Updated: Feb 4, 2020
We continue our focus on Black cosmetic entrepreneurs. All of the individuals we’ve covered and the brands have created jobs for thousands of people in the Black community. These individuals inspired one another and gave back to their communities and help create future generations of businessmen and women. In this post we’ll highlight a women by the name of Nobia Franklin. She was based in Texas and modeled her business the same way that her contemporaries Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker did although she didn’t become as well known for her work.
Nobia Franklin was born in Cuero, Texas in 1892. Not much is known about her life prior to the start of her business, but opportunities were very limited at that time for Black Americans, especially women. Nobia created opportunity for herself. She opened her first salon in her home in San Antonio in 1910. She began to make homemade hair products, using them on her customers and selling them door to door to Black families like all her competitors were doing since it was a good way to build and expand your customer base.
In 1916 she moved to Fort Worth, Texas opening a salon there before moving to Houston, opening the Franklin School of Beauty Culture. She then opened up a manufacturing center for her beauty projects in 1917.
Franklin expanded her business to the city where many cosmetic entrepreneurs built their businesses, Chicago, Illinois. She developed her own method of style and presentation that she dubbed the “Franklin Way.” She established her headquarters Chicago, built another manufacturing plant, all while maintaining her school in Houston and building schools in other locations.
She built something lasting that she wanted to pass down to her daughter. Franklin began grooming her daughter for this and in 1927 they formed the N.A. Franklin Association of Beauty Culture. She turned over her business to her daughter Abbie in 1930 as her health started to decline.
Nobia Franklin died in 1934. Abbie, and Franklin's son-in-law, continued to run her manufacturing plant and school in Houston. It’s the oldest continuously operated beauty school in Texas and before desegregation was the largest African American beauty school in the southern part of the United States. Although she never got the fame of her competitors or built as big a fortune as Annie Malone and Madam Walker, mainly because she never patented her beauty products, Franklin was an excellent businesswomen and a shining example of Black Excellence.
Steptoe, Tyina (2015). Houston Bound: Culture and Color in a Jim Crow City. University of California Press. pp. 50–51. ISBN 9780520958531.
"Texas Woman Demonstrating Group's Commercial Ability; Goods Universally Praised". The Houston Informer. 25 August 1923. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
Williams, Joy (2 July 2013). "The Beauty of Juneteenth". The Houston Sun. Retrieved 10 February2016.
"Madame Nobia (N.A.) Franklin". Ask Me About My Hair. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
Pruitt, Bernadette (3 July 2013). "Franklin, Nobia A." Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
Franklin, Cynthia Coleman (17 February 2005). "Franklin Beauty School marks 90th year". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
Pruitt, Bernadette (2013). The Other Great Migration: The Movement of Rural African Americans to Houston, 1900-1941 (PDF). Texas A&M University Press. pp. 239–240. ISBN 9781623490034 – via Project Muse.
"Madame N.A. Franklin MFG. Co. Big Business Builders; Parlors Dot Both Sections". The Houston Informer. 30 June 1923. Retrieved 11 February 2016.
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Boney, Jeffrey L. (20 February 2013). "Black Business Is Black History! The Houston Forward Times Highlights Three History-Making Houston Businesses". Houston Forward Times. Retrieved 10 February 2016.
"Beginnings in 1915". Franklin Beauty School. Retrieved 10 February 2016.