Alumni Spotlight: Therman McKenzie, ’70, and Cornell McBride

Classmates revolutionized the hair care industry

May. 10, 2018

Therman McKenzie, Sr., and Cornell McBride, Sr. met at Fort Valley State University as students and then went on to change the hair care industry forever. When the classmates launched M&M Products in 1973, they sparked a revolution in the black grooming business not seen since Madam C.J. Walker’s empire.

McKenzie created a formula to moisturize his hair and help it hold its shape, particularly important to blacks sporting afros in the 1970’s. The two experimented with the formula in a bathtub,  developing the Sta Sof Fro hair product, the first product specifically made to soften natural black hair.  They launched M&M Products, which earned $4 million in its first three years.* Later, they would develop and market the Sof-N-Free, Moxie, and Curly Perm brands. At its peak in the 1980s, the company made about $40 million annually.

Mckenzie earned his bachelor’s degree in science (agronomy) from Fort Valley State College in 1970, and then another bachelor’s degree in pharmacy from Mercer University before serving as chairman of the board of M&M Products, based in Atlanta.  After M&M Products was sold to competitor BML Associates for $25 million, McKenzie took a post as honorary consul-general of the West African Republic of Sierra Leone.

Born in Savannah, McBride attended Fort Valley State College for three years before transferring to Mercer University to earn his bachelor’s degree in pharmacy. After the sale to BML, McBride established McBride Research Laboratories in Decatur, developing the Design Essentials product lines, including Wave By Design which use a “natural balance of vitamins and protein that promote movement and manageability.” He is also the author of A Cut Above: How Cornell McBride Made Millions in the Hair Care Biz.

Read more about McKenzie and McBride in Jet magazine here.

Read more about Cornell McBride, Sr. through the History Makers here.