Beauty entrepreneur and human trafficking survivor Nakia Vestal has a truly remarkable story. After escaping from her captors as a teen, Vestal picked up the pieces and built her beauty business with just $400.
Following Vestal’s escape, she began working at beauty salons to gain experience in the competitive industry. She then attempted to find other job opportunities but discovered few options.
In 2017, Vestal founded her Houston-based business, DollMaker Lashes, offering eyelash extensions. Before acquiring her physical studio, Vestal ran her company from her home, eventually building it into a full-service studio with a product line.
“I started with just a lash bed and my tools that I needed,” Vestal told CNBC. “And I didn’t have any marketing. Everything was word of mouth. I started from home in my dining room.”
Like many small businesses, salons, and barbershops nationwide and in Houston, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted DollMaker Lashes. But Vestal didn’t let the virus sink her business. Through a $10,000 grant from Verizon’s Digital Ready Program, her beauty business flourished during the pandemic.
The human trafficking survivor mentioned how numerous options exist to assist those small companies in need of financial assistance.
“There’s resources, there’s crowdfunding, there’s small business loans,” Vestal said. “Especially ones that are in under-resourced communities, minority businesses, veteran businesses, Black business owners, and minority business owners.”
The entrepreneur also noted “free marketing,” another way company owners and entrepreneurs can market their products and reach their audience for free.
“You have Facebook, you have Instagram, now you have TikTok,” she said. These are free tools you can use to really target whatever audience you’re trying to get.”
Along with social media, Vestal included YouTube, offering resources like free courses, financial and entrepreneurial insight, and some networking events.
Furthermore, apps like Eventbrite have information regarding virtual or in-person conferences to network, obtain marketing advice, and talk with mentors. Some events are free, while others require ticket purchasing.