Dream Makers: From $800 to $80 million

They met growing up in Houston, became friends in the military, and now they're running an empire!

Video Transcript

WARREN BROADNAX: I knew nothing about hair. He knew nothing about hair. So it was like, man, what did-- you know if your friend call you, but he like, bro, like, what are you-- like, what are you talking about? Like, why would she-- why should we sell hair?

MARCUS BOWERS: But even though we say we started from the trunk of the car, I really started from the briefcase.

WARREN BROADNAX: So I used to walk into beauty salons with, like, hey, my name is Warren. I got this hair, and they would laugh me up out that thing. A lot of times they would laugh me up out that thing.

MARCUS BOWERS: This was, uh, this was the first She's Happy Hair location, right here.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(SINGING) Working, working, working. Working, working, work.

The words "She's Happy" makes you smile. It should. The brand was She's Happy. We added "Hair" because that was the focal product. But, definitely, it's a household name now, and I'm extremely proud of the team, which we've grown. And we went from $800 to $80 million plus in sales without ever taking out a business loan. We expanded from Houston, Texas, having just one store here, to three stores in Houston, to two stores in Dallas. Stores in Alabama, stores in Oklahoma, stores in Detroit, Atlanta, and we just been rocking and rolling ever since.

[MUSIC - DEAD SILENCE, "BLEED THE SAUCE"]

(SINGING) I was dead broke when I was dreaming.

MARCUS BOWERS: You know, we recently signed a deal with Walmart to expand across the US. Our first location is actually in Atlanta, Georgia, but also inside a Walmart. It is a huge blessing. Look at all this traffic. All this traffic. All this, all money moving. So you can't just sit around while all the money's moving, doing nothing. Gotta move with it. Did I grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth? No.

Did I grow up with an awesome father figure and-- no, none of that. Did I make excuses for all that? No. All I did was put my head down, and I followed the blueprint. America tells you that in order to live the American dream, you got to do this, do this, and do this, and keep doing this. And I'm living it.

[MUSIC - DEAD SILENCE, "BLEED THE SAUCE"]

(SINGING) I was ready ball, give it my all, don't need applause. Walking that talk, no need to floss, with the sauce.

WARREN BROADNAX: I'm originally from Houston, Texas. Born and raised in Houston, Texas. I was raised all over Houston, Texas, man. Honestly, man, we moved a lot. You know, uh, single parent household. I think I was a product of the war on drugs so, you know, I didn't really see too many positive male role models growing up. Like, all of my uncles probably did about 10 years in prison.

So I think they're really shake my childhood, you know. My father-- even though he's doing great now-- was a drug addict at the time when I was growing up. So watching him struggle with addiction, watching all the rest of my role models kind of be locked up in prison, it really did a play on me mentally. And it made me think, like, OK I don't want to have the outcome of all these men in my family, so I had to kind of use my imagination to see, OK, I want something exactly opposite. So I would kind of use them as a reverse role models and find out what they did, and try to make sure I didn't follow the same footsteps.

MARCUS BOWERS: I grew up with, you know, a lot of brothers and sisters. You know I didn't have a lot of great examples. It was just me and my mom. You know, we was on, you know, government assistance, welfare, that type of thing. But I was an honor student.

So even though we didn't have the finances, I did have the know how. I had the confidence to be in honors classes, advanced placement student. You know, I was a student in class where people cheated off of my paper. Growing up in the hood, you got everybody around you that's doing some of the things that you see on the movies. You know, you can play a role in that movie, or you can go write your own script. You know, so I always decided to go write my own script.

WARREN BROADNAX: At the time I graduated from Willowridge, I was a top 10% student in school, and all that great stuff, but nobody went to college in my family. So I kind of procrastinated on all my paperwork, so I found myself two weeks after graduation not knowing what I'm gonna do with my life. So with that, that's kind of what led me to the military.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

Uh, it was a simple fact of, like, my family trajectory. I knew at that point, like, if I stayed home, I was going to fall down that same path of, like, basically going to jail. You know, for me joining the military was like me putting myself in jail, you know, me controlling my destiny. And that was, like, the mindset of me going to the Navy.

Best decision I made in my life. You know, I spent time on three different ships in the Navy. Seeing the world. Learnt self-discipline. Um, learnt that I'm stronger than I think I am. And I think the morals that the Navy taught me, and the values, those the things I use to this day.

MARCUS BOWERS: As we got close to the graduation, I just didn't have any-- any-- any-- any options. I had no idea what I was going to do. And so one day, this guy showed up in uniform, a Navy guy. Uniform was a Petty Officer, he had an all-white uniform on. He had-- he had the badges and everything, you know, so it was that type of energy. I normally don't follow people, you know, when they tell me to follow them, because I'm that type of leader. But that day he told me to follow him, and I did. I followed him down the hallway, and we went to the student parking lot. That's where he led me to.

And when we got there, the first thing he showed me was his vehicle. He had a-- a-- a Tahoe on 22-inch rims with the TV screens in it. And I used to wash cars, so when I see Armor All on the tires the right way, I appreciate the small things, right. Doorjambs clean, everything, right. So we out there, and he's like, man, you like this? I was like, yeah, I-- I-- I love this. This is a nice-- nice whip.

He was like, you want to drive something like this? I'm like, yeah. He was like, man, if you want to drive what I'm driving, you got to do what I'm doing.

[MILITARY MUSIC PLAYING]

I wanted what he had, so I went to go do what he did. And two weeks after graduating, I was in the Navy. I was flying out to Chicago, to Great Lakes, on my way to boot camp. And that was the best decision I've ever made my life.

It was just an eye-opener. It's not just your life that, that is, that's in your hands. But in the military, your life is in your hands and the people around you. So the people around you want you to be the best you. So they're pushing you to be the best you the whole time that you in there training and stuff. It's not like you're trying to get better by yourself, it's you getting better with everybody around you because all y'all lives is on the line. Soon as I graduated boot camp, I had more money than everybody in my house.

WARREN BROADNAX: When I got out of the military, I came back home. I went to some college, but I did not graduate and get a college degree. I was kind of focused on, um, basically focused on trying to get a check and get out my mama's house. If I'm being honest, coming back home and being independent for four years, you kinda don't wanna come back and live in your mama's house. So I went back and, uh, started working at Harris County, as a juvenile probation.

MARCUS BOWERS: I came back home. I wasn't prepared. I wasn't as confident, as I should have been. I became a security guard. I was security. I was a security guard in Rice Village. I was a security guard in Rice Village.

I used to walk around. I had like a little check-in, meter stick, where you had to walk around and, like, let them know, like, you're making your rounds. You know, I'm checking in all around the building. My job was to-- I'm the parking enforcement, all right? I'm gonna make sure you can't just park any old where. And if you're sitting there, parked for 5 minutes or more, it's my job to come knock on your window and tell you, hey, you need to move.

And so one day my supervisor was gonna show me the ropes. He's like, man, I'm gonna show you how it's done. And so he was showing me how it's done. You see this car parked over here? This is how it's done.

Anyway, he knocked on the window, and the guy got out the car. And was like, if you knock on my window again, you know what I'm saying? He gave him that energy, and I was like, well I ain't signed up for this. You know what I'm sayin? Know what I'm sayin? This, this ain't the move for me. I gotta find me another gig.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

(SINGING) We're movin, and movin, and movin. Faster. We're movin, and movin, and movin. Faster.

As soon as I left from there, I got employed with the city of Houston. That's when I got motivated to go back to school.

Got certified through ACC, became an electrician. Went back to school to be an instrumentation engineer. So I can log in and adjust your AC system, and adjust your lighting, or adjust any-- the plumbing from the palm of my hand. So that's what instrumentation engineering is. I was working at U of Rice, got super motivated by working graduations.

[MUSIC - ELGAR, "POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE"]

Because I will work the graduations on campus. And while I'm working the graduations, I'm getting overtime for watching you graduate. Because I'm in charge of the AC system for you and your family as they're cheering you on as you cross the stage. And so I'm seeing all these graduations take place, and it just kind of hit me, like, hey, you want to sit here and just keep doing this or you want to go back and get a four year degree and jump into the workforce like all these people that you see on every graduation?

When I got the UHD, I chose to go to school for business. When you go to school for business, it's all over the world. So you don't really just have to update your resume and go have to apply for a job. But instead of applying for a job, you can go create jobs.

WARREN BROADNAX: I got probably, like, two vague memories of Marcus in high school. We ended up getting cool in the Navy. We both were stationed in San Diego. And, you know, you kinda, kinda naturally you gravitate to whoever, you know, was from your city. So when we both got out after our enlistment, we always kept in contact.

August of 2012, he called me. At the time I was a Houston firefighter. He was like, man, I got an idea. We should sell some hair. I was like, bro, that's gotta be the craziest idea on Earth. I knew nothing about hair. He knew nothing about hair. So it was like, man, what did-- like, you know if your friend call you, but he like, hey bro, what do you-- like, what are you talking about? Like why would she-- why should we sell hair?

MARCUS BOWERS: I was able to reach out to somebody I knew had my heart. You know, I'm a savior, right? I like to make sure that everybody's around me protected. But I knew that, hey, Warren also was a savior, as a firefighter. Anybody that's willing to run into a burning house to save a stranger is the type of person I want next to me.

WARREN BROADNAX: He was like, man, I knew some guys made $4,000 in a weekend selling hair, 4th of July weekend. I was like, you know some people made $4,000 in a weekend selling hair? He was like, yeah, man. Some friends of mine make $4,000.

I did the math. I was working $200 for 24 hours, and I could die at any moment. That's what I'm thinking, like, I got to take this seriously a little bit. So at that point, I was like, I now work for myself.

MARCUS BOWERS: Warren was one of the people that believed in, in the business, you know, so-- uh, but I definitely reached out to him.

WARREN BROADNAX: If a woman walks into the barbershop, you can ask us a million questions at the barbershop. Because we just so happy that a woman's presence is here. So I was like, maybe that'll work, if a man walk into a beauty shop. So I walked into beauty shops, and I would just ask questions because I knew nothing about it. So I'd walk in, and be like, hey, my sister sent me here for some hair. Um, you know, tell me about it. And they just told me, like, how much it is, how much it costs, what should it do, what's popular, what's the ways, all of that.

And after about, like, an hour once I see I was, like, wearing my welcome out, I would be like, all right, I don't think I really understand this too much. I just sit down here, and thank you for your time! But I would do this two to three times a day. On my five days off for like the next three weeks, that's all I would do, is just walk into a beauty salons and do this over and over again.

MARCUS BOWERS: The beauty industry, you recognize, like, there's a lot of people in it, but not a lot of people doing it right. So, um, there was no marketing, no real customer service experience, no, no, no surveys being done about what the customers want as far as products. And then there was no, no storefront, where you can actually come in and touch and feel the product. And so once we saw that, we was able to jump in, headfirst.

WARREN BROADNAX: Like three weeks later, me and Marcus end up meeting, uh, at one of our friend's and current partner's [INAUDIBLE] house. And we was like, uh, you know what, let's go ahead and start this thing. Let's-- let's-- let's put some money together. So that's when we came up with-- I know all of my little money I had, probably was all his little money he had-- with $800 to $900 we started She's Happy Hair.

MARCUS BOWERS: I say 8, he say 9. You know, so, um, I-- for what I remember, I only had like $400 left.

WARREN BROADNAX: But it was like, from that point, I would walk into those same beauty salons. And I would have a duffel bag full of hair, at that time. Like, hi, how you doing? My name is Warren, I'm here to sell hair. And they would laugh me up out that thing.

[LAUGHING]

A lot of times they would laugh me up out that thing. But I didn't let it discourage, and we were selling that hair that wasn't that great at that time. Every time a customer would complain, I would use it for, as a way to, kinda like, figure out what's going on. Never like, take the stature like, I sold it to you. It was great. It was like, tell me what I need to do. Always trying to focus on the longevity of the customer and not hustle.

MARCUS BOWERS: We jumped into this industry with a heart, with customer service, you know, what we call the happy experience. So it was never just about the money in the bank. It's always been about what we can do in return to the community. And so a big piece of my education that we learned from the University of Houston Downtown was our social responsibility. So that's, you know, what pushes our brand forward. We have what you call the She's Happy Foundation, and all those things is what help us move forward.

- [INAUDIBLE]

MARCUS BOWERS: When they know that you got what you say you got, and you're gonna do what you say you're gonna do, and they can respect the brand, then you can promote an address. The first She's Happy Hair location is actually located right here off 16th and South Main Street. So from that $800, again, we was able to grow.

KENDRIA NUMOFEPHA: I have been able to have the pleasure of overseeing all of the Eastern locations.

ANITA BATES: I've been extremely proud of the drive and the success.

- This has been our She's Happy Hair Black Panther movie event.

- My young Kings and Queens!

ANITA BATES: You hear about big companies that you don't see the story behind it, and the hustle behind it. But being able to be a part of the dream, and being able to see what it took to get to this place here. That's super exciting, and everyone that's on the team is a part of the dream.

MARCUS BOWERS: We don't create people with job titles, we create leaders.

ASHLEY ANSPACH: I'm my own, you know, person who pushes just myself as a whole. But to have, you know, just people in your organization also see the dream and help push you, and tell you, you can do it. It's a great feeling.

MARCUS BOWERS: Whatever we hired you for, you don't have to stay that way.

ANITA BATES: One of our security guards learned everything it was to be able to sell to the customers, and he's now one of the managers and one of our locations.

MARCUS BOWERS: To be a good leader, you got to be a great follower. And so, um, I got great leaders around me that I don't mind following, uh, into burning buildings, because I know that they know how to get out Shout out to Warren Broadnax again.

WARREN BROADNAX: Being able to sacrifice ourselves is something that both of us are about.

- [INAUDIBLE]

WARREN BROADNAX: Marcus is the type of person that he'll give you the shirt off his back, you know, literally. He'll give you the shoes off his feet if he think it'll benefit you.

- [INAUDIBLE]

WARREN BROADNAX: We don't take ourselves to serious. We always willing to sacrifice for the greater good. I think, that's why we have been doing so many community givebacks with She's Happy Hair.

- There's nothing better than to do for others, to give back to the community.

WARREN BROADNAX: From year one, we've always gave back from She's Happy Hair. We started in 2012 with She's Happy Hair, we started our first giveback in 2013. Two weeks before school starts, what we do at She's Happy Hair is, each one of our locations we give over 1,000 backpacks away to kids. That's one thing that we've been doing for 7 years. So you can bring your kids to She's Happy Hair. We've got all these backpacks. We separate them by grades and sexes, that way boys get blue, girls get their color, and we give them to kids.

5 years with She's Happy Hair is what we do that Sunday before the first day of back to school, we transform each one of our stores into barbershops, and we hire local barbers. So any little boys that don't get their first haircut, that's not gonna go back to school that first day with their fresh cut, they can go to She's Happy Here and get a free haircut. We got 6 years of giving back on what we do with Chocolate Santa.

So that premise came from back in the days. I think we both came from fairly humble beginnings. And, uh, you know, we used to walk through the mall and see the Santa Claus in the mall, and you couldn't get that photo with Santa, um, if you didn't have a lot of money. So we took that same premise, and we put Santas in our stores.

We both focus on the mission. We both are military veterans, so we are both dedicated to service. Honor, courage, and commitment. I think, that's something that they kinda embed with you, and it lives with you.

MARCUS BOWERS: When you grow up off Martin Luther King, I-- I-- I feel like psychologically they, they put you off Martin Luther King Street, Road, or Boulevard to remind us across the US, in every city and state, to turn the other cheek. You know, to forgive and forget. And none of us are raised that way. You know, one thing my mom always told me, if somebody hit, you hit them back.

And she added something on the end of that. That was the upbringing. And I think that's the upbringing for everybody off of Martin Luther King, in any city and state. You can't come take one of my cheese fries. Lot of people don't remember the cheese fries. That was real unhealthy, too. We should not have been eating those cheese fries and chili, and all that every day, for $1.25, but we did.

I wrote a book. Haven't put it out yet, but in the book I talk about the Walmart mentality. Sam Walton could easily go and respond to whoever might have stole a Snicker from his stores, or whoever might have went to the customer service department and tried to get over with the receipt. But if he'd have responded to all that negativity, he'd have never opened up as many Walmarts across the world that he has.

A lot of us, we always go backwards. We always spend time in place letting somebody know. And, I feel like, if you're arguing with somebody or debating with somebody, you've got to stand still to do it. And I don't do that. I'm always on the move. You know, so I don't have time to debate or argue or let you know. I'm too busy trying to be Sam Watson.

[MUSIC PLAYING]

MARCUS BOWERS: The words "She's Happy" makes you smile. It should.