Hair care products founder Joe Dudley dies

Free Press staff, wire reports | 2/22/2024, 6 p.m.
Joe Louis Dudley, who rose from humble beginnings and overcame a speech impediment to create a multimillion-dollar, Black-owned hair care …
Mr. Dudley

Joe Louis Dudley, who rose from humble beginnings and overcame a speech impediment to create a multimillion-dollar, Black-owned hair care company, died Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, at age 86. Funeral services were Monday, Feb. 19, at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Greensboro, N.C.

Born on May 9, 1937, in Aurora, a town near Beaufort, N.C., a young Mr. Dudley, with his mother’s help, overcame a speech impairment.

Mr. Dudley went on to attend North Carolina A&T State University, where he majored in business administration.

During the summer of 1957, he traveled to Brooklyn, N.Y., to find employment. While there, he met a salesman working selling Fuller Products, a hair care line owned by Samuel B. Fuller, an African-American entrepreneur, according to Black Entrepreneur Profile. In a few months, he earned enough money to continue his studies in the fall. After returning to A&T, he continued selling Fuller products on campus.

In 1962, Mr. Dudley graduated from A&T with a bachelor’s, and he moved to New York to become a full-time employee of Fuller Products.

As a troubleshooter for Fuller Products, Mr. Dudley traveled to cities with poor sales to determine how to improve sales.

In 1967, Mr. Dudley moved back to Greensboro and became an independent distributor for Fuller Products.

By the end of the 1960s, sales were low, and Fuller Products was struggling overall, so Mr. Dudley decided to make his own products at home. Mr. Dudley and his wife, Eunice, began their business by mixing shampoo and hair care formula in their kitchen in Greensboro, N.C.

Local regulations prevented this, and the entrepreneur was forced to stop home production of hair products. To continue producing hair care products, Mr. Dudley bought space in a strip mall for his new business, Dudley’s Beauty Center and Salon. From day one, the Dudleys’ successful business experienced more success.

By 1975, he had started Dudley Products Company and employed approximately 400 salespeople. His initial success also enabled him to start a beauty school, and a chain of beauty supply stores throughout the Southeastern United States.

Mr. Dudley never forgot his entrepreneurial beginnings. At Fuller’s request and to aid his former employer’s struggling business, Mr. Dudley moved to Chicago and ran both Dudley Products and Fuller Products.

In 1984, Mr. Dudley bought the rights to Fuller Products and moved back to Greensboro. In 1988, he opened Dudley Cosmetology University located in Kernersville, N.C., and the following year opened Dudley Beauty School with eight locations.

Mr. Dudley’s daughter now runs the company. In Chris Rock’s 2009 documentary “Good Hair,” Mr. Rock paid a visit to the Dudley Products factory during a segment on hair relaxer.