The Brown Beauty Co-Op Opens in Dupont Circle

by Aaron Royce

The new boutique provides beauty products for women of color.

Kimberly Smith (left) and Amaya Smith (right) flash smiles at the opening of the Brown Beauty Co-Op. Photo by Erin Martin.

The latest addition to Dupont Circle’s entrepreneurial scene has arrived. After a year of work, co-founders Kimberly Smith and Amaya Smith have launched their beauty boutique, The Brown Beauty Co-Op. At many retailers, products intended for women of color are restricted to smaller aisles, and frequently don’t target needs like natural hair maintenance or melanin’s negative facial effects. Kimberly and Amaya’s frustration with this allowed the women (best friends of no relation, though they share last names) to form the co-op.

“We know what makes the other person tick, how to pick up each other’s slack, and work as a whole together,” says Kimberly.

One of the Co-Op’s initiatives is to promote brands made by and for women of color, as well as provide a calming atmosphere. Its all-white space decorated with gold and pink accents, as well as organized products by brands like AJ Crimson, Qhemet Biologics, and Trepadora, accomplish these.

“We focus on brands that share our mission. They’re cohesive, inclusive, and focus on beauty concerns that women of color have,” says Kimberly, who anticipates launching more Co-Op locations in the future. “We want to make sure we can identify concerns, have products for specific issues, and help women feel affirmed about them. It’s a beauty-cooperative space.”

A display of AJ Crimson lipsticks at the Brown Beauty Co-Op. Photo by Erin Martin.

Amaya Smith shares similar sentiments. The Co-Op’s business model places value in inclusivity, love, friendship, and creating a space for those who feel marginalized. “We just want people—women, men, transgender folks, gender-fluid folks, anyone who loves beauty, really—to come in, feel welcome, and have a space here,” she says, revealing the boutique’s future plans for events and in-store tutorials by hair and makeup artists.

Many smaller beauty brands, like vegan haircare brand Trepadora, can’t be found in stores outside of the Co-Op. Upon receiving support through the Co-Op’s recruitment, these brands have reciprocated it towards the women as they opened the space. “Almost all of our brands wanted to know how they could help or promote the Co-Op on social media,” says Amaya, citing Trepadora’s exposure to the D.C. market as one example of product expansion. “The process has been great, and the support has been overwhelming and amazing,” she says.

DOMO sets the mood at the Co-Op’s opening earlier this month. Photo by Erin Martin.

Local DJ DOMO, who increased the opening’s positivity with upbeat R&B, hip-hop and dance remixes, feels the Co-Op is fulfilling a much-needed niche. “This entire initiative just makes sense,” says DOMO. “Coming together as women is one of the best things we can do to cross-network, get to know each other and lift other women up.”

Photo by Erin Martin.

Guests enjoyed D.C. Sweet Potato Cake cupcakes and sparkling wine by rosé brand BABE at the opening. Bougie Balloons provided an Instagram-worthy display that was frequented throughout the night. “We hope this is a place and home for women of color, and everyone, to be affirmed,” stated Amaya Smith when addressing guests. These remarks enhanced the evening’s message of positivity and acceptance, values the Brown Beauty Co-Op will surely represent as it grows.

The Brown Beauty Co-Op can be found at 1365 Connecticut Ave, NW.

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