Today, professor and small business owner Erica Wilson came to speak with us about the importance of loving what you do. Erica, a dance professor at UMass, found that when she moved to the area, there were no natural hair salons or beauty stores. This sparked her interests in setting up her own business that could provide to women and men with textured hair in the Pioneer Valley. As always, before beginning the meeting, participants went around and introduced themselves and talked about their own entrepreneurial interests, if any. One participant excitedly told us about his wish to become a landscaper. With his previous work experience in mechanical work and general labor, he wants to become his own boss, but doesn’t know how to find clients. Another participant lamented his lack of inspiration, but shared that he was exploring all avenues and was still trying to find himself. A large majority of today’s meeting involved participants telling their own stories, about work and what they care about most. This was a good jumping off-point for Erica, as her meeting was all about finding work you love. Erica, for example, was always interested in being involved with education and accessible community resources. She started her business in hair cair and is working to become a licensed stylist. Erica was already a professor, but she wanted to know how one can sustain their entrepreneurial interests and make a living with them. She didn’t want to give up on her dream. She reminded us that when you have a business, you have a responsibility. It’s not just about the money, she told us. It’s also about working with your clientele. The good thing about having a vision, or an interest that you want to pursue, is you already know what you do and don’t want to do. So the path you have to take is all about seizing the opportunity and making sure everything is legally compliant. Using the landscaping participant as an example, we talked through his path. He already has the skills as talent, but no clients. So his first step would be to build up clientele. Once he has established a rapport and casual business with those people, he can take the steps to ensure his hypothetical business becomes a real one, through licensing and other matters. Erica didn’t think she was ever going to own her own business, but being in the right place at the right time, as one participant pointed out, allowed her to open Head Games, a beauty supply store in downtown Amherst. The area was in need of a beauty supply store and stylist that dealt with naturally textured hair, and Erica was the right woman for the job, so to speak. She had always lived in places that had these resources available, but Amherst didn’t. She also wanted to bring something new to the table: community-orientated education. Her shop is a hands-on experience, and Erica offers in-home consultations and styling. At her shop, customers are provided quality products, product education, and styling tips. Customers are encouraged to sample and play with products for the own hair. This approach, combined with Erica’s knowledge and ability to educate, makes Head Games a space where people can feel comfortable in and good about their own bodies. Erica stayed a bit longer to answer some questions before running off to open her store for the day! Participants inquired about how to create business plans and budget for starting up a company. Everyone agreed that Erica’s story, and her work, is beautiful and inspiring. You can find Erica’s natural beauty supply store, HeadGames, next to the Starbucks in downtown Amherst.
By: Sadie Mazur