Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide services, add jobs, keep our dollars local, support our local nonprofits, and lend color and character to our towns.
We check in with a few of West Volusia’s small business owners to hear their stories, and share some advice for small businesses and prospective entrepreneurs.
For small-business owner Kimeca Caine, finding what you have to give to others is a key to success.
“I think we all have something within us that we can bless somebody else with,” Caine said. “And if you figure out what that is and find your niche, find people who need that service, I think you can have a small business.”
Caine is a hair stylist, a designer and an author, who also has developed a line of natural hair products made with shea butter.
If you’ve got the entrepreneurial spirit, she said, she would advise you to go for it.
“When I was 13, I had a class called human resources. And I remember one thing from my class: Find a demand for something, and then supply it,” she said. “Supply and demand, right? And if you do that, you can be successful.”
Caine was aware early in life that she might be a natural at running her own business.
“I remember at 13 years old, with my friend in my yard in Jamaica, thinking: What can we produce that people would buy? So I’ve had the entrepreneurial spirit at a young age,” she said. “Everybody isn’t meant to be an entrepreneur, though. If it is in your spirit, then just try it.”
Caine didn’t start out on a path to small-business ownership. She attended college with the idea of being a graphic designer.
“I went to school and got a degree and haven't really used it, but it’s coming in handy now, because I do all my logos and my banners,” she said. “It has been a wonderful growth. And I think there’s a lot more, and a lot further to go. But I enjoy who I am. I enjoy who I am around. I feel like I have something to offer anyone that I come across. And I'm open to learning from other people.”
Part of business growth was branching out to write a children's book, with the aim to help young people she met as clients in the salon.
“Girls, on the whole, are looked at in negative ways,” Caine said. “There’s so much information that we get from a child by sitting down with them, spending some time, because we’re always on the go. So the time that they spent in my chair, they tell me a lot of stuff.”
She was prompted to write I Love My Kinks, Coils & Waves in part by the lack of representation and authenticity in popular culture and on social media, she said.
“When kids are looking at Instagram, they’re seeing people who don’t look like them and it breeds dislike in them themselves, I feel. I don’t see how you could be looking at something that doesn’t look like you, and think that that is beautiful,” Caine said. “I think that’s kind of an indirect signal to yourself to not accept yourself.”
She explained, “So the book came from just wanting to have more representation of people of different skin tones and different hair textures. I wanted for young kids to have something to look at and say, oh, that person looks like me, and oh, that’s similar to my story.”
Finding what she is good at, and what she loves to do, is more than just a business, Caine said.
“In my little way to help change the world, or impact the world, is to have everyone love themselves. Because if we love ourselves, then we will probably treat each other better,” she said. “It starts with us, because if we don’t like ourselves, we’re walking around angry. We’re going to interact with each other in that way as well.”
She said the job of hair stylist or aesthetician means more than most people think.
“I think people that do hair or any type of service to make you feel better should be right along with like, psychologists or psychiatrists,” she added, with a laugh. “Because they go hand in hand — when you look good, you kind of feel good. A lot of people are coming just for that reason, just to feel better after a year of or a few months of being locked in.”
Styling hair and educating others about how to care for their hair is a personal mission.
“It is a really personal mission for me,” Caine said. “And it just happened to work into what I can provide for somebody else, and it is monetary in some ways, but really I started out doing people’s hair just because I love to create and I love to use my hands.”
She’s glad to be a small-business owner.
“It is so fulfilling. It’s even probably more valuable than the monetary part of it … They sit in my chair, and sometimes they don’t trust me. But by the time they are done, they stand up, and it’s a whole different person,” Caine said.
And what’s her advice for those just starting out in their own businesses?
“Start,” she said. “Get an idea, and research it.”