A spotlight on black business owner Psyche Terry, founder of Urban Hydration
February marks Black History Month, an annual tradition that has been celebrated since 1976 when President Gerald Ford officially made the declaration. Celebrating Black History Month is a way to recognize the sacrifices and honor the contributions that African Americans have made throughout history.
But how do we give a nod to the past while also recognizing the future of our African American communities? Psyche Terry, founder of the beauty products company Urban Hydration, calls upon futurecasting.
Futurecasting is the process of discovering what opportunities the future holds. The concept encourages people to embrace the possibility of change, to open their minds to outside inputs and explore future possibilities.
We are delighted to tell the story of Psyche Terry during Black History Month. She's been supportive of our Jobs for Michigan's Graduates (JMG) program, most recently speaking at the 2022 JMG commencement celebration. Terry believes in the value of education and the opportunities it creates. The caveat is: you have to put your education to work.
Terry believes that it’s important to observe Black History Month because it’s a celebration of prominent black people who have also opened roads for all people. “Over time, we have seen the celebration change from a focus on history-makers in the 60’s and 70’s like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks to current conversations about people who are benefiting from their work,” said Terry.
As our interview with Terry continued, it became clear that although there is progress to be celebrated, there is still much work to be done.
Psyche Terry grew up in Benton Harbor, Michigan. She modestly said that she has the same type of education as anyone in her role. Terry graduated from Benton Harbor High School and went on to attend Western Michigan University (WMU), earning a Bachelor’s degree in Marketing. It is at WMU that Psyche met her husband and business partner Vontoba, seen pictured together when their products hit the shelves of JCPenny.
From there, Terry earned her MBA from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Lee Business School. She admitted that it wasn’t necessarily the education that was a challenge, because the real hard work came after those degrees. Terry participated in business programs with Goldman Sachs and Macy’s.
If the barriers to education weren't the challenge that threatened to derail her path, it could have easily been the pressure of her life plan. “What may be unique about my story is that it was never just about me. If I don’t, we won’t. It’s more important that we make it,” said Terry. When asked who she meant when referred to “we,” Terry definitively answered “the broader community of black and brown entrepreneurs.” It was obvious that Terry was not only working hard for herself but that she felt and perhaps still feels, the weight of community connected to her daunting vision.
“In my case, the option was to succeed or else. Work hard, not just for yourself. If you don’t succeed with what you have, you could close doors for others,” said Terry. People who may work for her company or partner with Urban Hydration may not even realize the pressure. Her words and the emotion behind them conveyed a level of stress that looms overhead that is big and deep.
Yet, even with all of this weighty tension, there is a positivity that shines through Terry and her actions as an entrepreneur. The statement “It’s all good, beautiful,” appears on her company’s website. When asked what that meant, Terry laughed a little and said “I’m a 90’s baby, so I have to pay tribute to MC Hammer, our culture and a love of music.”
There is an intentionality behind her positivity and encouragement. “We talk to our team members about being a happy person for that one customer at the end of the transaction. We want our customers to feel heard and be treated well,” said Terry. Their mantra is: Live good. Do good. Feel good. Look good. It’s all good!
There is also an intentionality behind the fact that Urban Hydration is a business that gives back. Terry was proud to acknowledge that Urban Hydration’s business model was always to build, do and give with heart. “It goes back to how I was raised in a single parent home. It’s important to give back because we were taking. We learned to ride a bike and swim at a community organization. We were raised by the community.”
So how can we all continue this virtuous cycle of good during Black History Month and beyond? Terry believes it’s important for all of us to help other people - both black and brown businesses as well as the “keyholders” - to understand that the contributions of a black owned business could be the next best thing. Support black and brown owned businesses with your business. Give them access to capital so they can grow, expand and flourish. Understand that it may be much more than just a business to them.
Be sure to look for our follow-up story for Women’s History Month, where you can learn more about Psyche Terry and her business Urban Hydration along with a special JMG youth that has been inspired by her actions. You won’t want to miss this story!
How can you show your support to a black or brown owned business during February and throughout the year?