Before she was given a chance to create a haircare line, established actress Tracee Ellis Ross dreamed of creating one for nearly two decades.
“I wrote my first brand pitch in 2008 when Girlfriends finished,” Ross told Marie Claire. “It’s taken me that long because the gatekeepers and decision-makers of the beauty world did not understand the magnitude, importance, beauty, breath, and consumer dollars of the curl community. They wondered why anyone would want products from me. The pitch and hair products I wanted to create then are the same now. The difference is now I apparently have credibility. This is made from the heart of a woman who is honored to be a part of this community.”
Ross was confident that she positioned herself as an expert in haircare due to her personal struggles that date back to her childhood years. On a blog post, she penned her experience.
“I did not see my hair, my lips, my eyes, my tusch, the color of my skin in the images in magazines, on television or in the movies,” Ross wrote. “…Those ideals didn’t match what I saw in the mirror, so I tried to beat my curls into submission — putting body lotion in my hair, sleeping in rollers and spending entire Saturdays at the salon waiting for a blowout. I weakened my hair with chemical relaxers, texturizers and ponytails so tight they gave me a headache. I’m not going to lie — I even whipped out a clothes iron in an attempt to straighten it that way.”
It was not until she learned to understand and appreciate her hair that she moved toward self-educating and experimenting with a variety of products, which increased as she gained more traction in the industry.
Ross’ 2019 launch of Pattern Beauty is a testament to how much love she has poured into her natural tresses. The goal of the company is to ensure the textured hair community is seen through an array of products that now include washes, treatments, and styling tools, among others.
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Ross, who is majority owner of Pattern Beauty and CEO, believes she had already become her own expert. As a result, she wasn’t looking to partner with a longstanding competitor.
“I’m a majority owner of my company,” Ross said during Fortune’s Most Powerful Women – Next Gen conference. “[Other celebrities with brands] aren’t the founders of the company; often they join a company that exists. The mission [at Pattern Beauty] is born out of my experience. It’s born out of my own experiential knowledge.”
However, while navigating entrepreneurship, she faced certain hardships. Consequently, Ross was told she should have someone manage the company, but she wasn’t interested in that option.
“I didn’t want to partner with an expert or a ‘professional’ because I felt — like so many — I had become my own best expert in my bathroom because the beauty industry was not catering to us,” Ross expressed, according to Fortune.
Instead, using her own dollars, she worked alongside a chemist to engineer her products and formed retail partnerships and business partners with experts who guided her through the operational process. Pattern Beauty products soon reached shelves across stores.
Another plus was connecting with Footlocker CEO Mary Dillon, who was formerly the Ulta Beauty CEO, so Ross could learn how to leverage her exposure as a celebrity and intertwine it with Pattern Beauty’s purpose.
It is also not lost on Ross that her financial position and celebrity status made it more suitable for her to go solo without a partner. It is why she is also using her platform to advocate for greater access to opportunities for Black woman and other women of color, as AfroTech previously mentioned.
“I know that I have access to sit at a table with a CEO in a way that perhaps another founder doesn’t,” Ross said, according to Fortune. “And when I do that, I make sure that those conversations are not only centered around Pattern. They’re centered around creating and expanding the access for all of us.”