Black History: Special Delivery!!

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The “Jheri Curl” will undoubtedly go down in history as one of the most popular hairstyles of its time. Learn more about the Joseph Cottrell, Jr, the African American entrepreneur who took the Jheri Curl out of the salon and into the homes with his $8 Curly Kit.

Entrepreneur Comer Joseph Cottrell, Jr. was born in Mobile, Alabama on December 7, 1931. Cottrell became fascinated with business at an early age. As a youth, he joined with his brother, James, in a rabbit meat and fur selling business. After completing High School, Cottrell attended the University of Detroit during 1947 and served in the U.S. Air Force from 1948 to 1952. Cottrell eventually settled in Los Angeles in 1956.   In 1968, with an initial investment of $600.00, Cottrell a friend and his brother got into the black hair care business manufacturing strawberry scented oil sheen for Afro hairstyles and founded Pro-Line Corporation in 1970. By 1973, he made his first million dollars in sales. In 1979, Cottrell took the $75-$200.00 “Jerry Curl” out of the beauty shop and into black homes with his $8.00 Pro-Line “Curly Kit”, which increased his sales from one million dollars a year to ten million dollars in the first six months. (The Jheri Curl was invented by Jheri Redding, a Caucasian hairdresser and entrepreneur). By the end of 1981, Pro-Line had become a leading African American haircare products company with about $22 million in revenue. Cottrell sold Pro-Line to Alberto-Culver, a U.S. cosmetics firm, for $80 million in 2000.

In 1989, Cottrell became the first African American part-owner of a U.S. major league baseball franchise, the Texas Rangers. Comer Joseph Cottrell died on October 3, 2014 at the age of 82 in Dallas, Texas. He was an important member of a selected line of African American entrepreneurs who used the African American hair care market to amass sizeable wealth, some of which was later employed to support African American community institutions.

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