4 insightful business lessons in beauty from Design Essentials founder, Cornell McBride Sr.

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Design Essentials exec team flank Essence.com hair and beauty editor (c) Deena Campbell: (l to r) Design Essentials® founder and CEO Cornell McBride Sr., Design Essentials® Director of Interactive Media Shalonda McBride Armstrong, Design Essentials® President Cornell McBride Jr., and Design Essentials® Director of Operations Andre McBride (Photo courtesy of Design Essentials)

During a pre-Bronner Bros. Mid-Summer International Beauty Show brunch, this writer had the opportunity to meet McBride Research Laboratories’ founder, Cornell McBride Sr., the maker of Design Essentials. The patriarch of the leading multicultural hair care dynasty, McBride offered essential insight on his career in the beauty industry that spans more than 30 years and the when he launched with Design Essentials,® it was positioned as a salon exclusive brand focused on the salon professional, to highlighting the company’s present-day popularity and expansion into the natural hair explosion

Invited media guests were afforded an opportunity to gain intimate access to the business acumen and innovation explained by both father and son, Cornell McBride Jr., president, during the “A Beautiful Legacy: Celebrating 25 Years of Design Essentials® Media Brunch.”


“In today’s landscape, there are so few family-owned beauty brands that have not only managed to hold on, but to continue to innovate and expand,” remarked Taydra Mitchell-Jackson, director of marketing for Design Essentials®. “Our competitive advantage began with the vision and leadership of Mr. McBride Sr. and continues under the vision of Cornell McBride Jr.

The intimate brunch was hosted by Deena Campbell, hair and beauty editor for Essence.com.


Here’s what visionary and founder Cornell McBride Sr. had to say.

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Design Essentials® founder and CEO Cornell McBride Sr. and Deena Campbell, hair and beauty editor for Essence.com. (Photo courtesy of Design Essentials)

On cultural shifts …

“I can speak for the ’60s and ’70s … I graduated from college in 1973 and we developed Sta Sof Fro. It was the natural hair movement centered around Afros, which [illustrated] a sense of pride we had. ‘I’m Black and proud. Look at my Afro.’ That was my entry into this business. I am glad to have left my white jacket behind in the drug store and went into the basement and started making products. Next thing you know, we had a huge company marketing all over.”

“Remember the curl? The curl market seemed to be doing pretty good until this movie came along named Coming to America. Sources tell me that in the Caribbean, curls are coming back.”

“Over my lifetime, I’ve noticed these different [hair]styles don’t go away. We have to go where the market takes us. We market around the world … the Caribbean, Europe. We see markets at different levels of development. I can tell you when I went to the U.K. and South Africa, the natural market is just now coming on. You see these changes as a company.”

On how the company is positioned …

“We define ourselves as being in the beauty business and we want to deliver the best quality products we can in this segment. We deal with hair based on texture, not color of skin. All races have different textures.”

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