alternatives to sodium hydroxide, even though McBride is convinced it gets a bad rap in the beauty press and in salons.
“There is a proper way to use straighteners, but it requires
proper education,” observed McBride.
To make sure that stylists are properly trained, Design Essentials
conducts three different types of classes: in-salon, which involves
five or six attendees; interactive ( 30-40) or seminar (100-150). At
the same time, the company works with more than 250 beauty
schools, conducting classes and demonstrating products.
“The market has changed; consumers want smoothers rather
than relaxers and stylists need to be educated,” he explained.
McBride saw the waning demand for relaxers and as a result, Design Essentials rolled out Strengthening Therapy System
(STS). The formaldehyde-free formula is amino acid based to
tame, smooth and elongate curls for up to 12 weeks. One of the
newest STS SKUs is TS Express Smoothing Mousse Max Smooth,
which is said to transform frizzy, unmanageable hair into long
lasting smooth, sleek, shiny hair. Used as the second step in
the STS Express Smoothing system, Smoothing Mousse Max
Smooth is infused with micro-fine amino acids to strengthen hair
from root to tip while delivering anti-swelling and anti-reversion
properties, according to Design Essentials.
Besides product formulas, how consumers make their pur-
chasing decisions has evolved as well. During his career, McBride
has witnessed consumers taking a more
hands-on, do-it-yourself approach to their
hair. They watch a lot of YouTube to learn
how to use the products and conduct more
online research to find more out about
what’s in the products—and that’s having
an impact on the hair care industry.
“During my 40-year career, I’ve seen
the move toward gentler, more effective in-
gredients and I expect that to continue,” he
How company executives and consum-
ers view the hair care category is changing,
too. McBride maintains that hair is more
about texture and less about skin color,
helped along by changing demographics.
“There are more multiracial kids who
have a wide range of hair textures,” he
The world is changing too. Design
Essentials is setting up distributorships
in Africa. McBride noted that Nigeria is a
rapidly growing market that is expected to
be the fourth most populated nation in the
next 30 years.
“We’re not just shipping products, we
are setting up distributorships, establishing
manufacturing facilities; we are positioned to do a good job,” he
But getting on a plane and travelling halfway around the
world to set up businesses in new markets takes its toll.
“It’s a young man’s game; I don’t lead the charge anymore;
that’s up to my son and his team.”
It’s All About Family
In fact, McBride is determined to remain on the sidelines and let
the next generation take over. Cornell McBride Jr. is president,
daughter Sholanda Armstrong is in charge of social media and
son Andre McBride oversees operations.
“We’ve been able to sustain a family business and my kids
have picked up where I left off,” he noted. “It’s like a relay race. I
ran my leg, passed the baton and the next runner is taking off. It’s
been a smooth transition.”
It’s a smooth transition that’s been made possible by the sup-
port of Harriet, his wife of 52 years.
He hopes that the family ties will remain strong.
“I want the grandkids to get an education and do what they
want, but I hope that they want to pick it (the business) up. I like
having them around.”
If the grandchildren have half the drive of their grandpa, you
can be sure that Design Essentials will be around for decades to
Left to right: Smoothing Mousse, Thermal Therapy Leave-In Sealant and Sulfate-Free Shampoo