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Black Beauty Wellness founders made $2M impact on Tulsa GDP

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A new report shows 33 Black founders in the beauty and wellness industry contributed $2.289 million to Tulsa’s economy in 2022.

The report, titled “Spotlight on Tulsa: Roots of a Self-care Economy,” shows the melanated are punching above their way in a fast-growing and increasingly diverse industry.

It’s a trend that Build in Tulsa executive director Ashli Sims believes proves the power and purpose behind supporting Black founders.

“We really do drive economic impact. We drive culture, and we drive dollars, Sims told The Black Wall Street Times.

black beauty wellness
Marquita Owens, owner of The Blueprint Studio on historic Black Wall Street, leads a fitness class. (The Blueprint Studio / YouTube)

Despite accounting for just 0.3 percent of Tulsa’s roughly 11,000 registered businesses, the 33 Black beauty and wellness founders contributed 3.8 percent of the city’s $60.39 GDP last year, according to the report.

Notably, only one percent of all venture capitals funding went to Black founders in 2022.

“Think what that could be if they were given more support, more access to capital and more of the spotlight so that we know more about these brands,” Sims said.

Spotlight on Tulsa: Black beauty and wellness founders

In less than three years, Build in Tulsa has helped to transform the Greenwood District and greater Tulsa into a headquarters for multicultural founders from the city and across the nation.

Normally, Build in Tulsa’s accelerator programs and initiatives focus on tech and tech-adjacent startups. Yet Sims said she started to notice “so many Tulsa founders that are in the beauty and wellness industry.”

It makes sense. Globally, the beauty industry is currently a nearly $430 billion industry, with expectations it will grow to $580 billion in retail sales by 2027, according to a May 2023 report from the Business of Fashion and Mckinsey and Company.

black beauty wellness
Poppi’s Spa and Lounge in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Seeking to support the growth of the industry in Tulsa, Build in Tulsa executive director Ashli Sims partnered with Braintrust Founders Studio, the largest membership-based platform dedicated to Black founders or beauty and wellness.

Founders from Build in Tulsa’s B3: Build Black Beauty initiative, were used as case studies in the report. According to the report, 28 out of the 33 entrepreneurs surveyed were from Tulsa or Oklahoma.

From T.J. Woodberry’s Poppi’s Spa and Lounge to Marquita Owens’ The Blueprint Studio, Black founders across Tulsa’s beauty and wellness space celebrated the burgeoning entrepreneur ecosystem growing in the city.

“Only come here if you want to be wildly supported and successful,” Woodberry said.

Breaking barriers

The report on Black beauty and wellness founders shows the power in supporting these melanin-rich entrepreneurs. However, organizations like Build in Tulsa operate in a post-Affirmative Action world with emerging threats to programs that target racial inequalities.

Far-right conservative Edward Blum was successful in getting the U.S. Supreme Court to strike down affirmative action. Now, he’s set his sights on a venture fund for Black women.

Fearless Fund awards grants and supports Black women founders, who receive less than one percent of financial backing nationally. Blum scored a temporary victory in his lawsuit accusing the fund of reverse racism.

In early October a judge blocked the Fearless Fund from continuing its grant program while the case plays out.

When asked if she’s worried others like Blum might target Build in Tulsa, Ashli Sims wasn’t worried.

“Build in Tulsa is an organization whose missions is rooted in the legacy of Black Wall Street, and that is what we will always stand for,” Sims said.

She said closing the racial wealth gap would add trillions of dollars to the nation’s economy. Supporting Black beauty and wellness founders is part of that, she said.

“That’s not just good for Black people, and that’s not just good for Hispanic people or Brown communities. That is good for everybody in this country no matter what race or ethnicity you claim,” Sims said. “So, I will keep working to support Black entrepreneurs–underrepresented entrepreneurs–who are receiving a fraction of the resources out there, so we can all do better.”

Read the full report below:

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