Pretty and Black Owned: Meet Stephanie Luster

Beauty industry trailblazer and entrepreneur, Stephanie Luster, has made it her business to inspire others to use their platforms to walk in their purpose. Whether it’s expanding creativity behind the chair, mastering platform artistry and specific techniques, or scaling your business for maximum success, she is determined to provide the tools necessary to assist in creating a legacy. Her reach spans internationally, having traveled all over the world educating stylists and consumers on one of the world’s most sought-after topics – hair. 

As President and Director of Education of the Chicagoland-based Essations family brand, Stephanie not only handles the day-to-day operations, but she is also responsible for educating a team of stylists and professionals who work on behalf of the brand. With more than 26 years of experience in the industry, Stephanie uses her expertise to propel the brand and stylists to the next level. “My experience with making products (including the chemical compounds and structure), combined with my extensive knowledge of hair come together to make me an expert in the industry. I can analyze and understand both the product makeup and the hair’s potential reaction to it all at the same time. That’s my edge.” She works side-by-side with chemists and suppliers to develop, test, and manufacture products that promote healthy hair.

In addition to product development, Stephanie has a passion for building industry leaders and is dedicated to sharing her expertise to assist stylists in reaching and maximizing their potential. She has worked relentlessly to develop several programs that not only reach back to up-and-coming stylists but also assist veteran stylists with elevating their brands and increasing salon revenue. Stephanie looks forward to using her platform to continue motivating, educating, and mentoring others while building a legacy for her children.

About Essations: 

Essations is a customer-centric haircare brand founded on family values, providing solutions for every hair type. We are black-owned and family operated with over 40 years of experience in the beauty industry. Essations entered the hair market as a professional product line, quickly becoming a preferred brand among beauty professionals. Despite the many shifts in beauty trends and consumer demands over the past few decades, Essations has stood the test of time, becoming a staple in the hair community and the partner brand to salons and stylists across the nation. From salon to home, the once professional-only Essations brand now includes retail lines for use by the consumer at home. 

Essations currently manufacture (in-house) the Essations Classic Collection, Tea Tree Solutions Collection, Sanity by Essations Collection, Naked by Essations Collection, and Naked X Extensions Care Collection – the world’s first hair disinfecting/antibacterial system. Through these collections, they are able to provide a solution for every hair type. Essations has adopted one standard only – high-quality performance. Leading the retail sales chart is our Naked at Home Collection, whose products have caught the attention of a global audience. After a video featuring the Naked by Essations Silk Press Kit went viral on social media in 2015, retail distribution expanded to Canada, the Cayman Islands, Paris, Bermuda, and Ghana. Essations also provides turnkey or hybrid manufacturing solutions, along with private labeling, warehousing, and logistics services.

What inspired the start of “Essations”?  

Essations was started by our parents out of the need to have more flexibility to tend to our oldest sister who was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age. Starting the company not only allowed them to answer the call for high-quality, professional products within the Black beauty industry, but it also allowed them to start the process of building generational wealth and a legacy for their family.

What has been the biggest challenge of running a brand like “Essations”? 

The biggest challenge we face is marketing and distribution. With so much competition in the haircare industry, it is difficult to penetrate a market where you only make up 3% of the revenue in.

How does “Essations” impact the community? 

Essations is committed to our community and even more committed to our children in our community. From hosting Back-To-School events where we provide free hairstyles, haircuts, hair products, food, and school supplies, to sponsoring events throughout the year, it is our goal to ensure our kids know how much they matter and the power they possess to change the world. We partner with Polished Pebbles to mentor young girls and expose them to opportunities in manufacturing, provide tours of our facility to entrepreneurial organizations, and sit on panels sharing our knowledge of manufacturing and entrepreneurship. We also work with our beauty community to provide free education to up-and-coming stylists, as well as veteran licensed professionals.

Where do you hope to see your brand in the next 3-5 years? In the next 3-5 years, Essations hopes to have penetrated the professional and consumer retail markets, with shelf placement in nationwide retail chains such as SalonCentric, Cosmoprof, Target, JCPenney, Ulta, and Sally Beauty. It is our goal to continue to be committed to our partnership with the professional stylist community while introducing and educating consumers on the importance of healthy haircare and choosing the proper products to achieve their hair goals.

What advice do you have for the next generation of entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurship isn’t cookie-cutter, nor is it easy; but with discipline, dedication, hard work, and the right team and resources, you can achieve anything! You must also be ready to pivot when necessary. Trends and consumer demands shift with the wind, so you must be able to pivot to remain profitable; even if this means selling. Always have an exit strategy. 

What does being “Pretty and Black Owned” mean to you? 

Being Pretty and Black Owned means having the opportunity to show little girls and women who look like me what can be achieved when they believe in themselves and walk in their purpose. It means exuding confidence and professionalism. Building wealth and legacy. Living black, proud, and free!

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Jakia Cheatham - Myles

CEO/Founder of Pretty Women Hustle Magazine

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