The blow dry bar is an inclusive salon reinvesting in women in the city

By Breanne L. Heldman
November 02, 2018 03:05 PM
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Hudson Taylor

Detroit Blows is more than a blow dry bar — though, of course, they’ll do your hair too.

Nia Batts and her partner Katy Cockrel, both 33, conceived the salon out of frustration that women of color are frequently upcharged for having “textured” hair. Batts then turned to her friend, One Tree Hill alum Sophia Bush, who soon became an investor (both are among PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World).

“The beauty industry itself is still incredibly segregated, and it’s something that nobody talks about,” Bush, 36, says. “We decided to turn that upset and offense into a business plan.”

“It was important for us to create space where people felt welcome,” Batts, a Detroit native, explains. “Because salons have been segregated spaces traditionally, we wanted to really counteract that narrative and build a community really that felt inclusive and that felt intersectional.”

“On top of creating something that wasn’t there, we’re investing in the footprint of the redevelopment and reinvigoration of the city,” Bush says, noting that the salon commits $1 from every service and 25 percent of retail sales to enterprises with female entrepreneurs.

“We’re believers in the multiplier effect,” Batts, who once worked on social impact for Viacom, says. “If we can contribute to women and the community, their ability for those dollars to reach further has been well-tested and well-documented.”

The company, which celebrated its one-year anniversary last month, made its first grant to Alternatives for Girls, a group that supports high-risk young women.

For full coverage of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, pick up this week’s issue, on newsstands Friday.

Detroit Blows is also committed to using products that follow high non-toxicity standards more aligned with guidelines set in Europe.

“There’s not transparency around ingredients,” Bush says. “We all get marketed all of these things all of the time, and none of us know what we’re putting on our bodies, which really, we’re putting in our bodies. And when you find out about the incidence of liver disease in nail technicians, and upper respiratory issues in hairstylists because of all the powders and sprays and dye fumes they’re breathing in all day — this is an issue that affects women.”

As Bush sees it, projects like Detroit Blows are pieces of a larger puzzle. “I look at being involved in causes as trying to chip away at the systems that create hardship for people in the world,” she says. “All of these things are so incredibly connected.”