BlackMade: Nouritress Founder & CEO DeShawn Bullard paves the way for hair loss recovery

Founder of Nouritress Hair Salon & Clinics DeShawn Bullard has paved the way for millions of Black women to have proper care for their hair loss.

Hair loss isn’t a uncommon phenomenon amongst adults. But millions of Black women who share a deep and cultural connection with their hair can now have a chance at hair loss recovery thanks to the treatment and therapy received at Nouritress Hair Salon & Clinic. This episode of BlackMade follows the founder DeShawn Bullard from her beginnings to her prosperous career as the “Hair Messiah”.

DeShawn Bullard [00:00:00] When I went to school, I was just really embarrassed that my mother took me to the barber shop to cut my hair off like a boy. I was teased and the kids were say things like “Baldy-Locks”, “Baldy-Locks where you’re three bears?” By the time I got to eighth grade, we used to have these eighth grade journals when we graduated. Someone wrote “God made wind and God made air, but when he made the shine, he forgot the hair.” You know, although that was life changing to me, I think it was all a preparation for who I am today.

WSFA Newscaster: Well, up next, coach DeShawn Bullard is giving us some tips for hair loss prevention. We’ve actually got hair wellness expert DeShawn Bullard.

WSFA Newscaster [00:00:38] International hair loss expert DeShawn Bullard joins us now.

WBRC Newscaster [00:00:41] DeShawn Bullard.

WTVM Newscaster [00:00:42] DeShawn Bullard.

Bullard [V.O.D] [00:00:43] “I am the president and CEO of Nouritress Hair Products”. Nouritress Hair products is a hair restoration line to see hair thinning the hair loss, you can find it at Walmart and Sally’s, but we have a full hair clinic in the city of Atlanta.

Bullard [00:00:54] They call me the “Hair Messiah”. The definition of Messiah is a person who is the leader or savior of a group or cause. When I came into the beauty industry from corporate America, I really saw a missing link. I saw that there were a lot of people in the beauty industry who really didn’t have the education or the knowledge on how to proceed or advance past the chair. So it was important for me to take the information that I learned in college, the information that I learned in corporate America, and to use that information to advance our community.

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, almost 30 million women are experiencing hair thinning hair loss in the United States. But what’s more alarming is a study that shows that almost half of African-American women, about 40.9%, are suffering with alopecia. And we got to provide education

After I graduated from Tuskegee University in 1989, my parents did not look at cosmetology as a valid career. So I did what everybody else did. Majored in computer science, got a job in corporate America working as a computer programmer. You know, moved to Atlanta. But my heart and passion still kept calling me to the beauty industry. I was working with clients in the salon who were experiencing hair thinning, hair loss, and there really wasn’t a product line that was really addressing it from a non gimmick, I should say, non gimmick standpoint. There are products out there that say, you know, it’ll help regrow your hair, help this and that.

But some of the issues my clients were having, I tried those products and it didn’t work. I decided to sit down with a dermatologist who I had partnered with to really find out what is it really going to take to help these women overcome issues with hair thinning, shedding, breakage and hair loss? And once I got that answer, I went full throttle.

I first started out with just one product, which was a nutritional hair supplement that would help women regrow their hair from the inside out. There was no plan to expand the line further, but my mentor said, “How are you going to help women regrow they hair from the inside out and then allow them to use another product that may destroy everything that you’re doing from the inside out?” I was like, “Well, okay.”

So we decided to add other items in the line. Fast forward you talking about I started this in 1998 inside of my salon. We started selling the products online. We had people buying products out the country. In the country. I was the first Black female to launch my product in JCPenney. We did so well in JCPenney that we expanded the brand into Walgreens in 2013. 2017, Walmart, we had the opportunity to expand into Sally Beauty, Target and grocery store chains throughout the country.

The name Nouritress came from “Nourish your tresses.” We wanted our name to speak to the customer, to tell them exactly what they really needed to do, that you needed to nourish your tresses. When a woman is losing her hair, there are some steps we have to take. There’s a consultation process that has to happen. And this consultation process doesn’t just happen with someone looking at a client’s hair with their natural eye. We have to take them into a private room because hair loss is a private issue. We take them into a private room and we use what we call a derma scope.

We use a derma scope to look at the scalp, look at the follicles to actually see what is going on. By using this particular tool, it gives us information on what the next steps are to proceed with a hair treatment plan. It gives us information whether we need to proceed with some topical treatments or if the client actually needs to go see a dermatologist or her general practitioner.

We live in a time now where a lot of people don’t have insurance, so sometimes we get people to come into the salon, who have not been to the doctor in years and through our services that we provide and Nouritress Salon and Hair Clinic, we have changed some lives. We have saved some lives.

Women have found out that through our consultation and through our recommendation that they had lupus; you know, that they had some type of disease that they didn’t know. They thought the hair was just falling out. And through our series of consultation and using our derma scope and sending them to the doctor and recommending that they go to the doctor, that they had some type of life changing illness that actually saved their lives.

So what we do at Nouritress is different than any place else because we really, really take on the pain of the customer. In the Black community, unfortunately, as soon as our hair starts falling out, what we do is we put a weave on it. You know, we slap a we are going to and we want to ignore it. If 30 million women are experiencing alopecia and then there is no conversation and women are hiding, then we can’t get healing.

But when celebrities, we know that when celebrities come out for a cause, it opens up the conversation for the world to have. So when Jada Pinkett first talked about her hair loss in 2018, Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley, we had, you know, Toya Wright, with all of these celebrities coming out, talking about hair loss and alopecia.I’m not going to say that it is that women are still still not going to be ashamed. But I will say that the conversation is starting when we look at the civil rights movement and we talk about in the sixties with Dr. Martin Luther King, they would come to salons because they had no other place to go.

So for the salon business kind of acted as a, you know, like a hiding place. We were there getting salon services done, but also we were passing information along. I think what really happened and the reason why the door opened for other ethnicities to come into our community to kind of take information out is that the salon provided the hairstylist wasn’t really given the information. You know, we really thought we had it on lock.

You know, you would come into the salon, get your hair done. The customer wanted to find out, “hey, what did you just use in my hair?” You know, the stylists would turn a bottle around because they didn’t want the customer to see what they were using. We were missing that link. And that’s economy. You know, that’s how a country is run.

And if the person who was providing the service can’t tell you what to do, then there’s an open door for someone else to come in. And that’s exactly what happened. We thought we had the lockdown of the beauty industry, but we missed a very important piece. We had the lockdown on the service side, but we missed the economic value and selling retail and having products available for our customers that would increase our bottom line.

You know, this warehouse represents where the brains of the operation is housed. It houses are administrative functions as well as warehouse operations such as shipping, receiving, packaging, bottling. This office is everything administrative, Black salons, because we were not educated about how to retail, because retail is just not– you don’t just sell a product. You have to understand pricing, cost analysis. You have to understand what is wholesale. You have to understand what is markup, what is markdown. And if you don’t have the education and know how to do that and don’t have the knowledge, you’re going to miss a lot.

When I first came into the industry, women were coming into the salon every week getting their hair done, and it was really important for women to look good. It was really important for women to keep their hair, you know, looking nice today with lace front braids, wearing braids in our hair for 90 days, wearing wigs on our head for a whole year, that now we see women actually not coming into the salon at all.

And those who do come into the salon, it is maybe once a quarter or sometimes twice a year. YouTube and bloggers have taken the place of skilled professionals who had to go to school to learn how to take care of hair. And thus we find millions of women who are now walking around with hair loss. Hair loss on the edges, hair loss on the crown because we have taken this DIY approach.

At some point we have to come back to our salons because what we’re finding now is that the void of our professional salons is causing havoc or is wreaking havoc on our customers hair because we can’t do everything at home ourselves. I think what we have to do is we have to make sure that as a salon community that we provide education or how these women feel. So, see, the difference is, if I don’t understand how you feel, then I don’t know how to service you. Right.

And so hair loss providing hair loss services to customers is totally different from providing services such as, you know, a twist out shampoo in style. So press chemical color is totally different. And I’ve just had a pulse on it for the past 25 years. I would have never thought coming from Chicago through Alabama, Tuskegee University as a computer programmer, now changing my whole career to coming into the beauty industry to help women who have issues with their hair, duh. You know, it was me. I was that person.

So now I have this passion for any woman I talk to, any woman who steps through my door. I don’t have sympathy. I have empathy. I have empathy because as a young girl in third grade, I understood what that felt like, which translates into my business today. So they call me the Hair Messiah because I did just that. I came here to save a world of dying stylists, you know? No, no. I came in to save a world of stylists who really have been working hard in the industry and been changing the lives of women for centuries.

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