You can’t mention the Black beauty industry without referencing Bronner Bros., as the two coexist in perfect harmony. This year the Bronner Bros. enterprise is celebrating 70 outstanding years of service in the beauty industry. Having organized a plethora of trendsetting beauty tradeshows and helped launch the successful careers of some of your favorite celebrity hairstylists, Bronner Bros. has proved why they are a solid staple in the business.
Rolling out had the pleasure of speaking with James Bronner, senior vice president of trade show operations, director of technology and part owner of the multimillion-dollar, family-owned corporation about the upcoming 70th Bronner Bros. International Beauty Show, how the empire has managed unmatched longevity, and about the intricate difference between being in the beauty business and being in the business of beauty.
What can attendees expect with the 70th anniversary of the show?
Attendees can expect more excitement, more celebrities, more events, and a higher level of stylists. This year, there will be a full comedy show featuring Kountry Wane and Steve Brown, a concert with K. Michelle and Young Dro, plus Sunday church services. Also, Sunday evening will house two battles: Battle of Beauty Schools and Barber Battle.
There will be a beauty museum showing the progress of the industry with tools on-site that new stylists have never seen. We’ll also be showing a video tracking the show throughout the years.
Rick Ross is going to debut his new project “RICH Hair Care” and bring along some of his celebrity friends, and Marcus Lemonis from “The Profit” will be there speaking and filming for the national TV show.
What are some major keys to managing a family franchise like the Bronner Bros.?
Strong family and personal values. Our faith has helped us a lot. The innovation we’ve had have come through spiritual insight and connections with God. We believe in God first, family second, and business third. My father built all of this and if he didn’t focus on building us, we would have destroyed the company in little to no time. Having values that you can’t put a monetary value on gives you longevity.
What are some tools and lessons that you can share that were handed down over the years since your father/uncle(s) started the business and the show?
Some of the things handed down that have helped with the success and longevity are, first of all, being aware of the trends and really keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s going on in the industry. The other tool was keeping the relationship vibrant with those who are at the top of the game. We have relationships with Beyoncé, Michelle Obama, Oprah, Halle Berry and Nicki Minaj’s stylist; they really are at the pinnacle of the industry. They give us ideas to keep things fresh because they are trendsetters for society.
And just staying innovated. We always have the best quality education, so it’s the place where you come to learn skills that will take you to another level. A key for my generation and the next generation is basically proper training. We’ve seen a lot of entrepreneurs’ struggle growing up and once they became successful they said, “I don’t want my children to struggle like I did.” But what they fail to understand is the struggle build muscle and develop you. If you want to build muscle you have to have weight resistance. So we don’t spoil our children. When you see me at the shows you’ll always see a person in the next generation shadowing me. You can’t just get training in school and read about it; you actually have to shadow somebody actually doing it that can mentor and teach you. We shadowed our father and he really had us working in every area of the business and show. We’ve kept that principle going into the third generation.
How much advance planning does it take to put on a show like this biannually?
We only take one month off between shows. We’re basically planning year-round.
How big is the team?
We have about 17 members, but then we have a lot of partners that assist us with AV, graphics and security. We also have a lot of companies that assist us with the auxiliary parts of the show. Because our teams are condensed, we set up systems to help things run smoother.
What is this year’s theme?
The theme is, celebrating 70 years of beauty. We want to focus on that anniversary year of the company and the longevity because you don’t have many businesses, especially African American businesses, that have lasted for 70 years. We’ve been owned by the same family for those 70 years. I’m second generation, the youngest of the second generation, and we’re training up the third generation. We’re trying to keep things in motion to have it going to 100 years and beyond.
When most think of Bronner Bros., they think of the dramatic hair component, but there’s the business of beauty component that some people may overlook. For example, we’re offering more than just tool and technique classes, but also finance classes.
We know a lot of stylists who were making six figures but yet, because they don’t have 401k in this industry, retired penniless. And that really bothered us. Therefore, every show we really try to do holistic training, not just the techniques, but things you wouldn’t get in beauty schools like personal finance, entrepreneurship, and health. You have to have good money management skills. It’s not about how much money you make, it’s about how much money you have left. You have to manage your expenses and your growth rate to really maintain financial stability. I personally put together a panel of some of the best I could find on entrepreneurship for this show. This panel is unique and will empower business and success.
You’ve elevated the Bronner Bros. brand over the years. Did forging relationships with the media assist with this?
Social media and the television helped because those were areas we really were not in before. We’ve launched in these new areas in a greater capacity and that exposure has been great. A lot of the celebrities we partner with put things on their pages. The celebrities we have coming to this show have about 16 million followers combined. Once they post they’ll be attending the show, it will go out to 16 million that we would not have reached outside of them.
Support Bronner Bros. 70th annual Mid-Winter Beauty Show, Feb.11 -13, 2017 in downtown Atlanta at the Georgia World Congress Center.