It's been a year since Gabrielle Union and Larry Sims relaunched Flawless by Gabrielle Union. The rebirth and rebranding of the hair care brand, which first made its debut in 2017, is one that is anchored in Black pride and community building. Since Flawless was reintroduced last year, the natural hair brand has showcased over 40 Black women-owned businesses—some of them in identical industries serving identical demographics—by way of the Lift As We Climb initiative. While many entrepreneurs would shudder at the thought of showcasing one of their competitors, Larry says that Lift As We Climb is a physical manifestation of the very essence Gabrielle's personality.
"Gabrielle always says, 'It ain't fun if the homies can't have none,'" Sims jokingly tells EBONY of his friend and business partner. "Lift As We Climb is in alignment with who she is and who I am."
Over the past year, COVID-19 disproportionately rocked the financial foundation of many Black-owned businesses. For this reason, one would not necessarily expect brands to shine a light on competitors out of fear that this would cause them to lose out on business. Union, however, reasons that passing up an opportunity to put the next person on makes you a part of the problem.
"Iron sharpens iron. You can't be afraid of giving praise and light and support to one another. That goes back to white supremacy. It's about divide and conquer," says the Being Mary Jane actress. "We come from community. We come from collaboration. The notion of, 'I have to dim your light or extinguish your light for me to shine,' that is bullshit. Rising tides raise all ships. We want everyone to win. We all deserve a chance. If we have the opportunity to create more opportunity and don't, we are the problem."
As for what she's learned from relaunching Flawless amidst a global pandemic, the movie-star-turned-beauty-boss says that one of the most essential lessons is to prioritize people over profit.
"If you don't have the support of the community, then you don't have a business. It's important to never lose sight of the community and why you're doing what you do?" Union questions. "If our brand's foundation is all about providing affordable, accessible, effective solutions, then you can't prioritize profit. Profit and all of that equates to people. What we want to provide are solutions, and it's about staying focused. I think that during the pandemic, for a lot of people, they were focused on profit and it showed."
Looking towards the future, Flawless is gearing up to roll out six new items and two bonus products in their sophomore year. Plus, you can expect to see Flawless products on the shelves at some of your favorite retail stores.
"We have a lot going on with expansions," says Sim. "We will be in more stores."