Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

People’s Beauty Supply brings hair care to students of color on campus

Products once inaccessible to students are being sold in the middle of campus
Dylan Nguyễn/ Daily Collegian (2023)

In the corner of student-led food cooperative People’s Market, between the coffee table and the student art section, there is a new display stocked with natural hair products catered for people of color.

The addition to the long-standing student business was created by Zih Nche, a sophomore computer science major, with the goal of making hair care more accessible for students of color.

Over the summer, Nche initial idea was to have a vending machine on campus that carried beauty supply products instead of snacks. Previously, students of color could only find these products in surrounding cities such as Springfield or Holyoke if they did not want to have to order online. Nche, with her entrepreneurial spirit, sought to fix this.

“I felt like that demand was there, because if I’m having these problems I know that other people are too,” she said.

However, complications with the University’s contracted vending machine company led to her having to take a different approach. Mary West Morf, an administrative coordinator at the Center for Student Businesses, brought People’s Market into the mix.

“I know that this has been a need for a long time, at all the Five Colleges actually, that students of color just don’t have access to hair care or products easily,” Morf said. “And so I thought that was a really cool idea, and I thought maybe she could collaborate with one of the existing student businesses.”

Nche and Morf worked on the project in the late summer and throughout the fall semester. On March 24, People’s Beauty Supply opened for business.

Nche sources the products from a local beauty supply store in her hometown of Malden, Mass. The stand currently carries styling products, hair bundles, beads and more. Nche also has a request form on her Instagram, @pbsumass, where students can let her know what new products they would like to see at the store.

Throughout the first month since its opening, the stand succeeded in both the problem it seeks to address and its business performance. The student response is very positive on social media.

“[There were] people in the comments saying that it’s been long overdue and everybody just contacting me saying that they were proud and thankful that it’s there,” Nche said.

“We had a big wave of sales when it first opened and it’s slowed down a bit since then,” Corinna Iannacchione, a freshman sociology major who works at People’s Market said. “It will cycle back when people run out of their products and have to get more.”

Morf also hopes that the creation of People’s Beauty Supply will spark more interest in the seven student businesses that are on campus, where some of them are still struggling to operate from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s good to bring new people into the student businesses, and I think that might also help with the diversity of their employees, of their customers, and just to get everybody working together. It’s pretty exciting,” she said.

Nche hopes for her business to continue long after she graduates. “I would hate for it to just end in 2025 when I leave. So I would like to maybe start looking, the start of my senior year, for a freshman or somebody to pass it down to and have them keep it going,” she said.

Kami Nguyen can be reached at [email protected] and followed on Twitter @kamihnguyen.

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