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Ernest Joshua dies; founded J.M. Products.

Ernest P. Joshua Sr., the founder and CEO of J.M. Products Inc. of Little Rock, died Thursday morning at Baptist Hospital in Little Rock.

Funeral arrangements, to be handled by Hubble Funeral Home in North Little Rock, were not available Thursday afternoon.

Joshua's company is one of the largest manufacturers of ethnic hair care products in the country. It is the largest black-owned company in Arkansas, with manufacturing plants in Little Rock and North Little Rock with more than 300,000 SF of production space. It also has affiliate operations in Jamaica and Africa.

Born in Jacksonville in 1928, Joshua started in the health and beauty products business about 40 years ago in Chicago, working first for Johnson Products Co., founded by another Arkansas business success, John H. Johnson, who died in August. Then Joshua struck out on his own, moving to Los Angeles in the early 1970s and eventually starting J.M. Products with a hair tonic called Isoplus, a line the company still makes. After some hard times in Los Angeles, during which he underwent cancer surgery and found himself going broke, Joshua moved his operation home to Arkansas in 1977, where his business flourished.

Joshua had been described as meticulous, quiet, demanding and generous. Friends and associates told Arkansas Business in 1987 that "Josh" was a methodical and deliberate manager who nevertheless relied heavily on his instincts when dealing with people.

"When I came to Little Rock, I didn't have any money," he told the newspaper in 1987. "All I had was confidence."

It paid off. Today, the company has more than 100 employees and dozens of products distributed throughout the world at retailers such as Wal-Mart and Kmart and through beauty and barber suppliers, beauty Schools, beauty salons, military outlets and wholesale distributors.

Michael Joshua, Ernest's son and company president, told Arkansas Business in 1995 that his father believed that running a business required hard work and discipline.

"My father knew in his heart that if he worked hard and reinvested his profits in his business, that his company would grow," Michael Joshua said.

"He took risks like all entrepreneurs do, but they were calculated risks. And he never took risks that would have jeopardized the business. He knew he had employees counting on those paychecks every Friday."

Ernest Joshua said as much in his 1987 interview.

"I want to put as many people to work as possible," he said. "If we can create jobs, it improves everyone's quality of life. That's the American Dream."

--Arkansas Business staff
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Publication:Arkansas Business
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Sep 26, 2005
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