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Detroit entrepreneur Eonica Smith will launch the first annual Detroit Natural Hair Expo on Aug. 26 at Cobo Center. The expo, hosted by natural hair vlogger Bria Larine, will feature vendors, workshops, panels, entertainment and a keynote address by Gwen Jimmere, founder of Naturalicious and first African-American woman to hold a U.S. patent for a natural hair care product.

In addition to several giveaways, the first 100 guests will receive swag bags filled with products from some of the expo’s sponsors, including The Mane Choice, Jane Carter Solutions, and Doo Gro, among others.

“I’m truly excited to finally bring the Natural Hair Expo experience to Detroit,” said Jimmere.

“The Detroit Natural Hair Expo recognizes and celebrates the beauty of natural hair. The event allows women, men and children to embrace the uniqueness of their natural hair, learn about hair care, and explore other topics such as wellness and beauty.

“The expo features educational workshops, local, national and international vendors. Expect fun, networking opportunities, giveaways. This event is open to everyone. We embrace all ethnicities and individuals. All attendees can benefit from the resources available.”

Smith, a single mother of 2-year-old twin girls, said her desire to use healthy products on her daughters’ hair and skin led her creating her own natural hair care line called Ell Naturelle. Due to demand, Smith began to seek out other ways to promote her line.

As a result, she noticed the absence of Detroit-based natural hair expos like ones seen in other major cities. The desire to bring the hair expo experience to Detroit inspired her to take on the task of creating it herself.

“I just started making things in my kitchen. I made little videos and I started putting them on my social media. People became really interested in buying products from the line. Friends and family began sending me notifications about natural hair expos in other states as a way to get the line out there,” Smith said.

“I was planning to go to the New Orleans Natural Hair Expo in July during the Essence Festival. Eventually, I was like ‘why would I go to New Orleans to a natural hair expo and we don’t have one [in Detroit]?’ I decided I wanted to do something super huge here in Detroit that will allow small business owners, such as myself, the opportunity to have their brand put out there,” Smith said.

With the ambitious goal of starting the expo in a matter of months, Smith reached out to over a dozen expo organizers from all over the country in search of advice and support.

“Out of 15 people I contacted, only one reached back out to me,” she said.

That one person was Ebbie Drayton, founder of the Charleston Natural Hair Expo.

“She gave me a lot of motivation, tips and tools. She told me it takes a year to plan an expo, but I decided I wanted to do it in a few months. I woke up one morning in April and I just got to work and I haven’t stopped since,” Smith said.

“I started off saying I wanted to sell 300 tickets and have 30 vendors, but in just two months, I was able to get 52 and I’ve sold over 700 tickets. Now we have an expo on Aug. 26,” she said.

The Detroit Natural Hair Expo is on Aug. 26 from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Cobo Center in Exhibit Hall 310 A and B. Workshops will be held in room 311. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased at http://www.detroitnaturalhairexpo.com or at the door.

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