Here’s something you don’t see every day.
In the University of Michigan’s Michigan Union building, down in the basement, there lies a vending machine that does not have snacks.
Instead, it’s full of Black hair care products.
Rico Harrison is one of the co-founders of the one-of-a-kind beauty supply machine, called the Innovending Machine.
He mentioned how the vending machine has everything from wild growth oil to hair glue, bonnets, and durags.
The machine didn’t just pop up out of the blue, though. There was a valid need for it.
According to fellow co-founder, Mia Wilson, there is a limited selection of hair products for Black people.
This is despite hair being a major part of our overall appearance. She typically had to go all the way to Walgreens or CVS to get suitable products.
Other Black college students were often forced to travel to Ypsilanti, Chicago, or Detroit just to get these products.
This commute was naturally more expensive than a regular college student could afford.
So, to address this issue, Mia and Rico came together to come up with a solution that would help them and their fellow students.
The University was delighted with the idea, and the students received a grant from optiMize, one of its organizations that funds social innovation projects taking place on campus.
Thus, they were able to secure enough funding and advice to kickstart their business.
Various alumni have approached Mia and told her how they wish they’d had the vending machine when they were still in college.
That’s how big of an impact it’s had.
With time, the founders hope to set up other Innovending Machines in the library, other dorm rooms, and even other college campuses.
Until then, they are satisfied that they have addressed the issue in their school and helped fellow students to save a few bucks.