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Celebrating Our Black Solapreneurs image

As a community made up of over 15,000 entrepreneurs, it's no question that we are constantly in awe of the incredible dreams and accomplishments realized by our inspiring, empowering #SolaFam. So in recognition of Juneteenth, we wanted to give a special shout out to some our black Solapreneuers who truly embody what it means to achieve greatness. Our culture is built upon diversity and we are proud to recognize the contributions made to elevate our Sola community and industry as a whole. 

While we'd need more like a novel than a blog post to speak about all the incredible accomplishments these Faces of Sola have achieved, we've highlighted a few of our favorites below. Watch, read and enjoy getting to know these incredible members of our community as much as we have. 

Carlisha Duffey Nunnally

@sgnaturalhairstudio, 2020 Faces of Sola

Carlisha is a natural hair care and extensions specialist, as well as a makeup artist and photographer. Her mission is to guide, educate and empower each and every one of her clients. Carlisha is originally from Dallas, TX, but relocated to Kansas in support of her husband's military service. After relocating to Kansas, she decided to go to cosmetology school and go back to school for her BFA in art concentrating on painting and photography. In addition to her work behind the chair, she is a ballerina and a figure skater! On top of all of that, Carlisha is a two-time Midwest Hairstyling Awards Finalist. Is there anything she can't do?! 

For Carlisha, Sola has been a dream come true. "Since I was in cosmetology school, I knew I wanted to have my own salon suite. I discovered Sola, but the closest location was two hours away. I never gave up, and as fate would have it Sola Topeka opened 30 minutes from my home. I am finally on the path to creating the life I want. I am doing more of what I love. I am living my life by my own rules, and that was possible thanks to Sola."

Chissel Espinal

@chisselbeautystudio, 2019 Faces of Sola

Growing up in the hair industry, Chissel really never imagined she would have a career in it. She always knew she was made for artistry–she studied jewelry design abroad, dappled in interior design and even taught ballroom dancing. You name it, she did it, all on a quest to explore her creative passions outside of the salon. Everyone in her family expected her to be a hairdresser. Her mother, five aunts, and her two brothers are all hairdressers and master barbers...her mother’s water even broke while she was working on a client! But it was after doing makeup on a commercial set that Chissel realized the beauty industry really was for her. Following that experience, Chissel enrolled in beauty school and has been following her calling ever since. Thanks to having eight family members in the industry, Chissel knows how to work with every type of hair. Having grown up in a salon, she has an understanding of the importance of creating bonds and relationships with clients. It's clear to us and those around her that she had it in her all along. 

Chissel was recently featured in Modern Salon's 25 Black Beauty Pros and Salons You Should Be Following (and we definitely agree! 😉).

Cuyler Engram

@cuylerdidit, 2020 Faces of Sola

Cuyler is a youthful trendsetter, celebrated for his unique styles, vibrant colors, and crazy "creature makeup." He focuses on creating elevated experiences that are personalized to fit each guest's lifestyle and desires. Merging stylish sophistication with youthful vitality, he is able to produce a trend-setting creation every time. He has taught several hair color classes and techniques on national platforms such as The International Salon and Spa Expo, Premiere Orlando, and Houston Image Expo, and is now currently facilitating in-salon education for Eleven Australia. His career began in 2008 after attending the Aveda Institute-Tallahassee. His passion for beauty and art is what allows him to enhance and transform his guests' hair into customized lifestyle-based creations. Since embarking on his journey with Sola, Cuyler has significantly grown his business, knowledge and brand with the support of his Sola family.

Elom Thompson

@elomshairstudio, 2019 Faces of Sola

Elom's journey to success is nothing short of inspiring, uplifting and amazing! Elom grew up in Togo, West Africa and moved to the United States with her husband, whom she met in 2009 while he was working in the Peace Corps. At that time, she had no salon, no clients, and no experience in the beauty industry. She spoke almost no English and had to take classes at her local community college, and once she got some English under her belt, she enrolled in beauty school because she has always had a love for doing hair. She graduated beauty school five months pregnant. After she took her state license, with a 6-week old son, she began driving around looking for a salon to call home. She signed a Sola lease with no clientele, with no business background or experience, and five years later owns a thriving salon focusing on natural hair, extensions and braiding. Learn more from Elom about how to build a niche salon

Kenya Kirk

@acutabovephd, 2017 Faces of Sola

In addition to running a successful salon, Kenya is also an educator. She educates for Keratin Complex as well as in her salon through a class she created called Mommy & Me, which is targeted to support women who have children with hair that have a different texture than their own (especially if the child is adopted or is a foster). Her class will soon be turned into an online program called “The Texture Lab” coming January 2021. Kenya and her team focus on equipping any foster/adoption related agencies with all the tools and resources to help support the parents through the education process of natural hair. These classes are meant to not only help women learn and understand different textures and what they are working with but to also create a bond between mother and child. "The most awarding part of our experiences is the bonding amongst parents and children. This has truly made an impact on us as well as other families we have helped in the past."

Beyond her work in the salon, she is constantly giving back to her community in beautiful ways through her nonprofit, Dreams for Diamonds. "My family and I started a nonprofit that makes wigs for kids who have cancer. We hand make all the wigs and give them to a local hospital here in Austin, Texas. I make them out of bandanas, and I do this because I want to give the scalp a chance to breathe and to provide a quick solution for kids to wear to the hospital or around the house. It’s also important to me that the kids are given the opportunity to have fun with them so we include fun colors like pink and orange."

In addition to making the wigs herself, she also regularly teams up with local high schools hosting parties where students can help them build the wigs, too! "It’s a really great way to teach the youth how to give back to their community and also give them a chance to be creative and have some creative freedom while doing something good. And seeing what they create and what they come up with also helps me and jog ideas for when I’m creating them on my own."

Read more of Kenya's inspiring story.

Lashonda Banks

@tresselitesalon2, 2018 Faces of Sola

LaShonda is one of the best and well-known natural hair care specialists in Atlanta, Georgia. Her passion is to not only provide outstanding hair care services and styling to her clients but also to help build their self-esteem and confidence. As a young mother, LaShonda began her career as a hairdresser while raising her son. When he was only 10 years old, LaShonda took a leap of faith leaving her commission-based salon and go out on her own, where she opened her salon at Sola. She continues to thrive and grow, year after year. 

“I think life is full of obstacles and you have to push thru. You can either let the obstacles consume you or you can use the energy and push forward. It will pass eventually, but it is up to you on how you’re going to pass thru it. Do you let it take advantage of you and let it get the best of you, or do you accept it for what it is and grow from it and push thru? It’ll pass, but you have to look towards that light. Just keep moving.”

Polly Sanders-Peterson

@pollysanderspeterson, 2018 Faces of Sola

There is so much to say about our dear Polly. For starters, Polly is 75 years young and has spent 50+ years thriving behind the chair. She was the first black hairdresser and first black salon owner in Cherry Creek (an affluent neighborhood of Denver, Colorado). While she has many, one of her most powerful stories is about cutting hair the day Martin Luther King Jr. spoke, opening up her salon to cut white women’s hair for free that day alongside her black clientele. Her spirit, passion for people, and her outlook on life is utterly infectious and frankly, we could all use a little Polly in our lives. 

When she’s not giving top-notch service and care in her salon, she mentors inmates at an all-women prison. Polly has created a 12-week program that teaches these women about strength, and self-love, finding your purpose, and learning how to navigate life. She is devoted to her faith and helping her community. She is a trailblazer and pioneer for the black hairdresser community and actually, she’s the reason you can charge $65 for a haircut! Polly was one of the key players in making it so that hairdressers could raise their prices. 

Her best business advice is this: “Make sure you understand the working side of running a business, and not just focus on the styling side of it all. Spend time and surround yourself with people who are excellent at business development. I honestly think that’s what makes Sola so successful.”

Hear more from Polly on the Sola Stories podcast!

Sade Williams

@SadeMilindaStudio, 2017 Faces of Sola

NYC-based hairstylist Sade Williams worked at one of the most prestigious salons in the industry but knew she had the potential to build her own brand. She made the move to Sola because she wanted an intimate salon home for her guests, many of whom are high-profile models and celebrities. Coming from a high-end salon environment, Sola gave her the opportunity to design her studio and recreate that luxury feel. She even created an assistant/apprenticeship program where she trains her mentees on how to do high-end salon or editorial work in their own salons someday.

"Being at Sola has made me more confident in my business. It has taught me structure and responsibility. I get excited to go to work every day because I get to make my own rules. I have the freedom to be flexible, which allows me to focus on my personal life and salon life without being tied down."

Read more about Sade's inspiring journey!

Steven Wren

@mrwrencuts, 2020 Faces of Sola

Steven is a multiple award-winning barber and the creator of the FadeAway Barber & Beauty Expo. He started the FadeAway Barber & Beauty Expo in 2015 to showcase the talents of students, professional barbers, and cosmetologists in partner with some of Chicago’s hottest fashion designers. As the owner of Steven Brandon Hair Studio in Bloomingdale, IL., Steven understands the value of mentorship-based relationships which enable him to impact multiple people throughout the barber industry. Throughout his career, Steven has worked on fashion shows, photoshoots, platform education and portrayed a professional barber on the hit FOX television series Empire. 

Steven came to Sola because he was ready for independence has not looked back. "Within 4 months I was ready to upgrade to a larger storefront single studio. The clients that have been with me for years love it, and my new clientele feels the same way."

Hear more from Steven on the Sola Stories Podcast!

Tahesa Nelson

@hairbytahesa, 2020 Faces of Sola

Tahesa is a passionate cosmetologist and product educator living in beautiful Huntsville, Alabama. Born and raised in Madison, her love of the hair industry started during childhood. By the time she was in middle school, she already knew she wanted to be a hairdresser. Nearly two decades later, she is still doing hair and loving every minute of it. From distinct to more natural-looking and everything in between, she has a knack for creating the perfect look that suits her clients' unique needs. 

"Sola has made me a better person by helping me stay dedicated and more confident in my business and self. Since being at Sola I went from being 20-30% booked a month to being 80-90% booked per month. I have gotten so many new clients in the past 4 years I’ve been at Sola that I’m almost booked to where I’m not taking any more clients. It has allowed me the freedom to be flexible, which has allowed me to be a better parent to my son and has helped me balance work and personal life. I can say Sola has been a dream come true. It has really set me up for success with all the tools they have to offer!"