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College students install vending machine with Black hair care products

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Posted at 10:04 PM, Jan 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-01-31 13:24:49-05

ANN ARBOR, Mich. (WXYZ) — Tucked away in the basement of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Union building sits a vending machine with hair care products for people of color.

"We have durags, bonnets, hair glue, wild growth oil,” said Rico Harrison, a co-founder of the beauty supply machine.

The one-of-a-kind machine was installed to fulfill a real need on campus.

“My hair plays a pretty big part in my overall appearance," co-founder Mia Wilson said. "I really take pride in my hair and the only thing that near campus is like CVS, Walgreens. And it's a limited selection for people of color.”

The lack of hair care products for people of color forced them to travel to places like Detroit or Chicago to find what they needed. It's a commute that is not often doable for a college student on a budget.

“You don’t wanna take a bus, or an uber 20 minutes away and then 20 minutes back,” Rico said.

Harrison and Wilson said the university welcomed the vending machine idea when they presented it.

"I kinda got a feeling that they felt a bit of guilt that students didn't feel represented here and that this has been a problem for so long,” Harrison said.

Thanks to a grant from optiMize, a University of Michigan organization that helps to fund social innovation projects on campus, the students were able to receive enough money, and advice to get their business off the ground.

“We just got those products in there two weeks ago and ever since then people have been really, really happy," Wilson said.

The founders of the Innovending Machine hope to one day have other machines in dorm rooms, the library, and maybe even other college campuses.

This story was originally reported by Jeddy Johnson on wxyz.com.