And now, with the natural hair movement in full swing, the competition is becoming increasingly fierce.
Enter Doris Hair Care New York, a small but steadily growing mom-and-pop-style business that began as humbly as now nationally recognized brand Carol’s Daughter – which has counted Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige as partners – and has the same amount of potential.
Launched in 1974 by Jamaican immigrant Doris Duperley inside the kitchen of her family’s two-story home in Queens, New York, it wasn’t until 2008 that she made her homemade hair remedies available to non-clients of her euphonious neighborhood salon of the past 40 years. But as her customers’ cries grew louder for her to sell them commercially, Duperley, now in her 70s, finally agreed.
“I’ve always been in awe of what my mom’s able to do with all different types of Black hair,â€ says Marlene Duperley, one-half of the mother-daughter team that owns and operates the 100 percent Black and female New York-area business. “We’ve even had women who had lost their hair due to cancer use and our products help them grow it back,â€ she continues.
“My mom knows just about everything there is to know about growing happy, healthy hair because she’s done it for four decades. You name the problem — extreme breakage around the hairline, bald spots, chemical over-processing — she’s faced it and beat it. There is forty years worth of love and expertise that goes into every bottle, every jar, every tube we sell, and that’s what makes our products different from the rest.â€
A dedication to using primarily natural ingredients as opposed to relying on potentially harmful chemicals sets Doris and Co. apart from many of their contemporaries. True to the Duperley family’s island roots, many of the product line’s 10-piece collection include essential ingredients like jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil —even heavy, Jamaican castor oil – hail from their homeland.
Celebrities like “Soul Foodâ€ star Nicole Ari Parker have gotten on board with Doris, as have notable hair publications and industry stylists. Though fans can’t yet purchase the products in stores, the entire collection is available online, and are currently shipped to countries around the world.
“We also sell our products at conventions, trade shows, and, of course, my mom’s salon,â€ offers Duperley, “and in addition to www.dorisnewyork.com we are also currently considering offering our popular olive oil hair cream, scalp oil, reconstructive shampoo and newest items at some specifically targeted stores. â€
Though Marlene has a degree in business administration from Long Island University, she says much of what she and her mom have learned about running a successful business have come through years of trial and error as small-business owners.
“Money is always the biggest challenge,â€ admits Duperley, who said it cost roughly $150,000 to get their family business off the ground. “Unless you’re blessed to have financial backing you have to pay for all the ingredients, packaging and promotion yourself, and that gets expensive. We’re grateful that we already had a loyal community behind us when we started this,â€ she says.
She says an ambitious venture like the one she and her mom set out on is not for the faint of heart.
“Make sure you have the passion and the love for what you really want to do before you start a business,â€ she advises. “You’ve truly got to love it because it may not give you any immediate financial profit. Also understand that you’re going to work harder for yourself than you will ever work for anybody else. If you work, say, an eight-hour day at a regular job, double that. You’ll be working at least 12 — 16 hours a day with your own business. But in the end it will be worth it.â€