The world of beauty is a tough one to navigate for women of color. We’re bombarded with well-meaning recommendations for products and salon treatments that aren’t made with us in mind.
Finding cosmetics that work for us as individuals--much less products that are made for our broad demographic--is akin to searching for a single bronze needle in an ivory haystack. Thankfully, there is an outlet that's up to the strenuous task of finding and testing these rare gems and putting them all in one convenient place: DooBop, the brainchild of founders Jodie Patterson and Benjamin Bernet.
I was recently lucky enough to talk with Patterson about DooBop, her business philosophies, and her feelings as a woman of color on today’s beauty industry.
xoVain: A lot of women of color have very similar frustrations when trying to find beauty products or retailers that cater to our skin or hair. What made you decide to start a business like DooBop?
Jodie Patterson: My last full-time office job was in fashion; I was director of PR for Zac Posen. At the time, I was about to have my second child--I have five kids now. I just thought fashion wasn’t the best industry for me. I wanted to be the mother of many children, and I wanted to be involved in their lives.
So I started getting into my passion, which was beauty. I thought it was interesting that we’re such beauty consumers--particularly with haircare products: black women outspend eight to one sometimes on haircare.
We don’t lead the industry, and often times we are forgotten about in terms of our specific needs. I thought that I could change that with my own little boutique that I opened up in Houston [pre DooBop].... I also launched my own product line, Georgia, at the same time. The store had beauty products from all over the world, with the brown-skinned woman with textured hair in mind.
We were looking for the type of woman who’s very similar to myself, and I was looking at products from all over the world--taking her outside of the “ethnic aisle,” not making her stuck in that little space.
That did really well, and not just with brown women. That was the first understanding--that women in general, beyond ethnicity, like to shop by need. We want product that doesn’t just speak to us as ethnic people, but as women with hair needs and skin needs. And that’s really my starting point: what does that individual person need, beyond the ethnicity, beyond the ethnic perspective?
When I met my partner Benjamin, who was coming from L'Oréal, he was feeling and seeing the same things in the beauty industry and saw the gaps as well. His marketing and business expertise really had him investigating the ethnic market from a business approach. I was looking at it from a customer-driven perspective. Then we launched DooBop; it had been sort of a long time coming for us.
xoV: How do you select brands for DooBop? Had you been given recommendations from other women of color who have used them in the past?
JP: A bit of that! Whenever we travel, we ask around, and ask the women what they’re using. I ask my friends what’s in their cabinets. It’s kind of in my nature to beauty explore, but a lot of the brands that we work with are brands that I’d been using and loving for years.
We launched with about 25 brands, and now we’re up to around 65. That is an extension of that same philosophy: travel, conversations with women, and sometimes just looking at ingredients--what is it that women like for their hair, what is it that women need for their skin, and doing some research on brands that have similar ingredients.
xoV: As a closing question, what are your hopes for DooBop and the future brands you bring in?
JP: I hope that DooBop is the first, and one of many, brands that start to look at women on a deeper level. I think the customer is more important than the brand, and I think companies have to recognize that: she is the ultimate at this point.
So, how do I see us? I see us growing, I see us being massively successful, but I see us doing that by being the most relevant company. It’s not so important to grab product and grab sales, without thinking. For us, it’s more important to be very relevant, and that means listening to the customer, understanding the customer, and then choosing products, creating content that is relevant to her lifestyle and changing with her. This woman that we’re looking at is not staying still for very long, and so I see us growing and changing fairly quickly with her.... Conceptually, I just want us to be extremely relevant to a woman who’s extremely complex and complicated.
When you ask someone about her hair texture, then you find out all about her mom, and her sisters, and her cousins, and where she grew up, and how she grew up. I think that this conversation that we’re having around beauty is extremely deep, particularly for women of color, because identity means so much for us. For me it’s a feel-good conversation, because the customer is actually me, and my mom, and my sisters, and my best friends. It's very close to home.
Jodie Patterson photo by Kevin Sturman.