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New vending machine in the UC offers hair products for women of color

Antoinette Lewis spent her years at Central Michigan University traveling to get the hair care products she needed.

Knowing that other women of color had to travel just as far, some who don't have vehicles, just for their hair products, the 2020 alumna created a business plan.

As an entrepreneurship major and management minor, her goal was to make hair care products as accessible to students as she could. With that, Brown Crown Beauty was born.

“We believe each women of color should wear their crowns with confidence,” the Brown Crown Beauty’s mission statement reads.

Lewis entered Brown Crown Beauty into the 2019-2020 New Venture Competition and ended up winning the contest along with a $10,000 check. She used her winnings to start the company and get a Brown Crown Beauty vending machine in the Bovee University Center.

“You have to get used to failure, be prepared for it," Lewis said. "Failure is my biggest motivator.” 

She understood the difficulty and hardships she would have to face when making this happen, but she was ready to face them.

“I would watch motivational videos and understand this is my idea and if I don’t fight for it who will, and I will make my family proud,” Lewis said.

She felt the only reason she got her shot with the vending machine at the University Center was because of her win in the competition. 

Lewis approached the CMU Auxiliary Services to get the ball rolling with the vending machine and placement. 

"We thought it was a unique opportunity to partner with one of our students/alumni," said Kimberly Rademacher, manager of business operations in Auxiliary Services said.

After getting a vending machine in place, the logistics of guidelines with CMU and ordering products began to overwhelm Lewis.

As she chose what products to sell in the vending machine, she chose the more popular items.

Saginaw senior Honour Bosah said she was unaware of the vending machine at first, but she loves the idea. She recently ordered a product last week unaware that it was sold in the lower level of the university Center in the vending machine. 

“There are not a lot of hair stylist in town that use creams...the vending machine has the product I use, Auntie Jackie,” Bosah said.

Chicago senior Lexi Del Toro believes the vending machine is great representation of resource, affirmation and convenience. 

"It was a genuine action to give some sort of validation to the multicultural (hair) community and that's especially impactful when you're a student of color at a predominantly white Institution," Del Toro said.

Lewis said a percentage of the profits go to student funds, but her goal is to work something out to have that percentage of profits go back to help in some way women of color on campus.