“I feel like there’s a silent rule when you’re in the beauty supply,” says Ashli Brown, Dias’s business partner and the company’s first franchisee, opening the Compton location in 2019. “You don’t judge other Black women on how they look when they’re in the store.”
For Dias and Brown, empowering customers to be informed about what works for their hair and feeling confident in their expression takes priority over simply selling products. “My thing with customers is that I’m open to explain literally everything in the store,” Brown says. “I’m like, ‘Let me show you everything that I have for hair growth and let me tell you how to use this line of products and create a regimen for yourself.’”
Dias adds: “A lot of women deal with alopecia. A lot of women deal with not knowing how to manage their hair and we don’t want anybody to come in our stores and feel like they have to look a part. Come in exactly how you are and let us help you achieve the look that you want.”
Although their livelihood depends on people buying hair care, Dias and Brown are adamant that Black women should not be characterized by our hair. “Hair is something that’s just a piece of who we are,” Brown says. “Even though I sell products, I don’t really buy into the idea or the thought that your hair makes or breaks you.”
“If you’re feeling frustrated, chop it off,” says Dias. “If you feel like you want to go blond, dye blond. If you feel like you want to be embraced and you want to go natural, do that, but your hair doesn’t define who you are at all.”
The positive vibes are paying off: The Girl Cave L.A. will be expanding its reach, opening its first franchise in the Dallas–Forth Worth area later this year. “We want to open up Girl Cave L.A. across the country,” Dias says. “We’re accepting franchise applications as we speak. And we’re looking for committed women and men who are interested in being in business.”
In 2018, Mintel valued the Black hair-care market at $2.5 billion, a valuation experts believe is actually much higher, so it’s essential that a piece of that wealth goes into Black communities and entrepreneurs. “It’s not just for me to accumulate wealth and just run my stores,” Dias says of her burgeoning empire. “This is about other women getting into this industry.”
From creating jobs in the community and inspiring other Black women to start businesses, to empowering Black women to wear their hair as they please—and feel comfortable shopping for what they need to do it—Dias and Brown represent precisely why beauty supply stores are a vital part of Black culture.
Ashley Alese Edwards is the U.S. partnerships manager in the Google News Lab and a freelance writer who covers the intersection of culture and beauty. She is based in New York City.