What's the story behind your entrepreneurship journey?
I’ve always known that I wanted to work for myself. When the pandemic hit, I tried starting a makeup product line. It turns out that selling makeup products can be challenging when you can’t interact with people or see their faces, so I decided to go to school and earn my esthetician’s license instead.
My spa, URZ Professional (pronounced “yours”), primarily serves Black women. Women of color often don’t have places to go where people understand our skin and our particular needs. At most typical salons or parlors, we receive run-of-the-mill treatments that don't always work for us, since most treatments are designed for lighter skin. So it was really important to me that my spa would specialize in services for Black people and carry Black-owned cosmetic products.
My family has been through a lot of hardship; my grandmother was bipolar, and my mother and I were both teen moms. My brother was murdered. But my church and faith have played a huge role in my healing—my childhood pastor started a foundation to keep Black families together, and he wrote the word “others” over the door. It was to remind us that our blessings aren’t just for us, they’re for other people too.
What led you to CO.STARTERS?
Most people don’t realize that beauty is a business. That’s what dawned on me as I was earning my esthetician’s license. I had no idea where to find a room or building to work in, and I didn’t even realize how much help I would need finding a lawyer or getting my accounting and insurance set up. There was so much stuff that I thought I needed, so I was hoping someone could teach me what was necessary and what wasn’t.
My uncle told me about CO.STARTERS, and Knoxville Entrepreneurship Center happened to be taking applications as I was searching for help.
"Before CO.STARTERS, entrepreneurship felt so inaccessible, like a secret sauce I didn’t know the ingredients to. The program gave me a plan and helped me get myself together as a business. I would go through it a thousand times over."
What lessons from your CO.STARTERS experience have stayed with you as you operate a small business?
CO.STARTERS showed me how to get all the basics set up. The lawyer, the accountant, etc. Those are so important, and I don’t think most people know how to get that foundation in place.
I also learned about crowdfunding through CO.STARTERS, which wasn’t something I had heard about before. Because of CO.STARTERS, I ended up funding my business through a crowdfunding effort, with contributions from tons of people in my community.
Now, women who want to start their own businesses are asking me for advice, and I can answer their questions and point them to reliable resources. CO.STARTERS empowered me to help other women in the community.
Before CO.STARTERS, entrepreneurship felt so inaccessible, like a secret sauce I didn’t know the ingredients to. The program gave me a plan and helped me get myself together as a business. I would go through it a thousand times over.
What advice would you give to entrepreneurs who are facing the same challenges you faced a couple years ago?
Be patient. All good things take time. Just keep seeking knowledge and learning.
When things don’t happen right away, we think it’s not meant for us. But what did Thomas Edison say? You’re just learning all the ways it won’t work first.