So what were you up to when you were 16 years old? Odds are Paris McKenzie has you beat by a mile. This 16-years-old entrepreneur is the owner of Paris Beauty Supplyz based in Brooklyn, New York. She's the youngest owner of a Black-owned beauty supply store in the county. But that's just in her downtime. McKenzie juggles her professional duties while still attending high school in the mornings and taking college classes two days a week.
NBCLX is highlighting McKenzie for this latest installment of our Inspiring America series. She spoke to us about how she broke into the beauty industry and who inspired her to take on so much responsibility at such an early age.
Watch more uplifting profiles on "Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List" on Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Telemundo (Inspirando a América).
What's the reaction when you tell people you're a young business owner?
Some of the comments are like "OMG I can't believe you really opened up a beauty supply store at your age." And some of them are like "Are you really only 16 years old?"
Why did you choose to enter this particular industry?
To walk into a beauty supply store and not feel welcomed and not feel like you're wanted there... it really affected the way I perceive beauty and almost every beauty supply store I walked in I experienced the same thing. To help other young girls or anyone really not experience that same feeling. That's what I try to push in the beauty supply store was inclusivity.
How did you get your opportunity to break into the business?
Paris Beauty Supplyz came about by an opportunity that was presented to me. The previous owner said they were selling and my mother asked me if I wanted to invest. What I did to save up for the store was to do hair and nails. I worked almost seven days a week and I worked very, very long hours. When I wasn't in school sometimes I would work from 10 in the morning to 2 in the morning or sometimes longer.
What's been the response thus far?
I had my grand opening on September 4, 2020. I decided to post it on Twitter. The first day I got 50 likes I was very excited. And then as days went on to the 50,000s and then the 100,000s. Bella Hadid posted me on her [Instagram] story...A few weeks later Janet Jackson posted me on her actual page. That is what really changed everything for me.
How are you managing all of this at your age?
That's a question I ask myself all the time. I currently go to high school in the mornings and I'm an early graduate. I take college classes two days a week. And throughout the day I will usually come to the store and see if I can get a few things done. And then I'll go back home and finish more school work and in college, I'm planning to major in pre-med.
Who inspired you to become a young business owner?
My mom owns the hair salon just two doors down from my beauty supply store. I grew up in that hair salon and I learned so many things from her. And seeing her own multiples businesses and her running them fluidly has been something that's been very influential and impactful in my life.
"Inspiring America: The 2021 Inspiration List" will air Saturday, May 1 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on NBC and Telemundo (Inspirando a América). Encores will be presented the following day on Sunday, May 2 on CNBC at 3 p.m. ET (12 p.m. PT) and MSNBC at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT). The special will also stream on NBC News NOW on May 2 at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT) and be available on Peacock on demand.