Photo Credit: Photo by @kelseydashmarie
Meet Paris McKenzie, A 16-Year-Old Entrepreneur And Owner Of Paris Beauty Supplyz In Brooklyn
While most teenagers are spending their summer vacations and time off from school watching TV, relaxing, and hanging out with friends, Paris McKenzie has managed to open her own beauty supply store in Brooklyn–all while in the middle of a pandemic.
This 16-year-old entrepreneur is no stranger to hustle and hard work after seeing her mom, Senica Thompson, obtain and run two businesses after migrating to the U.S. from Jamaica.
McKenzie opened Paris’ Beauty Supplyz in East Flatbush, Brooklyn – the neighborhood she was born and raised in. She appears to be a typical teenager with style and a cool-girl vibe, but when she speaks in the affirmative about running a business while pursuing her passion in medicine, it’s apparent that she’s well on her way to building an empire of her own.
We had the opportunity to chat with Paris about her background, the process for opening her beauty supply store, her plans for the future, and what she wants young entrepreneurs to know as they embark on a journey of their own. Here’s what she had to say:
Travel Noire: Where are you from originally?
Paris: My family is from Spanish Town, Jamaica. I was born in this area [of the store], so I grew up on Church Avenue [Brooklyn] my entire life.
Travel Noire: When did you know that you wanted to have your own business and was it a beauty supply store?
I never thought of opening a beauty supply store. It wasn’t something I dreamt of or wanted to aspire to achieve. It was more of an opportunity that came to me and I had to take it because this is something that would inspire a lot of young girls and inspire anyone, really, to go after what they want to do in life.
Travel Noire: Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, what was your dream?
Paris: Prior to this and still now, my dream is to be an orthopedic pediatric surgeon. I have a passion for medicine and I go to a high school for medicine. The classes I take at college are also medically based. I’ve always dreamt of being a doctor in some form.
I grew up in cosmetology, so it was easy for me to take this route [beauty supply store owner] for right now. My mom has been a hairstylist for longer than I’ve been alive. She’s owned her own hair salon for 16 years now.
Travel Noire: How did the opportunity come about for you to own your own beauty supply store?
Paris: The previous owners were Asian and they said they were selling. They told my mom and then my mom came straight to me, asking if I wanted to invest. I immediately said yes because I knew that this would be an amazing opportunity.
Travel Noire: How long was the process of opening the beauty supply store?
Paris: It didn’t take that long! It was pretty easy because it was being transferred from one owner to the other. We didn’t have to purchase the building, so it was just us renting out the area.
Travel Noire: What are some challenges you experienced that you didn’t foresee?
Paris: I foresaw everything that was going to come racially and because of my age. A lot of stylists in the area wanted this space, so it’s kind of hard now for them to see a 16-year-old getting the space. I did know that a lot of people would be rude to me based on my age and race.
Travel Noire: Did you feel anxious in the beginning to be the face of the store?
Paris: Well, because of my business knowledge, it wasn’t really hard for me to go into it or to be confident in owning the business. However, the amount of support and recognition that I got on social media was unexpected.
I realized the store was amazing, but I wasn’t expecting as much love as I have received on Twitter. When my tweet reached 2,000 likes, I thought I was viral. I only had 15 followers at the time and now we’re at about 140,000 [followers].
I still haven’t been able to wrap my mind around what’s going on.
Travel Noire: You’re in school now, how are you balancing being an entrepreneur and your studies?
Paris: Yes, I started college last month and my high school classes have started. I try to do my schoolwork before work or on my day off. Academics comes first to me and my family so I try my hardest to focus on that before I even begin to sort out stock for the store.
Right now, my Fridays and Saturdays are spent in the store. I don’t really have a social life anymore. If I’m not in the store, I am probably next door in my mom’s salon doing a client’s nails.
Travel Noire: What do you like to do for self-care?
Paris: I don’t work on Sundays, so that day I keep for myself. TV shows are very, very big for me. Before I started working extensively, I would watch TV shows every day or finish a series in like two days – that’s something that’s a stress reliever to me.
On Sundays, I would start a new show to calm myself down and unwind. I also like going out to eat with my friends because I have some of the best friends in the world. My friends are very supportive and completely understand my work ethic and schedule.
Travel Noire: What TV series are you watching right now?
Paris: I love watching Scandal! I watch it all the time on repeat – I’ve finished the show about 5 times already. I am currently binge-watching Girlfriends again.
Travel Noire: During your journey as an entrepreneur, how have you grown and/or matured?
Paris: People know my age but I am also very mature. You can’t be a regular 16-year-old while running a business. You have to be able to put the fun things and playtime aside to focus on being successful and inspiring others.
I’ve grown more in money management. Although I was very independent, I was still spoiled. I use to splurge my money after working very hard for it. However, now I am learning to still work very hard for my money but not splurge it. I am learning to keep putting my money back into the business so I can grow even more.
Travel Noire: Do you think seeing your mom running her own business shaped you into wanting to be an entrepreneur as well?
Paris: Yes, definitely! Without her or watching her handle her businesses, I wouldn’t be able to do this today because I wouldn’t have as much knowledge as I do. I wouldn’t know how to market the products in the store or even tell customers how to use the products.
Growing up in my mom’s hair salon gave me the knowledge of how to use certain products and who to recommend specific products to. Without my mom, I wouldn’t have been able to do all of this.
Travel Noire: What advice do you have to young adults or anyone looking to open their own business but may not know where or how to start?
Paris: Some advice I would really like to give to everyone is to not feel discouraged. These are industries where Black people aren’t as dominant even though we are the main consumers. We don’t own a lot of these businesses. It’s something that you can easily be discouraged by, but you should just stick your head in the game and follow through regardless of what other people say. Don’t let other people’s stories affect your journey or business venture.
Travel Noire: What resources have you used to help you learn more about entrepreneurship and the products that you sell?
Paris: For natural hair products, I watched a lot of YouTube videos. I transitioned from relaxed hair to natural hair and while on that journey, YouTube content helped me a lot. Those videos helped me market my products and become more knowledgeable about ingredients and what works for various hair types.
Entrepreneurship wasn’t something I really researched. I studied my mom. She is one of the greatest inspirations for anyone wanting to be an entrepreneur. She’s an immigrant who came to the U.S. and lived in a room in a house when she first came to America. We now own our own house and three businesses on one block.
Travel Noire: Where do you see your store in the near future?
Paris: Hopefully in the next year or two I should be able to open up another beauty supply store. I want to make sure this business is self-sufficient first before I even move on to another one. Being smart with your business means making sure one thing is running itself before you pivot to something else. When I open my other store, I would want to venture out to Queens or New Jersey or another place that is close and where a lot of Black people are.
Travel Noire: What have you learned about building generational wealth that you would share with your age group and those younger than you?
Do not let anyone put you down. If someone says you’re not able to do something, do not listen to them. People have told me that and look how far I’ve come. I would say to stay focused and not let anyone discourage you!