Raynell Steward is better known as Wuzzam Supa or Supa Cent, but regardless of what you call her, she is leading the way as a small business owner with her brand The Crayon Case. The Crayon Case is a cosmetic line for amateur makeup lovers and in just over a year, the brand has garnished the support of millions; due in large part to Supa’s transparency and resourcefulness as a business owner. Customers and supporters are not the only ones who are influenced by Supa. In June 2018, Crayola along with ASOS launched Crayola Beauty, a cosmetic line that is so similar to Supa’s brand it is causing confusion among professional makeup artist. The initial question is why Crayola crossed industries from crayons and markers to eyeshadows and mascara, and why now?
This story is all too familiar to the pressure Rihanna brought to the makeup industry when she launched Fenty Beauty in September 2017. Rihanna’s wide range of foundations lead major cosmetic brands, from Loreal to Estee Lauder, to suddenly expand their selection of foundation colors under the guise of “diversity” and a newfound desire to provide a color to match all sink tones.
So, do businesses owned by black women have a natural ability to put the pressure on the market? Simply, yes. Most commonly, companies are influenced by and mimic the norms and practices of the industry, but these black women-owned businesses have a different story. They instead, go against the norms in the market which ultimately activates change in the industry. However, the influence on the market is not solely the impact of business owners but black women as both consumers and supporters. The Nielsen Report explores the buying power and consumer trends of black women in their 2017 African-American Women: Our Science, Her Magic.
“Despite having a brand affinity that is higher than that of non-Hispanic white women, brands still need to work hard to gain their loyalty. Black women’s desire for variety and change (part of what makes them trendsetters), their willingness to act on the spot, and their penchant for thriftiness, also strongly inﬂuences what they purchase. Appealing to these attributes can be an important part of both wooing black women away from their standard brands, as well as trying to keep them.”
The beauty and fashion industries are prime examples of black women’s roles as trendsetters, which often leads to cultural appropriation. The saving grace lies in the ability of consumers to discern which brands are genuinely committed to black women and which ones are posturing. Additionally, the loyalty black women offer brands can make or break a company. An example is the 2017 Shea Moisture debacle where the beauty and personal care brands made an attempt to initiate ethnic crossover- the act of expanding the target audience of a product or service that was once intended for a specific ethnic group.
”Marketers of ethnic-oriented niche products frequently strategize to create crossover of their products into larger markets for economies of scale and commercial viability. However, when such products are closely identified with the specialized target market they serve, successful crossover to a mainstream market can be a challenge. Nevertheless, some formerly ethnic-oriented niche products successfully cross over to the mainstream market.” (Grier et. al 2006).
A key difference between brands like Fenty Beauty and The Crayon Case as compared to Shea Moisture is the knowledge of knowing that through the support of black consumers — black women specifically — non-black consumers will come. However, you cannot control who you influence (i.e. cultural appropriation) or the mimicking that may occur in your industry.