By Christmaelle Vernet
When passing through the Student Union, you may notice a new student business has opened within People’s Market. On March 24, 2023, a sophomore computer science major, Zih Nche, founded the first Black hair supply on campus. People Beauty Supply is a small business shelf with braiding hair, gel, crochet hooks, rubber bands, and other haircare needs. Nche shared that she began planning to open a Beauty supply by getting involved with the center for Student Businesses.
“I originally wanted a vending machine. I began discussing my ideas with Mary Morf, but she said to get a vending machine would be a long process. She could have been like no, it’s not possible, but she recommended People’s Market. Student Vendors can sell their own products, like tote bags and crafts that they knit through People’s Market,” said Nche.
PBS is open during regular People’s Market hours from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every weekday. Nche, a Malden native, searched locally for a supplier earlier in the process of beginning her business. “There is a store called Parisian beauty supply store on Eastern Ave. It’s a five-minute walk away from me. I went to see the owner and ask if there was a way for her to be my supplier, got her connected to Mary, and now she has an agreement with the school,” said Nche.
Nche cited having good time management as an essential skill when balancing managing a business and being a full-time college student. “When we first opened, I actually had two exams due. The bulk of this was done from June to now. There was a lot of back and forth and actually setting up. Coming off spring break, I did study. I used a calendar dry-erase board, and that’s how I scheduled everything,”
She expressed the importance of accessibility to hair products for Black women on campus. “I feel like with this being a PWI (predominantly white institution), our presence being known is important. There used to be a beauty supply in Amherst, but not anymore, and I would have to go to Springfield to do my hair or get products. It’s so far, and some students don’t have access to a car. You can also order things on Amazon, but even that takes a minute,” said Nche.
As for the best part of running her own business on campus, Nche described being thanked by her peers as well as seeing her idea come to life. “I’ve had the flyer and logo in Canva since June,” said Nche. The impact the supply has is evident with the store’s Instagram page already amassing over 100 followers. “A Lot of people told me they needed this. Alumni commented that this was long needed, and a girl from UMass Dartmouth DMed me saying they faced the same problem and asked us to expand,” said Nche.
As for the future of People’s beauty supply, Nche hopes to add another shelf stocked with more color variations, weaves, and bundles by the Fall 2023 semester, wanting to make the business “as big as it can get.” She also plans to expand to other schools. Upon graduating, Nche hopes to pass the business down to a freshman.
For all students interested in starting a business of their own Nche advises to have a plan. “Do intensive research make sure it is something that you’re passionate about and don’t get discouraged. Keep bouncing ideas back and forth with somebody who has an equal interest. You need a cosign from an established business and have patience,” said Nche.
You can support Zih and her business on Instagram @PBSUMass and @26Zih, and People’s Market @Peoplesmarket73.