Doing Business with Beauty: Black Women, Hair Salons and the Racial Enclave Economy

Entrepreneurship has long been touted as one of the important aspects of America that allows everyone to have a chance to achieve the “American Dream”—upward mobility, independence, and the freedom to be one’s own boss. But who are these entrepreneurs who attempt to achieve this, and what are their experiences as business owners?

Most of the academic research on entrepreneurship focuses on the experiences of ethnic immigrants—typically Cuban, Chinese, and Korean men. In my new book Doing Business with Beauty: Black Women, Hair Salons, and the Racial Enclave Economy (Rowman & Littlefield, 2008), I shift the focus to consider the experiences of Black women entrepreneurs. In the book, I argue that the focus on ethnic men conflates ethnicity with race, ignores gender, and thus does not offer a way to understand the entrepreneurial experiences of racial minority women. In order to address this, I contend that we have to take processes of race and gender into consideration.

To this end, Doing Business with Beauty argues that systemic gendered racism is a significant and important factor shaping the business experiences of Black women. Focusing on Black women hair salon owners, I argue that systemic gendered racism shapes these women’s business decisions, interactions with customers and stylists, motivations for engaging in entrepreneurship, and other factors. I argue that systemic gendered racism produces business patterns among Black women that can be better described as “racial enclave economies.”  These racial enclave economies reflect the realities of race and gender as systemic, intersecting factors, and create unique entrepreneurial experiences that are often overlooked by existing research and current discussions on entrepreneurship.

~ Adia Harvey Wingfield
Assistant Professor, Sociology
Georgia State University


  1. Adia

    Sure! I define “racial enclave economies” as business patterns that occur as a consequence of racial minorities’ experiences with systemic gendered racism in multiple social structures. When these experiences push racial minorities to entrepreneurship, I argue that a racial enclave economy has been created. I focus on Black women-owned hair salons as one example, but there are definitely others. But to know more, you’ll have to read the book! 🙂

  2. adia

    G–just seeing your message now. If you don’t want to spend $65 for 164 pages, then don’t buy it. To Thelma: thanks for your interest! I think that some slightly used copies are now available through Barnes & Noble; these are priced much more affordably. (The publisher determines the sale price–I have no say in it.) If you do read the book, please check back and tell me what you think.

  3. Miracle

    Hi! Quick question, Im having to write a critical book review on your book. I’ve read it and I would like to know your purpose of writing the book if you dont mind. Please and Thank You!

    • Adia Harvey Wingfield Author

      Essentially, I wanted to address what I saw as a lack of focus in the ethnic entrepreneurship literature on the ways that race and gender influence patterns of business ownership. Much of the research in this area addresses ethnicity and assumes that is synonymous with race, but in doing so, this work neglects the ways that systemic processes of race (and the ways in which they intersect with gender) inform the decisions, practices, and actions of business owners, particularly black women business owners who are frequently ignored in the existing literature.

      I hope this helps. Please send me your review once you’ve completed it; I’d be very interested to see your thoughts.

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