There's no question, the it thing right now with African American women is natural hair. It's also true many of us are just not ready, or even willing to transition from relaxed to natural. With that being said, it's safe to assume relaxed hair, weaves and extensions will always be big business; a business that should not be ignored by the black community.
Tyrone Barge is one of the newest African American's to step up to the plate to reclaim the business that has been predominately taken over by Koreans. After years of research, Barge and his company, AWNI Enterprises, LLC, successfully launched a new line of hair produced specifically for people of color.
Barge's journey began over 13 years ago. He saw a need and explored the opportunity by making trips to China to see about buying hair directly from the source. He managed to strike a deal to import 100 percent human hair from India and establish his own factory in China to produce the hair. It took eight long years of going back and forth, but it was worth it,” he says.
Barge’s sister Sheila, who accompanied him to China, worked with the Chinese to make sure the hair would blend with all textures of hair. The result was a superior brand of hair that looks natural, without the fake, synthetic look of the hair sold by Koreans. The AWNI Collection includes “Natural Mink,” “Remi Silk,” “Supreme Yaki” and “Yaki.” Unlike the hair sold by Koreans, each package of AWNI hair is consistent in quality and quantity. It can be washed, colored and styled like your own hair. AWNI stands for “A Whole New Image” and that’s exactly what Barge has created. However, he’s also about creating a whole new image of African American consumers supporting African American businesses.
The AWNI Collection is only sold retail in Black-owned beauty salons. Barge is also negotiating with historic Berean Institute to sell the hair retail through their cosmetology program. It will not be sold in beauty supply stores.
“It’s really about unification,” he said. “We are already successful. It’s about us making a conscious decision about how we spend our dollars and taking back control of this industry to reap the benefits. It’s really not a personal thing. I want to show salon owners and stylists how they can make money. I want to empower us economically and for us to understand the true power of our dollar…. I want to negate the myth that African Americans can’t work together.”