News hit the internet on Monday October 20th via WWD. Carol’s Daughter has been acquired by French cosmetics mega-brand L’Oreal. The company that also owns Lancome, YSL, Giorgio Armani, Kiehls, Shu Uemura, Clarisonic, Garnier, Maybelline, Essie, Urban Decay, Softsheen Carson and Mizani, now also owns the brand that Lisa Price began mixing up in her kitchen in 1993. Major, right? How crazy is that?

Lisa Price Carols Daughter Loreal

The initial reaction online seemed to be shock, and then the comments exploded. My personal reaction was basically “WOW, this is so major for Lisa Price! So major for natural hair brands and entrepreneurs! WOW!” Amongst Carol’s Daughter consumers the best description for the online response, is divided. There’s a lot of concern, a lot of assumption and a lot of judgment in the comments. Even on my own Facebook page, I saw some surprisingly passionate responses that lamented the decision and offered earnest criticism. There was genuine dismay in some corners of the internet. I saw no shortage of online schadenfreude amongst those who assumed this meant the end of the Carol’s Daughter brand we’ve come to know and embrace over the past 21 years.

One of the words that was often repeated was “sellout.” That left me with mixed feelings. On one hand, I get it. I totally understand the feelings that come from something that feels like it belongs to us and is part of us, an extension of our identity, being sold off to the highest bidder, no longer a black-owned entity. On the other hand, growth is the goal of business. Given that Carol’s Daughter has faced financial struggles in the public eye, would this sale not simply make sense to secure the long term future of the brand? Wouldn’t the investment of a conglomerate with the size and capability of L’Oreal only serve to ultimately improve the business that is Carol’s Daughter? Do we want our brands to stay small forever, and at what personal cost? What kind of business growth would manage to simultaneously appease the fan base AND Carol’s Daughter’s bottom line?

I touched base with Denitria N. Lewis, Senior Marketing Strategist, Founder of CUSPData and arbiter of #CulturalIQ, who’s been outspoken on matters like these. She broke it down from a business angle: “The Carol’s Daughter acquisition allows her brand access to premiere level research, funding, product development and distribution; in addition to the borrowed equity and legacy her brand now gains from another powerhouse brand which will position her line to be around for another 20 (30, 40… etcetera) plus years. A buyout is not always a sellout to me. I feel like Lisa Price was able to cash in on herself, and now will get the opportunity to extend her brand to other avenues globally. Yes, this does give L’Oreal access under the Carol’s Daughter name, but it’s HER name out in front. One can presume, despite the sale, with the executive team still in place – that they are prepared to protect the image at all costs.”

Denitria’s views kind of echoed my own. Also, the emotional response to the sale of Carol’s Daughter revealed that people truly care about the brand to the point of having specific hopes and aspirations for it, that don’t necessarily mesh with the brand’s or owner’s reality. “Culturally, I understand why the community is angry. This is not the first boom in black hair care where what were essentially mom & pop brands were acquired by major conglomerates (see: Soft Sheen Carson, Johnson Products) and the wealth perceivably left the black community. But let’s be honest – those products are sold in stores that are not owned by us, and through distribution channels we have little to no access to – even when we own a product as large as Carol’s Daughter is. As a community we have to understand that regardless of how connected we feel to the brand’s story and founders – a businessperson’s ultimate goal is to build wealth. They may be building to sell or building to keep. Those die-hard fans of Carol’s Daughter clearly interpreted this as a brand that was building to keep – which we learned today, is not entirely true,” Lewis added.

Denitria stated it all so clearly. It seems that many of us are getting caught up in the what-we-wish-had-happened and what-she-shoulda-dones, instead of considering what led to those decisions, and whether or not those decisions were the right ones for Lisa and for her brand. Many are forgetting that behind the Carol’s Daughter brand is a very real person.

Lisa Price_Flower Top_July 2011_small - 20141023_120223

I had a chance to catch up with Lisa Price last week when she was in Chicago, visiting the Ulta corporate HQ (she’s always on the go)! It was the day after the news hit, and she had just begun to see some of the comments online. I had to ask her how that made her feel, to see the response from people who had been supporters of the brand for the past two decades downcry her decision. Did it make her angry? Or sad?

“I’m more sad at so much lack of understanding. But what I’ve found is, with the few people I’ve chosen to speak to directly, there are some people who sounded like they were concerned and worried…when I addressed them directly and wrote to them and clarified their comment, all of a sudden they take a completely different stance,” she said.  Lisa cited a few cases where her online critics went from slamming her and her brand, to expressing admiration and appreciation when she addressed them directly. For the record, she’s seen quite a bit of the negative feedback and took the time to address several of the specific criticisms leveled against her and her brand.

“Just for clarification, I did not almost go bankrupt, this was not a move of desperation. And to those who are wondering what my legacy will be, my legacy to my children is that they watch their mother work hard. They watch the business get built from the kitchen, to the shelves of Sephora and Ulta and Target. I hope I’ve taught my children that with hard work they can accomplish everything. Because I’ve done this doesn’t mean I’m not leaving a legacy, this is 21 years of hard work.”

Lisa has had to become used to consistent predictions of doom and gloom whenever she makes a major business decision, and despite those predictions, she is still here and the brand is bigger than ever before. From what I understand and what was explained to me, this was a decision made to secure the long term future of this beloved brand, to make sure it will exist long after the creator is no longer here.

I had to ask Lisa what she wanted to say to the people who are expressing these feelings of concern that are tipping over into almost betrayal.

“The way that I feel about it is, I understand why the customer feels the way that she feels, because as African Americans there aren’t that many things we get to have to ourselves, and when we do have something to ourselves, we covet it and protect it. I understand that completely. I am honored that I’ve created something that people feel that way about. I really love, cherish and value the Carol’s Daughter customer. I never want to disappoint her. Unfortunately I have, but I’ve tried very hard not to,” she told me.

I had to specifically press about the use of the word “sellout” and what that meant to her as the creator of this brand. Lisa was forthright about where that criticism is coming from and how it makes her feel.

“I owned my company with my husband. Then I chose to bring on investors because we knew the demand was far greater than we could satisfy. That’s the path that I ended up on. But I never ever felt like I was a sellout, ever. Because it’s my baby. It’s been my life for 21 years. It’s my life. It’s making the products, going on HSN to sell the product, all of the traveling, all of the work I’ve put into building this into what it is. You don’t do that for something you don’t care about.”

The comments about the products themselves also were a part of our conversation, and Lisa absolutely refutes any of the criticism that her products have changed and that this new business move will mean changes in terms of including cheaper or less effective ingredients. “That could not be further from the truth. I’ve used Face Butter on my face every day for 21 years. I’ve used Hair Milk for 20 years. Why am I going to mess up what I put on my hair, what my 8 year old puts on her hair, and what thousands of people are buying and enjoying from my brand? I wish I could personally talk to every single person with questions or concerns about this and say I’m not going anywhere, it’s not going to change. There is no plan to change the formulation.”

The decision to come into the L’Oreal fold doesn’t change what Lisa and Carol’s Daughter have been able to accomplish over the past 2 decades.  As someone who’s watched the brand grow from the days of working out of a warehouse, to being on the shelves at Sephora and Macy’s and now at Ulta, Target and HSN; it’s undeniable that Carol’s Daughter changed the landscape of the natural hair marketplace and kicked down the door for so many others to come. In many ways it can be said that Carol’s Daughter elevated the conversation on black hair. Magazines like Vogue, Elle and Allure took notice when they weren’t including black hair companies in their articles before. This is a brand that was made by us, by us in the truest sense. Lisa is a trailblazer. The foundation of her brand is about family and empowerment, and she’s inspired SO many others to look to their own family beauty traditions and recipes, whip up their own recipes and take them to the marketplace online and in stores. Now Lisa Price, who started making batches of her products in her kitchen 21 years ago, has sold her company to the biggest beauty corporation in the world. THAT is creating a lasting legacy and that is trail blazing. For those who are wondering what her role will be now, Lisa Price will stay on as the creative visionary of the brand and she will continue to lead product development for Carol’s Daughter. Except now, she’ll have access to the research, funding, product development, distribution, borrowed equity and legacy that Denitria Lewis mentioned earlier.

Carol and Lisa.

Carol and Lisa.

“I’m not going anywhere. I’m the author of this brand. And I am nothing but proud. Because I know personally how hard it was to come from the person I was in 1993 to the person I am now. I know the boxes I’ve packed, the bottles I’ve labeled, the times I’ve been kicked in the face, the times I thought I had to shut things down. I am not upset or ashamed of anything. I am so proud. Maybe 50 years from now, there won’t be any naysayers,” says Lisa. In the meantime, there’s no time to rest. She’s still got work to do. Carol’s Daughter will have new Monoi body products launching on HSN on November 9. They just launched the Marula line, Curl Therapy, in Ulta – fans can expect to see extensions to the Marula and Monoi product lines in the near future. She’s got a kids line launching in Target, in conjunction with Annie. Look for adorable Annie boxes at Target including Carol’s Daughter products, that Lisa describes as “super cute and super affordable.”

Carol’s Daughter is doing a lot and the future now looks even more secure and therefore bright because of the decisions Lisa and her team have made. Lisa feels ready and excited for this new chapter for her brand: “There’s a LOT of great stuff that’s already planned. And it doesn’t stop. The work still continues. I’m still Carol’s Daughter. Everything changed, but it’s still the same because the work is the work.”

Thank you for the phenomenal interview, Lisa!

There are some really interesting think pieces and posts on the Lisa Price/Carol’s Daughter/L’Oreal purchase that offer a variety of perspectives on the decision. Check these out:

A Black Company Sells, Or Sells Out on NPR

Carol’s Daughter, L’Oreal and the Burden of Owning a Black Business on Clutch

Beauty Conglomerate L’Oreal – A Company With a Troubled History – Buys Out Carol’s Daughter on BGLH.

Lisa Price Discusses Carol’s Daughter Acquisition on Love Brown Sugar

I am excited to see what’s next for Carol’s Daughter, and what this new business relationship will mean for the brand. Opinions are so strong on this issue and there are many valid concerns out there, but now knowing what we know and hearing what Lisa has to say herself, I’m curious to hear your thoughts. What do you think?


Ernestine Easter says:
October 28, 2014, 6:01 pm
Way to go Lisa. Having a business without the resources needed for growth and development is just stupid. Why do you think so many businesses fail. If the resources are available in our community why has no one stepped forward. What would be the point of watching this beloved brand and founder go the way of so many others? Don't confuse your personal preferences with business practicalities. And stop calling people sellouts. ..that ain't nothing but hating.
Glenyse says:
October 28, 2014, 6:43 pm
As a Carol's Daughter consumer, I'm proud of her, not that she ever needed my adulation; she got my money. I'm glad she found an avenue that will give her more support, and likely an exit strategy.
D.E. says:
October 28, 2014, 7:23 pm
I can remember the first time I bought a Carol's Daughter product was in the late 90s when she was selling her products out of her Brooklyn brownstone when the first floor of the brownstone was her showroom. I watched her expand from that to her first store in Fort Greene, where I sometimes would stop in on my lunch hour (fortunately I worked a few blocks away) and look or even purchase. And I've watched her continually expand into other locations and then the really big push with the paper catalogs and mail order and I thought for the most part, it seemed like she'd been making good moves. I must admit to not purchasing a Carol's Daughter product in a quite a number of years now but I could understand why she might feel that working with a larger company may offer more security and I don't feel like I have enough of a sense of the ins and outs of corporate business structure to judge the merits of her decision. I cannot remember the last time I bought anything from L'Oreal but there must have been some appeal if that is the company that she ultimately chose to become a part of. I hope it all works out for her and her customers and that the products will remain true to their original standard.
LoveBrownSugar says:
October 29, 2014, 10:55 am
Great article Patrice! And you got some great answers from Lisa. I spoke to her last week and she was overwhelmingly positive about the entire experience. Talking to her made me realize that the critics and naysayers don't really matter. As someone aspiring to build a brand myself, what truly matters is how you feel and your personal vision for your business. As long as you take good advice, and do what feels right, you win. Even when you fail, you win because you did what you believed was best. Being an entrepreneur is an ongoing class on succeeding and failing and picking back up again. Lisa has done a great job thus far. I have no doubt she'll continue.
Rauney says:
October 29, 2014, 11:31 am
This was such an awesome and enlightening read. I was one who was extremely disappointed when I first learned of Carol's Daughter being sold. This interview answered many questions and put everything into perspective for me. With that being said, I am very proud of the hard work and legacy she is creating to leave. I get it now. Thank you for this post!!
pets says:
October 29, 2014, 12:12 pm
You did it again! You cut through the negatives to get the positive message from Ms. Price and her news about the continued future of her brand and her other latest ventures. You brought Ms. Price's warm and engaging personality to our notice and gave us the insight we needed to assuage our fears about the recent sale to L'Oreal. Please continue to bring your best game.
Beautifully Curled says:
October 29, 2014, 1:33 pm
THANK YOU for this POSITIVE perspective of Lisa's latest deal. I have read article after article yesterday of people tearing down, name-calling, and bashing her for her business decision and the direction Carol's Daughter is (perceived to be) going. It even got to the point where some people were saying she lost their business for good. That sounds like a sellout to me, but I digress. It was truly sad reading so much negativity so this is definitely a breath of fresh air coming across your article/interview with Lisa. It is my hope that many will find their way to this article and become enlightened from the words of Lisa herself instead of criticizing her based on outside/personal opinions. I wish Lisa much success on all future and exciting projects she has coming her way.
MM says:
October 29, 2014, 3:57 pm
I take my hat off to Lisa Price. She created a product and took it to a place some only imagine.With L'Oreal Carol's Daughter will continue to grow. A business savvy woman/ entrepreneur.
Trista says:
October 29, 2014, 5:08 pm
Thank you for sharing such positive and insightful views of Carol's Daughter new decision. As an small business owner that handmake's bath & body products myself, I can understand why people say the things they say, I'm happy to see that Lisa is handling it in a positive way. She makes it known that her mission and legacy still stand today as it did 21 years ago. I commend her for that. She really is a trailblazer for other companies like me to see that it is possible. Thank you for sharing this interview!
Curvy CEO says:
October 29, 2014, 11:57 pm
*applause* Excellent interview! You know, I will readily admit that I was one of the ones who felt sucker punched when I read the news that the company was being bought by L'Oreal. But, the idea that this acquisition is what will allow the line to last for generations to THAT is certainly something. I just hope that Lisa will still have a strong level of control over the direction of the company - the marketing, the ingredients, etc., etc. Oh and I adore that picture of her and her mom. Would *love* to see that on one of the bottles/boxes some day.
drymartini says:
October 31, 2014, 6:37 am
This if my first hearing about this! I'm glad that I got the news from this site where I got a good explanation from Lisa Price. I don't knock her hustle but I totally understand why people are upset. I still have brochures and pamphlets of her products from way back, and can't make myself throw them out. I'm proud of her and her company. That being said, I haven't used her products in a while because of the ingredient list. A few formulas had to change once products had to stay on the shelves in places very far from her kitchen. I hope that with access to L'Oreal's R&D she can get rid of some of the ingredients that I found a bit scary. Also, I wonder who's going to be the "face" in the CD's ads, bet it won't be Lupita N'yongo.
Trezanay Atkins says:
October 31, 2014, 1:36 pm
I think what people fail to realize, Ms. Denitria N. Lewis included, is that this deal was not adequately communicated with the consumer. Press releases and a video discussing how great this is for the brand is wholly insufficient. In other words, the way this was communicated to the consumer is the root of negative reaction to this brand acquisition. I write more about this win-win-lose situation here --->
Miss BB says:
November 15, 2014, 8:28 am
I am really disapointed with her decision. L'Oreal may increase / expand her sales but I don't think they will respect the quality of her products and mostly the work atmosphere within her company. Prove is that when L'Oreal buy new company, lots of peole resign. I hope l'Oréal will gaev her the freedom she needs.
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