Cyrus Jackson

Cyrus JacksonIf you've ever perused the ethnic hair care section of any store, chances are you've seen a product created by Savannah State alumnus Cyrus Jackson.

Jackson, a 1977 graduate of Savannah State, is known within the ethnic hair manufacturing industry for revolutionizing care for natural ethnic hair. Though the entrepreneur sold his extremely successful company, Professional Products Unlimited, Inc., last year, the products created under his direction still dominate the market. A native of Savannah, Jackson was the first Savannah State student to receive a bachelor of business administration degree in marketing. After earning his degree, he relocated to Atlanta and entered corporate America, accepting a position at Whitehall Laboratories, a major consumer products organization. Jackson rose through the ranks at Whitehall Laboratories, becoming the highest-ranking African American in the company.

During Jackson's tenure at Whitehall Laboratories, the company launched Advil, the No. 1 selling ibuprofen pain reliever, in 1983. Jackson's relentless field sales and sales management leadership contributed to the brand's unprecedented sales volume and top market positioning.

In 1986, Jackson started his own sales and marketing company, B & J Sales, and in 1992, he launched Professional Products Unlimited, Inc., and began manufacturing his own line of hair care products.

"I always had the desire to own my own brand. It was one of my motivations for going to college and studying marketing," says Jackson, who founded the company with his wife, Brenda.

Under Jackson's leadership, Professional Products Unlimited manufactured and sold as many as 150 items, including the Jamaican Mango & Lime™ line of products, the No. 1 selling brand in the U.S. and abroad (including the Caribbean, Africa and London). The popular product was created specifically for grooming locs and twists, a hair trend that has emerged as a mainstay in ethnic hair styling.

Within the industry, Jackson is known for advancing natural hair care from trial-and-error maintenance into commercially viable hair care products. His innovation has led to numerous competitive brand entries, which now occupy desirable retail space and positioning within drug, food and mass merchandising retail outlets. In 2014, Jackson sold the highly profitable company to Universal Beauty Products in Chicago, Ill. Today, Jackson still owns a plant, located outside of Atlanta, which manufactures products for other companies.

Jackson credits his experience as a marketing student at Savannah State with much of his success. He was able to leverage the 'elements of marketing' he learned at SSU to create brand campaigns to drive sales of the natural ethnic hair care brands he developed.

Jackson and his wife, Brenda, are the parents of three daughters and reside in Atlanta. To give back to his alma mater, Jackson and his family established the Fred and Mattie Jackson Foundation fund in 2014. The fund pays tribute to his father, a laborer, and mother, a homemaker, who sent their children to SSU with limited resources.

"Savannah State is really dear to my family," says Jackson, one of 13 family members (including six siblings and one daughter) to graduate from the university.

The scholarship is geared toward first-generation college students who are interested in pursuing a career in education. Jackson envisions that the scholarship and his continued involvement with Savannah State will inspire students in two areas that are paramount in his life: education and entrepreneurship.

"I want more young people to see the value of a good education and to explore entrepreneurship," says Jackson. "The college experience is important because it gives one discipline and training, and the foresight to transform one's thoughts into creative, tangible solutions to bring to the marketplace to address needs that exist within our global communities. I'm really looking forward to coming down to Savannah State, meeting incoming students and doing anything I can to help."

By Amy Pine