Two students open a vending machine that sells black beauty products on U of M's campus

Black hair care and beauty products just became more accessible for students of color on the University of Michigan's campus.

Youniversity, a new vending machine at the Michigan Union, sells black hair care and beauty products, making them more accessible to students on campus. It sells beauty products like hair oil, durags, and bonnets.

Founders Mia Wilson and Rico Ozuna-Harrison have been friends since middle school, but they came up with the idea more recently; in 2020.

"I feel like the idea stemmed from social unrest that the country was kind of in," Ozuna-Harrison said.

"I remember the beauty supplies were closed," said Wilson. "The only things that were open were like essential stores. Even during that time, it was really hard to get certain products for my hair type."

Out of 50,000 students on U of M's campus coming from diverse backgrounds, black students make up 4% of that total. A shared challenge was finding convenient and affordable hair products.

"Because it's not on campus, we had to go to stores like Walgreens, CVS, things like that," said Wilson. "Oftentimes those things aren't best suited for my hair texture or the products are too expensive."

This poses more of a challenge for students without cars.

Wilson and Ozuna-Harrison worked with a program called Optimize which had them working with other entrepreneurs, lawyers, and experts. They received a $10,000 grant for their idea.

"That was the main goal of the vending machine. We want people to feel confident," said Ozuna-Harrison. "To see people stop and take a picture made me happy. It made me feel like after I'm gone to whatever I'm doing, students are going to feel they belong here."

Wilson and Ozuna-Harrison have future goals for Youniversity. They want to add their beauty vending machines to other campuses like Michigan State University and Eastern Michigan University.