Courtesy of Zhariah Mitchell
Student stylists showcase entrepreneurship skills
Girls walk the halls with fresh braids after the break. With perfectly straight parts and sleek sections, these braids look as if they were done by a professional hairstylist. Sophomore Kristina Holt has been a hairstylist since sixth grade. With a perfected craft by eighth grade, her business soon took off.
Her services include braids, such as knotless and box braids where synthetic hair is braided with natural hair to create the look of longer natural braids, sew-ins, which are achieved by braiding natural hair into cornrows then using a sewing needle to sew on hair extensions and natural hairstyles, such as a simple blow-out to straighten natural hair.
“I wouldn’t say I’m as good as professionals, but my dedication and quality are definitely there,” Holt said. “I put the same respect and amount of time they put into their services into mine.”
Customer service and client care are important to Holt. She provides snacks, water, movies and blankets during hair appointments.
“I try to make sure my clients are as comfortable as possible,” Holt said.
Freshman Zhariah Mitchell is also a hairstylist. Specializing in natural hairstyles as well, she started her business in seventh grade.
“I started doing my own hair at first before I could do it on other people,” Mitchell said. “People would always ask, ‘Who did your hair?’ and told me that I should really do other people’s hair.”
Along with her hair business, Mitchell also provides nail services, such as acrylic and gel manicures. She also started doing her own nails and then started garnering clientele after perfecting her skills. However, running two businesses can come with challenges.
“The experience of running these two businesses has been good, but it’s hard to have to depend on people to book with me,” Mitchell said. “Some people cancel, which feels like a slap in the face.”
Junior Jordyn Morton has gotten both her hair and nails done by Mitchell. Compared to professionals, Morton sees no difference in the services they provide and Mitchell’s.
“It seems as if I’m getting the same work from [Mitchell] that I’m getting from professionals,” Morton said. “Her prices are way lower, so it makes me feel like some of the professionals are just overdoing [the price].”
Morton notices a customer dynamic different than those of professional services.
“When it came to her doing my nails, I felt much more comfortable than going to the nail salon,” Morton said. “[Mitchell] talked and made sure I was okay and my nails were okay, but at the nail salon it seems like they just don’t care.”
Like Mitchell, Holt also has another line of work along with her hair business. In sixth grade, Holt started a clothing line named Saucin’ Trendz. She sells both men and women’s streetwear, including bright-colored sweatsuits, graphic t-shirts and vibrant printed jackets.
“I kind of just have to remember: two separate businesses, two separate times, two different focuses,” Holt said. “Running these businesses have put me on a path where I feel like I’m dedicated to getting new money every day, and I just honestly love it.”
Holt and Mitchell both reach out to customers on social media. Instagram profiles provide a platform for advertising their businesses
“The love is real. People get their hair done then they tell the next person, and social media is a big help,” Holt said. “I’ve learned that it’s not about what you know, it’s about who you know, which helps get clients.”
After high school, Holt plans to continue her work and expand her business.
“I plan to go to beauty school to get my license, at least, but I hope to own a beauty bar where people can get their nails, hair, make-up, and lashes done,” Holt said.
Like Holt, Mitchell also plans to obtain her license in cosmetology to turn her side business into a career post-graduation.
“After high school, I plan to attend Paul Mitchell cosmetology school,” Mitchell said. “After I graduate from there, I want to open my own cosmetology school; so, I can teach others.”
However, Mitchell also notices the influence of race in student entrepreneurship, especially in the hair and nail industry.
“A lot of black girls are scared to start their own business, so, I think it’s important that people like me motivate them and tell them, ‘You can do it just like I am,’” Mitchell said. “It’s hard sometimes, but I encourage them to try.”
Morton commends students at Grady who run their own businesses. She enjoys seeing people she knows become successful.
“It’s good to start black-owned business but also just starting young and working our way up,” Morton said. “Sometimes, I feel like the older people aren’t accustomed to the younger generation and how we feel, so it’s best to have young people providing these services.”
Holt believes anyone can start a business, believing that the best time to start is while you are still young. She contributes her success to dedication and urges others to devote time into their craft as well.
“There’s money out here for everyone if you just have dedication and put time into it,” Holt said. “I’ve learned what you put in is what you get back. Entrepreneurship should start now because the ‘youngins’ are really ruling everything right now.”
This story was originally published on The Southerner on January 29, 2020.