People of color know that when it comes to having good hair, it’s all about the product. But if you’re a college student in a small town, those essential products can be hard to find. On the University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus, Black students make up 4 percent of the population. And for the students who may be far away from home, silk bonnets aren’t always easy to come by. But two University of Michigan students responded to a lack of quality hair care products for Black and brown students on their campus with a unique idea.
Youniversity is a new vending machine in the University of Michigan student union that lets students purchase beauty products geared towards people of color. Youniversity works like any other vending machine, but instead of chips and soda, you can buy hair oil, durags, shea butter and more. The idea is the brainchild of childhood friends and U of M students Mia Wilson and Rico Ozuna-Harrison. The students say they developed the idea in 2020 when the entire country was dealing with social unrest around the brutal killings of African Americans, including George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor.
“I remember the beauty supplies were closed. The only things that were open were like essential stores. Even during that time, it was really hard to get certain products for my hair type,” Wilson told Fox2 Detroit. Wilson adds that finding quality affordable products is nearly impossible if you don’t have access to a car. But she wasn’t about to let any of that stop University of Michigan students from getting what they need to look their best.
With the help of a program called Optimize, Wilson and Ozuna-Harrison received a $10,000 grant and were connected with lawyers and other experts to help them get their idea off the ground. Wilson and Ozuna-Harrison hope to expand their idea to other area campuses, including Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University.