Events: Design Essentials 25th Anniversary Media Brunch Atlanta

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The McBride Family with Hair and Beauty Editor
L to R: Design Essentials® founder and CEO Cornell McBride Sr., 
Design Essentials® Director of Interactive Media Shalonda McBride Armstrong, Hair and Beauty Editor, Deena Campbell, Design Essentials® President Cornell McBride Jr., and Design Essentials® Director of Operations Andre McBride.  Photo Credit:

I had the pleasure of attending the Design Essentials 25th Anniversary Media Brunch! The celebration titled A Beautiful Legacy: Celebrating 25 Years of Design Essentials®, was held at Asante Restaurant in Atlanta! I had the opportunity to get the 25th Anniversary Look Book hot of the presses. It features images from celebrity photographer Allen Cooley. Plus I enjoyed the intimate conversation with Design Essentials Founder and CEO Cornell McBride Sr. and the leaders of the McBride Family of Design Essentials. Most notably McBride Sr. shared the following 10 tips to help new and seasoned entrepreneurs achieve brand longevity:

1. Accomplish Anything With A Strong Enough Goal
Watching my parents struggle made me promise to buy my mother a house at the age of 10. Even though my family viewed it as a child's harmless boasting, I never forgot. Every decision I made, from leaving Savannah to moving to New York to joining the Air Force to beginning M&M Products was dictated on getting enough money to buy that house. I didn't necessarily know the "how" of obtaining the goal but I knew that it was something I had to do. By the age of 38, I was finally able to fulfill this goal.
2. Step Outside Expectations
Growing up in Savannah under Jim Crow, I was expected to follow in my father's footsteps, leaving school early to begin working to support the family as my older siblings did. In the back of my mind, I always knew that wouldn't be my path, which led to me refusing to drop out of school. As a result, I became the first in my family to graduate from high school (even being the 5th eldest). I'm proud to say that my siblings under me all went on to graduate as well, changing our family legacy.

 Cornell McBride, Sr. shared the knowledge and wisdom he has acquired over the last 40 years in the beauty industry, the last 25 at Design Essentials®. Photo Credit:

3. Starting From Scratch Isn't The Worst
When tensions arose between myself and my co-founder at M&M Products, I wasn't as proactive as I could have been with communicating. As a result, we ended up selling the company to Johnson Products. Afterward, I had to start over from scratch, and for 3 years, I felt like I was wandering in the wilderness as I worked to build Design Essentials®. However, this time, I had an advantage-- it was the blueprint that I had established while working at M&M.  The only difference is that now I had the final say! I was able to bounce back and build Design Essentials® with the support of my family to multiple millions again, but it took being flexible and learning the lessons from my failures.
4. You Determine How Far You'll Fall
When we were getting so much demand for the prototypes of Sta Sof Fro, which we developed in 1973, I was a pharmacist at the time with a young family depending on me. The Afro was huge and people were demanding a way to look good, but risking the health of their hair. Time was of the essence and I knew we had to enter the market quickly. With an initial investment of $500 (which was a lot of money at the time), we were able to purchase the first 1,000 bottles. Based on that investment, people often asked how I was able to take the risk of an entrepreneurial venture.  Since I was a certified a pharmacist, I knew that I could always return to my profession if things didn't work out.  Therefore, I was equipped in taking the risk because I knew how far I was willing to fail.

5. Don't Worry About "Them"
In the black hair care industry, there are many vocal opponents to the proliferation of stores and brands that are not black-owned. I've always believed that we live in a free market and we can't exclude people from having the opportunity to make money as we wouldn't want to be excluded. The answer is to compete as best we can. I was able to differentiate Design Essentials® by building a salon distributorship model that formed relationships with the stylists that no one could compete with.

Deena Campbell of led the discussion on the Legacy of Design Essentials® with the McBride family. Photo Credit:

6. Leave The Egos Outside
In running a family business (all three of my children work for Design Essentials®), we've had to implement a "no-egos" policy. In meetings, I don't want them to defer to me as "Dad."  Also, I taught them that they're no better than anyone else because their last name is McBride. We're able to discuss differences without being indifferent.
7. Course & Correct As Needed
I've learned it's okay to say I was wrong, I didn't understand, and it's okay to change your mind in light of new information. You need to listen and evaluate and reject information based on facts. When we saw the recession and the shift of consumers from receiving salon services to wanting to do their own hair at home, our brand had to shift from being professional-only to being available in retail. It's one of the smartest decisions we've made, but it was based on being flexible as well as on market intelligence.
Design Essentials Founder and CEO Cornell McBride Sr. and the McBride Family Leaders of Design Essentials. Photo Credit:

8. Skip The Solo Act
Functioning with synergy as a team makes all of us better. Just like adding one battery to a row of batteries increases the power, having the right people with you strengthens your business. I couldn't go into every salon and sell Design Essentials®, so I opened up the opportunity to entrepreneurs who were looking for a way to make money. We've been able to build a network of entrepreneurial distributors, whereas many have been with us from the very beginning. They're like a fraternity that struggled in the beginning to eventually evolve into successful, self-made millionaires. I had to get out of my own way and partner with others who helped the business thrive.
9. Pass The Baton
At this point in the business, I can say I've run my leg of the race. I passed the presidency of Design Essentials® to my son Cornell Jr. and now I'm able to be an advisor. There's certain things he hasn't experienced in business that I've seen, and I want to empower the next generation to avoid my missteps. You have to know when to step aside.
10. Success Is Less About You As It Is The People You Impact
For me, success is being able to provide for my family; educate my children; build a house for my parents; and equip my children with the opportunity to come into this business and thrive. We have an army of distributors who have become millionaires with us-- some of them have been with Design Essentials® the entire 25 years. As I look into the future, I want to leave behind a good, strong company with competent leadership that is able to do greater things than I've been able to do. I don't think about the financial part, that's not what success is to me. It's the people you've been able to touch and how you've been able to help others achieve their goals. 

After 25 years in business, McBride Sr. has demonstrated what it takes to build a successful brand. These 10 tips spoke volumes to me, especially #3 & #10. Lord knows how many times I have had to start over both in my professional life and my personal life. Plus my goal, in everything that I do, is to imapct on others. People will forget what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. 

Special thanks to Brainchild & Associates for the invite. It was an great way to spend my afternoon. I walked away feeling motivated and inspired. Here is a photo recap of the event.

The brunch menu and swag bag.

Refreshing fresh squeezed purple berry lemonade.
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Buttermilk fried chicken and mac & cheese.
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 Yummy dessert warm bread pudding.
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Allen Cooley shared the inspiration behind the Design Essentials® 25th Anniversary Look Book.
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Models pose with fashion designer Ade Bakare.
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Bloggers and Media in attendance for the brunch.
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 Bloggers posing for an usie during the brunch.
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L to R: Me, Deena Campbell of and Torri Allen of Brainchild & Associates.  
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Whould you like to comment?

  1. Looks like it was a great event. You looked fab!

    1. Thank you Melanie. I appreciate the sweet compliment.