Brown Crowns Beauty offers more inclusivity for Black men and women

Story by Olivia Martin

Photo courtesy of Antionette Lewis

Central Michigan University alumna, Antoinette Lewis, is the founder and creator of Brown Crowns Beauty, a vending machine with various Black hair-care products, located in the Bovee University Center.

Providing Black hair-care products and braiding hair for Black men and women on campus meant a lot to Lewis because growing up, she and her family could not afford hair for braids or for weaves. Therefore, she had to embrace her curls and hair texture, and she had to figure out what products worked, and which ones did not.

“I think experimenting with different hair products can be a tedious process,” Lewis said. “It is all about trial and error, especially with wearing your natural hair. It is about finding what products work best for you. This could be dependent on your porosity levels, your curl pattern, etc. Being natural was ultimately my choice. I wanted to embrace my natural texture.”

Lewis also knew the struggle of purchasing from multiple different beauty supply stores. She knew how frustrating it was going from her regular beauty supply store in her hometown of Lansing, to trying out different beauty supply stores in Mount Pleasant that do not provide enough Black hair care products.

“I had to travel hours outside of Mount Pleasant to get the products I needed,” Lewis said. “Let’s say someone ran out of bundles and needed an extra one really quick. I couldn’t always run to the store considering how limited their ethnic hair product selection is. I found myself having to buy a bulk of products over break to bring back with me.”

Lewis participated in CMU’s New Venture Competition in Spring of 2018. The objective of the competition is to pitch any business idea to business ventures, include marketing research and projection of prices. Lewis said she gave three different pitches, one of those pitches being Brown Crowns Beauty.

Lewis won the competition, and business ventures gave Brown Crowns Beauty a thumbs up. After that, the hard work started, but the setbacks began.

“Running out of startup cash and needing more funding, the technical issues with the machines, finding the right suppliers, and finding the right specific spot on campus, [were all setbacks]” Lewis said.

As Lewis’s dream became a reality, she received a lot of support from CMU, especially from the Black-focused Registered Student Organizations (RSOs) on campus, and from her family members. Even Lewis’s mother pitched the idea of providing a vending machine with hair bundles, based on another vending machine she had seen down south.

“Many [Black organizations] were very receptive when I reached out to multiple orgs to conduct surveys during their meetings,” Lewis said. “However, I think due to COVID this year, I wasn’t able to make connections that I wanted with many of the orgs. However, moving forward that is my mission. I want to build positive relationships with orgs.”

“Yes, this is a business but, it’s also a resource that I want the Black community at CMU to benefit from,” said Lewis.

Finally, a Brown Crowns Beauty vending machine was placed in the Bovee University Center on July 30, but when campus shut down due to COVID-19, Lewis feared she wouldn’t be able to keep the vending machine, and that no one would know about it.

“Not being able to be on campus to connect with students, host events and collaborations with orgs was a huge fear also making sales considering many students stayed home this semester,” said Lewis.

Although we are still dealing with COVID-19 and restrictions, Lewis is determined to get more people to know about Brown Crowns Beauty’s vending machine, add more products to the machine and expand the idea to other college campuses in Michigan.

Lewis believes that if other Black men and women knew how to create their own business, it could help make the world a better place for the Black community.

“Be patient,” Lewis said. “That was the number one thing that I struggled with, and I am a huge overthinker. Do not put too many expectations in a month, when it’s up, it’s up. Be open to mistakes, be open to failure and be open to learn from your mistakes.”

You can follow Brown Crown Beauty on Instagram @bcbcmu and @browncrownsbeauty_ and you can view BCB’s website at

You can also check out and purchase products from Antionette’s vending machine in the Bovee University Center across from Burrito Bowl.