[EDITOR'S NOTE — Each week, this feature section, “Movers and Makers,” will feature the stories of the movers, launchers, entrepreneurs and makers who contribute to the vitality of the Mahoning Valley. This section is supported by our first community partner, Farmers National Bank. If you are interested in being our next community partner, contact Mark Eckert at email@example.com.]
YOUNGSTOWN — Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty is dedicated to uplifting women through plant-based hair and skin products — and through advocacy.
The company is named after owner Carmella Williams and her grandmother Mary, nicknamed Marie.
“I always say the hair is a metaphor for life. You understand it, you understand yourself. You understand yourself, you better know how to love yourself,” Williams said.
Williams started her hair care journey by experimenting with ingredients found in her kitchen to make hair products for textured, curly and dry hair. She officially started Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty a little more than six years ago.
Before turning her homemade hair creations into a business model, Williams worked at Youngstown State University for 12 years as the assistant director of associate degree and tech prep programs.
Now, Williams is the director of diversity and inclusion at the Youngstown Business Incubator.
Before starting her career at YBI, Williams was the first WE Launch grant recipient through YBI’s Women in Entrepreneurship program in 2016.
“It’s just catapulted from there,” she said.
At first, the beauty line specifically targeted African American women. Now the products meet the hair needs of women of all backgrounds.
“A lot of [textured and curly hair] companies don't come from the Midwest. So we were able to really meet a demand here in the Mahoning Valley,” she said.
Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty products are free from allergens commonly found in commercial hair products like tree nuts and avocado protein. Instead, Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty ingredients include flaxseed, hibiscus tea and locally sourced honey.
Williams said many of her customers over age 50 are turning to Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty products for health reasons and turning away from commercial products that are high in chemicals.
“We have a very high concentration of more natural and synthetic as compared to your actual commercial [hair products],” she said.
Williams has always been committed to a “greater purpose” of building women’s esteem. Beyond meeting their physical needs with her products, Williams also works to confront the cultural issues of her customers. African American women can be targets of discrimination for their natural hair.
She’s an advocate of changing the societal view of natural, textured and curly hair by helping women understand that all aspects of their natural selves are “perfect and beautiful.”
Through conferences, Williams has taught women how to deal with discriminatory situations.
“Historically, African American women have always had to assimilate to, you know, the European norm to wear straight hair and things like that. So now we're seeing a huge increase in more women coming away from that,” she said.
Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty also differentiates itself from other products by giving customers the ability to ask questions through an online community and events.
“Helping women to understand that being self-aware of loving herself can actually help her to be a better person in her community, family, business and things like that,” Williams said.
Carmella Marie Hair and Beauty is soon moving its manufacturing space out of Williams' home.
Products can be purchased at One-In-All Beauty Supply, 3420 Market St., Youngstown.