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In 2010, Connecticut-based Tanisha Akinloye decided to close her hair salon and start Empowering Through Beauty, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to serving and styling women and girls experiencing major hardship. Prior to launching her nonprofit, as her clients shared the pain of divorces or living with AIDS, Akinloye says she felt “a strong mandate” to do more than listen.

Three years later, she says she’s provided 300 beauty services, and 30 percent of her clients have recovered from drug abuse and/or secured housing. Though her income is now largely reliant on donations, Akinloye says her work couldn’t be more rewarding.

“Knowing that I am supporting them with the beauty God gave me allows them to see their beauty and shine brighter each day. That’s fulfilling!

MadameNoire Business: How did your loved ones react when you decided to leave your for-profit business and go nonprofit? 

Tanisha Akinloye: My family was very supportive because they saw my passion and my immense desire to empower women and girls. I really believe that when they saw my passion, it gave them the drive to be supportive. My family is very spiritual, so their faith in God, along with mine, made it a very easy transition for me.

MNB: What was the process of closing shop and transitioning from for-profit to nonprofit?

TA: Actually, when I had my salon, I catered to the less fortunate every Monday and Tuesday before I decided to close shop. It was my honor to serve the under-served women and girls in my community. One day I spoke to my pastor, and I told him that I felt I needed to do more as a hairdresser to help women and girls who lost themselves due to bad circumstances or even the transitions of life. It was like I knew exactly what I was born to do.

MNB: Did you ever doubt your decision?

TA: Launching my nonprofit, Empowering through Beauty, Inc., wasn’t a hard process because I didn’t think or doubt what God called me to do. The only thing that made the process hard was having to tell my employees I decided to close my salon knowing they didn’t want to leave. It wasn’t hard to tell my clients because they loved the heart I had for others. My clients always told me they saw something bigger in me than just working inside the salon—they saw my passion to make a difference in women’s lives.

My confirmation that I made the right decision was receiving my nonprofit status so quickly. Everything just fell into place; as it only took one month for me to receive my 501(c)3 for the nonprofit. At that point, I knew that the favor of God was upon me and that I was definitely on the right track.

MNB: What specific services do you offer?

TA: We provide hair color, haircut and style, hair treatments, manicures and facials for women of all ages. For girls ages 10 and up, we provide hair treatments, haircuts and manicures. Upon request, we also provide haircuts and grooming for boys and men of all ages.

…[W]e also provide educational workshops for our clients such as hair and makeup applications, résumé writing, job training, self-empowerment workshops, and seminars. We want our clients to feel motivated and confident with their new look.

MNB: How do you generate income?  

TA: Empowering Through Beauty, Inc.’s income is generated from donations, conferences, seminars, fashion, beauty shows, grants and sponsorships.

MNB: What is the most fulfilling and challenging aspect of your work?

TA: The most fulfilling aspect of my work is the fact that I have the chance to live a [life] full of purpose, and meet some amazing individuals who are appreciative, hopeful, and determined to live a better life. Knowing that I am supporting them with the beauty God gave me allows them to see their beauty and shine brighter each day. That’s fulfilling!

The most challenging is not having all the resources I need to be more effective, as we are always looking to establish more relationships with beauty professionals who are willing to donate their time, and continued financial support always makes a world of difference. We do what we can to bring a smile to our client’s faces, and it takes a strong, diligent team to continue to make that happen.

Visit the Empowering Through Beauty Facebook page to learn more about how you can support Akinloye’s work.

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond is the author of the novel Powder Necklace and founder of the blog People Who Write. Follow her on Twitter @nanaekua.

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