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Keeping black dollars in black communities for 54 years, Ursula tells her family's story

Ursula Dudley-Oglesby is the second-generation owner of Dudley Products, a black-owned hair product company in Greensboro.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — "They see opportunity," Rodney Dawson, Greensboro History Museum Education Curator, said as he gazed at the display of Joe Dudley. "They see a sense of belonging. They see acceptance. If he can do it, I can do it, so now they have aspiration."

Joe Dudley was a multi-millionaire who owned Dudley Products, a hair product company started in Greensboro. Dudley Products sold over 100 different types of hair products to serve differing black hair needs. Hair conditioner, permanent relaxers, facial cremes--you name it, they sold it!

"He wanted to pass something on to his family," Dawson said.

Ursula Dudley-Oglesby now runs the company that she's been around her entire life.

"This is the beginning, August 1967... when they first started the company," Dudley-Oglesby said as she overlooks old photos of her parents. "

When the business started, it wasn't in a warehouse. They housed production in the family kitchen.

"As a child, I was like 'oh my goodness, they're making that stinky stuff,'" Dudley-Oglesby said. "You know as a child you don't know and little did I know where that product would bring me today."

Dudley is bigger than hair. Since 1967, Dudley ran a cosmetology university, a magazine, hotel, travel agency, cosmetic line, broadcast network, and nine beauty schools. Dudley-Oglesby says her father's marketing strategy back then was to keep black dollars in black communities. Fast forward to today, that strategy is the same.

"We don't sell our products in stores or beauty supply stores or anything like that," Dudley-Oglesby said. "We sell them directly to cosmetologists, the barbers, and the beauty schools so that money can stay in our community a little bit longer."

Keeping the money flowing for 55 years hasn't been easy and Dudley-Oglesby says being a black female business owner comes with its own set of challenges. 

"My controller is Caucasian and I might have a meeting with someone and they'll think that she's the owner," Dudley-Oglesby said.

She reminds herself of the Dudley mantra: "Own your freedom. I am, I can and I will."

"As long as you know that you have a bigger mission or a bigger purpose, then you can get through the hard times because there are going to be hard times," Dudley-Oglesby said.


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