By Jess Washington, COO of Dallas Weekly
I knew when I met Autumn Yarbrough at a mutual friend’s birthday party, we had to meet again. I have grown to be fond of and akin to women who are heavy hitters in business and also serious about motherhood. Also being a “Yarbrough” stuck with me, because that is my step-father’s family name. But what intrigued me even more was Autumn’s family business legacy and why she wanted to start her own within the hair care industry. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love “legacy” stories, especially within Black communities, simply because that story is so rare. But unlike the Dallas Weekly legacy that will be in the hands of a future generation, Autumn Yarbrough has carved her own path with Nu Standard. Founded in 2020, Nu Standard is one of the most innovative hair wellness systems on the market. I had the pleasure of talking with the Autumn on how she balances her creativity, motherhood and growing this business from the ground up.
It’s in her blood…
If you know just a little about Autumn Yarbrough’s life story, it would seem obvious as to how she got the interest to be in the hair business. For she is the granddaughter of Comer Cottrell Jr., who is one of the most successful, charitable and ground-breaking Black businessmen of the 20th century, through his company Pro-Line Corp. Although founded in Los Angeles, Pro-line moved their headquarters to Dallas in 1980 and simultaneously managed the company’s biggest product success, The Curly Kit aka The Jheri Curl.
So one would think Nu Standard is a dynastic venture, especially considering so many family members were a part of the Pro-Line Corp business. Her great Uncle, James Cottrell was considered a partner to Comer. And her own parents, most notably her mother Renee Cottrell Brown who launched Just For Me. But Autumn didn’t dive into the hair industry as one would imagine. She graduated from the University of Southern California and was quite successful in her industry of finance and insurance.But after her own experience with hair loss due to her bust life, and knowing she descended from generations of hard-working women who also endured hair loss, this is where Nu Standard was born. This system is 100% from Autumn’s vision of changing the way we look at textured hair. So the seed may have been planted from her family legacy, but the path Autumn chose is on a totally different lane. Furthermore, it should be noted that Autumn wasn’t handed a kingdom. While she maintains relationships with many who advocated for her Grandfather and supported the success of ProLine Corp, Nu Standard is a startup that she alone created.
Why Nu Standard brings new standards…
I believe all great ideas are a culmination of experiences and conversations organized into an action plan. This is why I was so intrigued with Nu Standard before even trying it. For one, when I first met Autumn, I also had the opportunity to meet her chemist, Tracy Ashley, who has over 30 years of experience in the hair care industry. Let’s be honest, the hair care market is saturated with “healthy” hair care products. It’s endearing to see a company like Nu Standard put it all on the table and acknowledge that hair isn’t one dimensional. It’s not just about the end result. The mission is to help you take care of your hair “from the inside-out”. What’s also unique about Nu Standard is the intent for it to also be used by professional hair stylists. The Go Series and HYDRASILK Aftercare system are processes that take time and a professional analysis in order to work efficiently.
The Black Section…
Autumn firmly decided that when she brought Nu Standard to the market, that it wouldn’t just sit in the “Black Section” of the mainstream beauty supply stores. And that’s because Nu Standard isn’t a Black hair product, it’s for all women who have textured hair. We all know that people of African descent have a wide range of curl patterns. This is why I remember growing up seeing women of all ethnicities in my salon. Because it wasn’t about race, it’s about ensuring the right products and right person did the right job. The approach to marketing and distributing Nu Standard shares that philosophy.
Obviously from a business perspective, you don’t want to limit a product’s ability to reach wider markets based on an assumption that it’s only to be used in a particular demographic. And truth be told, the minute you represent yourself as a “Black” company, people want to put you in a box.
“I’m very strategic when the opportunities arise that my products aren’t placed in the black section. This is about fulfilling a need… A lot of women suffer from extreme dryness and hair loss and both of those issues have nothing to do with ethnicity or race. And Black women should be able to talk about these issues without feeling pigeon-hold”
The Nu Standard founder makes it clear that she definitely wants Black women to support and use her products. But her goal is for both consumers and retailers to understand that a Black-owned business can create solutions, and not just for Black people.
Autumn made headlines recently becoming the first Black woman to curate and distribute a bond system specifically designed for textured hair with Nu Standard’s new HYDRASILK Hydrating Bond system. This will be in CosmoProf stores nationwide January 2023. This is a major achievement for Nu Standard, for CosmoProf stores are the leading distributor of salon products to licensed professionals in the hair industry.
Checking all the boxes…
Autumn cleverly states that her products are for the “Busy Queen on the go”… I think it certainly takes one to know one. And as a wife and mother of two, to say Autumn Yarbrough’s life as “busy” would be an understatement. Like any other entrepreneur, Autumn is required to travel, have meetings throughout the day and focus on a myriad of tasks. Couple that with the maintenance of a happy marriage to her husband Derrick, nurturing of children, a social life and we’re talking a full day, every day. Autumn states that she has no secret power and it’s literally a day-by-day process.
Despite their differences in parenting, she credits her mother Renee the most when it comes to the work-life balance.
“You know, I saw my mother work so very hard. But she didn’t really get to spend the time… And, she’s the best mother I could’ve asked for”
Autumn is hands-on with her kids and asks them periodically if they need more of her. But following the family tradition, she definitely involves her kids in the Nu Standard business. Sometimes they help with the packaging and sometimes they help with the marketing. But it’s very important for her kids to understand what hard work looks like and that nothing is guaranteed to them.
“My kids have to work!… No action… No results”
Autumn vehemently states that she places no pressure on her kids to carry the legacy. She saw her mother work successfully within the hair care industry for a long time but knew that it wasn’t her passion, like it was for her father Comer. And Autumn is 100% prepared and content for that outcome.
If you ever have the opportunity to meet Autumn Yarbrough, it won’t take very long for you to see her devotion to her business. I think it’s safe to say that it’s a part of her identity. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. More and more women like Autumn prove that we really can do it all. You can find success in your business when you work hard, but that work must be applied to your personal life as well.
I’m so excited to see what the future holds for Autumn and Nu Standard. From Mama to another, I see you and support you. Keep shining Queen!
Mama2Mama is brought to you by the North Texas Tollway Association.