what came out of that.”
Johnson started selling supplies for hair extensions from a vehicle in 2015. Although he faced adversity in his mobile hair extensions business, he persisted with his vision.
“I had a mobile extensions business and I was selling supplies to compliment the extensions and I had some problems with the vehicle,” Johnson said. “I ended up getting rid of the vehicle because the problems were becoming too costly for me and the business at the time wasn’t paying for it.”
As soon as the idea of owning a beauty supply store sparked his mind in 2016, Johnson searched tirelessly for a location for two years and shared how it was one of the hardships he faced in creating the store.
“Finding good real estate that will fit the business and that would be marketable and presentable to the community. That was very tough,” Johnson said. “I’ve probably been looking for a good location the entire 2 years since I’ve had the idea and there was a couple times where I would inquire about a location and the deals will never work out.”
Johnson did not lose hope.
He loved the location on Main Street because of the accessibility it would provide for customers and the continued motivation it would bring him to keep the business open.
“I chose this location because it’s on Main Street and because there’s a competitor—there’s a large competitor very close by and with that being said you know competition is a good thing,” Johnson said. “Competition pushes business and it’s also a sign that the market is there and so with a large competitor being just a couple blocks away and having been there for a couple years; we know that this area is accessible to the customer base that we’re targeting.”
Johnson was determined to own a beauty supply store in an industry where few Black people were owners.
“I looked around Gainesville and around the country and realized that we as Blacks weren’t owning beauty supply stores and we spend billions of dollars in the beauty supply industry every year,” Johnson said.
Johnson understood the importance of selling products that the community needs. He also said that most beauty supply stores spend money unnecessarily due to lack of understanding the culture of the community they sell the products to.
“You go into a lot of stores that are owned by other cultures and they aren’t sure what we’re looking for so they stockpiled the store with everything and they’ll go to the distributors and literally get everything that is in the catalog,” Johnson said. “That is not cost-efficient for us and it puts a strain on the customer because it’s not as convenient and it causes the customer to have to do more digging in the store and spend more time in stores looking for exactly what they want.”
Seeing his idea come to life and connecting with the community are some of the reasons why Johnson appreciates being the owner of the beauty supply store.
“Interacting with customers is probably the best reward and just being able to see the vision come to pass,” Johnson said. “That’s what we want to show to the community that ‘listen we can do this, we can run successful businesses, we can get products, we can have good customer service.’”
Through interacting with the community, Johnson wants the products to reflect those who buy them.
“I definitely want it to be a store that the community trust and can depend on,” Johnson said. “I want the products in the store to reflect the community. I only want products in the store that the community uses.”
Johnson is aware of the social stigmas the Black community faces between one another and strives to keep the store running no matter what challenges it may bring.
“A lot of times in the Black community, Black businesses have certain stigmas amongst our own people that aren’t good for the businesses,” Johnson said. “Sometimes businesses fail whether we realize it or not before they even open the doors because of certain stigmas and certain ways of thinking by the owner and the employees. It’s not always good to be cool. Sometimes quiet and calm is the best way to go.”
Sheena Lewis, a Blush Hair Extensions Company customer and an ambassador for Gainesville Black Professionals, shared how the beauty supply store can encourage aspiring entrepreneurs.
“Being able to see owners who really embrace what’s needed here in this city and wanting to give back to the culture and helping other entrepreneurs to step up and go forward and make something of whatever it is that they strive to want to do,” Lewis said.
Johnson wants to see more Black-owned businesses and explained that it is possible for it to happen by showing support, understanding the struggle in starting a business, and knowing that it will be a community effort to keep the Black-Owned businesses open.
“We can’t get the products that are customers want if our customers don’t come through the door and tell us what they want,” Johnson said. “Even if you come in the store and we don’t have a product that you may be looking for, it’s not a wasted trip because eventually you’re going to see that product on our shelves.”
Lewis believes that Johnson’s willingness to listen to the needs of the community to stock their desired products for the beauty supply store will be great in the long-run for the business.
“I feel like it’s very customer-based,” Lewis said. “He’s building something around the community that the community really needs.”
The beauty supply store plans to create a local section within the store which will sell local-based brands and their products.