The hair and beauty supply industry brings in billions each year but many times leaves out some of its major consumers from taking part in that wealth. Owner of 814 House of Hair, Stephanie McLaurin, is looking to change that reality.

"In the hair and the beauty supply business everybody should be able to make money,"
McLaurin said.

She’s unique in the industry. According to a Nielsen Report From 2018, African Americans make up 85 percent of the consumer base for ethnic hair and beauty markets. However, they’ve been locked out of ownership in the beauty supply space even in their own communities.

Recently that's changed somewhat, with more black owned beauty supply stores popping up across the country, and the Erie native McLaurin is part of that trend.

After working at a local beauty supply store, and helping a friend open one, she saved up money, and used some left to her by her father, to open up her own place.

Growing a business in a space run by more established stores didn't come without challenges. During her first year McLaurin was stymied by hair and beauty product suppliers, not willing to give a contract to an upstart. It's a problem many trying to break into the hair industry face, but McLaurin, the daughter of Erie wrestling legend Jimmy Carr wouldn't give up without a fight.

She started petitioning companies, calling them every other day to get products. The move worked, helping her establish a list of suppliers, critical to opening shop and spreading word in the community.

Being a member of the community that comes in to purchase her products gave her an advantages over other stores.

"They have to have someone African American in their stores,” McLaurin said speaking about other beauty supply stores. “Everything in here I try it."

McLaurin's unique presence in the space is something she hopes inspires other entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams.