ShearShare Co-Founders Courtney And Tye Caldwell Are Showing Up For Their Buffalo Community After The Racist Mass Shooting

At the end of last year, Courtney and Tye Caldwell, the husband-and-wife duo behind ShearShare, an app enabling beauty professionals to rent booths at salons, spas and barbershops affectionately nicknamed “HairBnB,” moved from McKinney, Texas to Buffalo, N.Y., after winning a competition held by Buffalo-based accelerator 43North.

Less than six months later, 18-year-old white supremacist Payton S. Gendron opened fire Saturday at a Tops Friendly Markets store, killing 10 Black people three miles from where they live. Beauty Independent spoke to the Caldwells following the horrific mass shooting about how it’s impacted them, the importance of showing up for their community and the unshakeable pride of Buffalo residents. Below, in their own words, they share what they’re feeling and the actions they’re taking.

Mentally, we are sound and sane, and I would say that we’re healthy. Emotionally, we’re sad, and we’re very awestruck by all of the things that have happened. We live now in this city of good neighbors and a close-knit community with pride. Everybody rallies together, and there are two degrees of separation from the next relationship. It means a lot to be a part of this community now. It’s worth noting that what happened wasn’t done by the hands of someone from Buffalo, it was done by someone 200-plus miles away.

We’ve been in this melanated skin all of our lives. We know what we’ve had to deal with. We can’t even go into a grocery store and feel safe. We are always targeted compared to our white counterparts. Even in this situation, he gets to walk away with his life. We’re seeing videos where he pointed the gun at a white person and said, “I’m sorry,” almost like, “I didn’t mean to point at you. I’m looking for Black people to kill.” That scares the hell out of us, I’m not even going to lie to you.

I’m trying to get into the mind of this 18-year-old. The fact that you get in your car, you got dressed that morning with tactical gear, you loaded the gun, you put the gun in the vehicle, you put gas in your car, you started the engine, you drove for miles avoiding police officers, stopping at stop signs, probably getting out and going to the restroom, and you finally make it to Buffalo to that Tops grocery store and just start unloading on innocent bystanders. The amount of hatred and evil that has to be wrapped up in an individual in order to pull that off, I don’t think I’ll ever understand.

“This kind of trauma happens over and over and over again, and it’s difficult to see an end to it.”

We saw everything that happened with George Floyd. That was the world waking up just a little teeny tiny bit to what we experience as African American men and women. It’s almost like this kind of trauma happens over and over and over again, and it’s difficult to see an end to it. We’ve lived in different areas, mainly in the south, where this happens quite frequently. Then, to pick up and move to Buffalo, which we are in love with, they have truly embraced us as people, regardless of the color of our skin, and see that this can truly happen anywhere, it’s sad.

Buffalo is, what, 35% African American? I think about those folks who passed away, who died at the hands of a racist terrorist. They were the ages of our parents and our grandparents and siblings and even younger siblings. It’s just a constant reminder that, regardless of age and stage in life, we leave our homes where we feel the most protected and walk outside in America, and we are reminded that our lives are not always valued.

Even though there were 10 people slain, there’s a ripple effect. The city is hurting really, really badly because these people are known to their families, they’re known to their friends, to their community, to their jobs. It’s really going to take some time to heal, but we’re really believers that God is going to help comfort us through this. We’re just going to continue to believe, and take the consoling spirits that we have and permeate that into the city as much as we can.

We’ve had a lot of people reach out to us—investors, people in our network—to help us and give donations of food back to that community, which we will start doing now. We’re hosting a food drive in the office with the 43North team. They’re also going in full throttle to assist in any kind of way. We held a vigil via Zoom a couple of days ago. We said a few words and gave everybody space, whatever it is that they needed, to be able to heal. For example, a couple of our team members elected to work from home. It’s one of those moments where you’re completely emotionally wrecked.

There are a number of volunteer efforts that are underway in the city. We were invited to be a part of a program called Leadership Buffalo. We had a chance to meet the mayor, chat with different politicians and understand the fabric of the city. We learned there that the Tops was located in a food desert. It’s time for us to get on the ground and go over to the Tops. Although it may be a scary situation to drive to a place where this atrocity just happened, there’s no better way that we can show our love and support than to just give someone a hug and be present.

The only thing that I can do in my mind is to extend love to whoever is hurting and that’s what we’re doing, whether someone needs prayer, a hot meal, nonperishable food items, or to scream and holler. We’re just showing up. We do that for our community wherever we are, and so we’re doing that for the city of Buffalo.

We have an event that we were planning already prior to the killing that’s going to be held on Monday. It was to rally the local hairstylists, barbers, nail technicians, massage therapists, makeup artists and braiders, and invite them to the Seneca One building for a time of networking and education. So, you can just imagine the variety of things that are going through our minds now, thinking about how we can even better support this community that has embraced us.

We’re doing that from an industry level, but also doing that from a leadership level. We know Buffalo is full of pride about its community. They love their city, so there’s nothing like bringing the city’s professionals to a networking event, not just to get to know us, but to get to know one another and continue to push forward and support one another in what we’re doing. We know that we live in a competitive market world when it comes to businesses, but, in our particular industry, we consider it more community than competition. This right here will be a moment of healing.

“With moments like this, you start to realize how important life is and how secondary certain things are.”

We haven’t really tapped into how the shooting has affected the community of barbershops and salons, but I’m sure some of the slain victims were part of those communities. There are a couple of people who have canceled their appointments just because a lot of people don’t want to go outside. Salons, barbershops and spas have already always been a pillar of the community. The event is going to be us reminding our fellow cosmetologists, barbers and owners about the impact that we can have because we exist in every single city and every single town, whether big or small.

With moments like this, you start to realize how important life is and how secondary certain things are. Yes, we run a company. Yes, we have employees, and we are also trying to do something great in the world. When something like this happens, you just have to segment what’s important and take some of that time that you normally work and give it up for the greater good. Situations like this prove that we have so much more to do and so much more to endure, and it keeps you motivated. It reminds you that you’re here for a reason and that there are people to support. This is a moment where we bring everything that we have within ourselves and the people that we know in the networks that we know and just give it to Buffalo.

When you still have things like this happening because of the color of one’s skin and the hate that is happening around us, it goes to show that we have so much farther to go, and we have so much more to teach. People need to educate themselves and stop hiding from the truth or things that they don’t want others to know. I think with the president speaking and the governor speaking a couple of days ago, it goes to show you that this has affected everyone. People are talking, they’re seeing the problem, and it has to be fixed. It’s very important that, when things like this happen, we don’t just say, “Oh well, the same thing happened last month. We’re going to sweep this one under the rug.” We need to talk about it, and even if it gets one person to think differently, that’s one person that didn’t before.