ANN ARBOR, MI (WXYZ) — Tucked away in the basement of the University of Michigan’s Michigan Union building sits a vending machine not filled with snacks but hair care products.
"We have durags, bonnets, hair glue, wild growth oil,” Rico Harrison, a co-founder of the beauty supply machine said.
It’s a one-of-a-kind machine and an idea that sparked from a real need on campus.
“My hair plays a pretty big part in my overall appearance," co-founder Mia Wilson said. "I really take pride in my hair and the only thing that near campus is like CVS, Walgreens. And it's a limited selection for people of color.”
This forced Black students to travel to Detroit, Chicago, or Ypsilanti for black hair care products. A commute, that’s not often doable for a college student on a budget.
“You don’t wanna take a bus, or an uber 20 minutes away and then 20 minutes back,” Rico said.
So he and Mia came together to create a solution that would help students turn that 20-minute commute into a 5-minute walk.
“The University really welcomed this idea and I kinda got a feeling that they felt a bit of guilt that students didn't feel represented here and that this has been a problem for so long,” Rico said.
Thanks to a grant from optiMize, a University of Michigan organization that helps to fund social innovation projects on campus, the students were able to receive enough money, and advice to get their business off the ground.
“We just got those products in there two weeks ago and ever since then people have been really, really happy," Mia said.
The founders of the Innovending Machine hope to one day have other machines in dorm rooms, the library, and maybe even other college campuses. Until then, they’re just happy that black students can now look and feel their best.
"And a lot of alumni have been saying like, 'I wish this was here when I was in college. We really needed this when I was in college,'” Mia said.