What started in the back of a station wagon 65 years ago with little money and no access to capital has now blossomed into a booming business that attracts more than 70,000 trade show attendees and more than $20 million in annual product sales.
It’s Bronner Brothers, a beauty bonanza, founded by Nathaniel Bronner Sr, who believed that the industry was recession proof because women would take care of their hair no matter what the economic conditions.
On a whim during his paper route in the 1940s, Bronner Sr. brought along some of his sister’s beauty products and discovered that customers paid him a whole lot more to look good. He and his brother founded the company, which today produces the largest trade show in Georgia and manufactures hair care products for African Americans that can be found on retail shelves across the country.
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It’s now run by his four sons, each of whom handles various aspects of the business which includes their famous trade show attended by beauticians and barbers who compete in a hair battle royale for a $25,000 grand prize for the wildest hair style. The hair show also features a fantasy competition where stylists create out of this world hairdos.
While the show creates buzz the business is built on their popular retail brands including Pump It Up and Super Grow, and products like carrot oil and mayonnaise and honey crème hair dressing.
But with all the sizzle and style, this versatile family business started under the most modest of circumstances.
“It's not easy starting a business today, but it was much tougher for my father,” says Nathaniel Bronner Jr., Executive Vice President of the company. “They were people of color. They didn’t have much money. Prejudice was very high at that particular time. You couldn’t really borrow money from banks. “
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Even so, Nathaniel Jr., “When I talked with my father, he had a load of challenges but never had any problems. He only had challenges.”
And even though the company continues to grow, innovation remains both a priority and a challenge—and the Bronner Brothers tackle it by combining their history and heritage, while tapping today’s youth.
“Statistically, 80% of all new products that hit the grocery store will be gone in five years. This is by the big companies,” Nathaniel Jr. “With our new product launches, we brought in very, very young people, who were in tune with the pulse of things, with what people wanted.”
Just like their dad, these brothers continue to bet on women’s commitment to good grooming.
“Regardless of what the economy does, women are going to take care of their hair. They just are,” says Nathaniel Jr.. “They're not going to have a bad day just because the economy is down.”