Entrepreneurial Women in the Business of Beauty - OZY | A Modern Media Company
Leila Velez and Zica Assis owners of the company Beleza Natural.


Because looking good and feeling good go hand in hand. These enterprising women make it their business.

By OZY Editors

Hair Salon Tycoons in Brazil

Black beauty is big business in Brazil. It’s both a social trend and a business opportunity — one that entrepreneurs Zica Assis and Leila Velez helped create and jumped on. Assis and Velez’s Natural Beauty Institute is a fast-growing franchise of hair salons aimed at Brazil’s huge population of women of color — more than 50 million. And the salon tycoons have big ambitions to grow their chain of 26 hair salons throughout Brazil and eventually take it around the world. “What we do is not just about the hair, but it’s about self-esteem,” Velez says. “All women in the world deserve to have confidence in themselves. Instituto Beleza Natural has the chance to bring that along … even in Africa, Europe … all over the world.” Read the story here.

Leveraging the Skin Secrets of a Geisha

Victoria Tsai was once worth negative $1 million. Why was she in so much debt? One bold idea: taking care of your skin using a 200-year-old beauty routine. After ruining her skin while interning at a prestige skin care brand while at Harvard Business School, testing skin care products on herself for competitive research, Tsai went looking for a makeup solution that she could feel good about and that would also cover up her permanently damaged face — a solution she found in the very private world of geisha. And her Japanese-inspired skin care line Tatcha was born. It’s used by celebrity makeup artists and has received glowing reviews. Her next big challenge? Scale. Read the story here.

The Future Queens of Natural Hair

Titi and Miko Branch are two of the most important players in the growing natural-hair movement. The sisters run a chic salon in New York and are an arresting, glamorous pair who have become their own best muses for natural hair. They’ve had to be. Titi said she actually balked “when Miko came up with this idea of let’s focus on natural hair. I really didn’t get it,” she said. “Most of our business was still straightening hair.” Their timing was right and their salon business began to expand, but finding the right potions to use on customers’ natural tresses was a problem. They solved it by creating their own line of Miss Jessie’s products with delicious names like Baby ButterCreme and Curly Pudding. Today the company offers a range of products, from cleansers, conditioners and stylers to combs and T-shirts. There’s big competition, but in the world of natural hair care, the Branch sisters may be the bigger stars. Read the story here.

Eyeing Fashion, Not Conflict

When fighting erupted in Juba, South Sudan, last December between government forces and rebels loyal to an ousted vice president, it threatened to unravel everything the new country had built, both physically and culturally. One such cultural touchstone was Juba’s emerging fashion industry, led by designers such as Akuja de Garang. Her annual Festival of Fashion & Arts for Peace has drawn the attention of international press, which hailed her as one of South Sudan’s enterprising repats helping to define the new country’s cultural identity. Award-winning war photographer Ben Lowy shared some of his most stunning images — not of violence, but of fashion, and of one new country’s attempt to build beauty amid violence. Read the story here.

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