In 2010, Janell Stephens was having a hard time finding hair products that were gentle enough for her children’s scalp eczema, so she started making her own. Over a decade later, her brand Camille Rose is one of the largest Black-owned hair-care brands in the U.S., available in the country’s largest big-box retailers and drugstores. On Monday, it launched at Ulta Beauty.

“I’m so excited to be here because I know consumers like myself shop at these stores,” said Stephens. “To have a brand like mine that is a premium natural hair brand that serves the needs of different textures — it’s a perfect partnership, and I can’t wait to continue to grow in the Ulta Beauty chain.” 

The brand’s hair, skin, bath and body, and kids products launched in all Ulta physical stores and online on Monday. They’re placed in high-value locations in-store including on tables and in endcaps. The brand will also be featured on a full back page in Ulta’s circular ad, and it was promoted to Ulta’s email list on launch day.

“They want to make sure when they bring brands like myself to their stores, they’re not just putting them on a shelf; they want to set them up for success,” said Stephens. The Ulta circular ad is being provided to the brand by Ulta for free. The company typically charges a fee that is “not affordable for small brands,” she said.

Camille Rose’s first retail partner was Target in 2013. It is now available at a wide range of national chains including Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Sally Beauty, as well as through international retailers. Year-over-year sales from January 2020 to January 2021 are up 70% as the brand increased its retail presence by 20% during that time period. It has been on a fast growth trajectory, with sales up 123% on its DTC e-commerce since the onset of the pandemic. According to data from IRI, the brand is currently the third-largest Black-owned textured hair brand and had the second-highest 52-week sales growth for the time period ending February 21.As the brand continues to scale up, Stephens said she plans to maintain her 100% ownership of the company.

The pandemic was a big factor in boosting DTC sales, said Stephens. “People couldn’t go to a beauty supply store or salon to get their hair done. People who wore a lot of protective styles were forced to do their own hair and figure it out.”

She has also noticed an uptick in interest from Gen-Z consumers as the brand has received organic attention on TikTok.

“Initially, it was 28- to 35-year-olds” leading the brand’s sales, said Stephens. “[But it’s] a great surprise for me that Gen Z right now is in the lead.” Gen-Z consumers “like free-flowing hairstyles,” she said. “It seems that they just have fun with it all. They’re just looking at what the TikTokers in their age group have been using, and then they go on based on that. The older consumer is more the label reader, and more of the consumer who is choosing based on ingredients solely.” 

In February 2021, Ulta announced a diversity plan that included a pledge to double the number of Black-owned brands stocked at its stores. Camille Rose joins 15 Black-owned brands stocked by Ulta, including Uoma Beauty, Juvia’s Place and Briogeo. It was the most-requested new brand by Ulta customers.

“We started seeing a lot of support” in the industry, as a result of initiatives including Pull Up for Change and the 15% Pledge that were launched as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement in summer 2020, said Stephens. The brand has seen a 40% surge in social engagement since June 2020.

“Pull Up For Change and the 15% Pledge brought many brands like mine to the forefront,” she said. “It was definitely needed. What I don’t want to happen is for it to be a moment. Everybody needs to continue to be held accountable for the pledge, for what they said they were going to change — to follow it and be held accountable. So we definitely need it, and it’s something that needs to continue to exist.”