Re-definition: The HBCUstory of Tennessee State Alumna Andrea Polk

Andrea Polk received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Tennessee State University where she was initiated into the Alpha Chi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc A licensed aesthetician, Polk is the owner of Solo Noir, a complete grooming line for ethnic men featuring natural 2-in-1 grooming products to make grooming simple. Fan Solo Noir on Facebook and follow Solo Noir on Twitter at @SoloNoirForMen and visit the website

My earliest HBCU memory is when I visited my older cousin at Tuskegee University during homecoming in the 1980s. I still have fond memories of that weekend. I watched him play in the marching band during the homecoming parade. I watched his frat, Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., stroll on the yard. I even went to the homecoming concert where Force MDs performed.

I chose to attend Tennessee State University because it felt like my initial HBCU experience. I fell in love with Tennessee State’s culture, history, and atmosphere the first time I stepped foot on campus.  I would love to say it was because of the university’s programs but honestly it was a feeling, a feeling that reminded me of home.

Tennessee State impacted me in ways unimaginable at the outset of my college career. When I began school, I figured that I would just stumble upon a career and a life plan.  Shortly after freshman year, I took a career assessment test which identified me as having an interest in business marketing. So, I switched my discipline and found my niche.

After completing my undergraduate degree I returned to TSU to pursue a master’s degree in supply chain management.  I didn’t know it then, but God was preparing me for this very moment. As a licensed aesthetician and the owner of Solo Noir, I have utilized my marketing skills to leverage relationships with companies to cultivate brand awareness and my supply chain management training to help manage my inventory and distribution channels.

Solo Noir is a complete grooming line for ethnic men featuring 100% organic 2-in-1 grooming products to make grooming simple. For years, the male ethnic skin care market has been overlooked. Solo Noir is the solution to the void.  We formulate organic skin care products that help moisturize the skin, assist in the prevention of ingrown hairs, soften course facial hair, and promote smooth skin.

Solo Noir’s 100% organic skin care products do not create a dependency on usage like most chemical skin care products in the industry. We focus on promoting a healthy lifestyle for our consumers while providing them with the products and tools to do so. In our efforts to emphasize empowerment in our consumers, we have named all our products after positive attributes of men: DAPPER a 2-in-1 Facial Wash/Toner, REFINED a 2-in-1 Facial Buff/Cleanse, SMOOTH a Skin Conditioner/Skin Smoother, BRAVE an Aftershave/Toner, and SLEEK a Pre-Shave/Shave Cream.

As a child growing up in a middle-class single parent home outside of Chicago, the word entrepreneur was never a term that was part of my vocabulary. Attending TSU helped make me the woman I am today. I often tell others that I am Nashville matured and Chicago raised, giving me a blend of Southern sweetness and Northern business aggressiveness.  It’s not always easy being a woman selling products to men. But I know what I like to see in a man and I’ve learned what it takes to succeed in business.

HBCU students interested in entrepreneurship should begin building networks while they’re in college. Join organizations, meet new people, and gain experience in your industry of interest. Your network of friends may one day be your clients or business allies. Most importantly, follow your dreams and don’t let others doubt your pursuit. Never give up on yourself.