Joe Louis Dudley (1937- )

Written By Adrienne Dunn

Successful entrepreneur, businessman, and founder of Dudley Products, an African American owned hair care company, Joe Louis Dudley and his wife, Eunice, began their business by mixing shampoo and hair care formula in their kitchen.

Born on May 9, 1937 in Aurora, a town near Beaufort, North Carolina, a young Dudley, with his mother’s help, overcame a speech impairment.  Dudley later attended North Carolina A&T State University, where he majored in business administration.   During the summer of 1957, he traveled to Brooklyn, New York 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. 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, Dudley graduated from A&T with a B.S. in Business Administration, and he moved to New York City to become a full-time employee of Fuller Products.  As a troubleshooter for Fuller Products, Dudley traveled to cities with poor sales to determine how to improve sales.  In 1967, 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 Dudley decided to make his own products at home.  Local regulations prevented this, and the entrepreneur was forced to stop home production of hair products.  To continue producing hair care products, Dudley bought space in a strip mall for his new business, Dudley’s Beauty Center and Salon.  From day one, Dudley’s successful business experienced more success.  By 1975, he had started Dudley Products Company and employed approximately 400 sales people.  His initial success also enabled him to start a beauty school, and a chain of beauty supply stores throughout southeastern United States.  

Dudley never forgot his entrepreneurial beginnings.  At Fuller’s request and to aid his former employer’s struggling business, Dudley moved to Chicago and ran both Dudley Products and Fuller Products.  In 1984, Dudley bought the rights to Fuller Products and moved back to Greensboro.  He opened in 1988, Dudley Cosmetology University located in Kernersville, North Carolina and the following year opened Dudley Beauty School with eight locations.