PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Black women are the top customers at beauty supply shops across the world, but they aren’t usually the ones operating the businesses. One recently-opened beauty supply store in Portland’s Pearl District is helping fill the gap of Black-owned beauty supplies.
Stigler got her start in the beauty industry in the late ‘80s when she received her certificate for hairstyling. After graduating from the University of Kansas in the ’90s, though, she entered the banking industry instead of pursuing a hairstyling career.
It wasn’t until her mother fell ill that Stigler re-entered the beauty industry. When her mother began losing her hair due to cancer treatment, Stigler and her sisters showed their support by cutting their own. Then, the business owner began mixing a special concoction of different oils to foster the women’s new hair growth.
In just four weeks, she noticed a big difference.
“From there, my mom said, ‘Since you’ve closed your businesses down and now you’re not doing anything but sitting with me all the time — and you’ve always loved doing hair — why don’t you start doing hair?’” Stigler recalled.
Taking her mother’s advice, she soon traveled to Salem to get her hair design license reinstated. Because this was 25 years after she received the original certificate, it was more of a challenge than she initially expected.
“I was down there in Salem and this young lady could see how I was frustrated, so she came around the corner and indicated that there is a license that I could apply [for],” Stigler said.
That license was the one for natural hair care. Stigler quickly passed the examination and began working in Sola Salon Studios where Natural Hair and Extensions got its start as her own personal brand.
At Sola Salon Studios, she sold hair extensions and products to her loyal clientele — in addition to styling them.
“I did it out of convenience because the majority of my clients work in corporate America,” Stigler said. “As a result of them working in corporate America, a lot of them are new to Portland and they don’t know where all the hair stores are so it’s easier for me to have that at my location.”
She worked at Sola Salon Studios for six years before expanding the NHE brand by opening her own salon in April 2022 and adding a beauty supply store to the building in September.
Despite Stigler’s new role as the shop owner, Black-owned beauty supply stores are still few and far in between.
In 2020, The New York Times reported, “The portion of the beauty industry that caters to Black women generates about $4 billion in sales a year….. Yet fewer than 10 percent are owned by Black women, said Tiffany Gill, a history professor at Rutgers University. Instead, many of them
are owned by Korean immigrants.”
The NHE salon and beauty supply store is a business by Black women and for Black women, and Stigler’s efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by customers.
“They come into the place saying, ‘I didn’t know this was here. I’m glad that you’re here.’ I mean, just the excitement that I get from other people — that makes me excited. I would have to say it’s just been very encouraging and motivating,” she said.
Stigler hopes to open another location one day, but her Pearl District salon and beauty supply store is open for business right now at 634 Northwest 12th Avenue.