A survivor of human trafficking starts a small business with just $400.
It all started with just a few hundred dollars. Entrepreneur Nakia Vestal escaped human trafficking as a teenager and started working in beauty salons and boutiques. After gaining experience and hating his job opportunities, Vestal decided to go into business.
In 2017, with $400, Vestal founded DollMaker Lashes, a beauty studio in Houston, Texas that offers eyelash extension services. She started small, building her clientele from home. But with perseverance, discipline and faith, Vestal has transformed her business into a full-service lash studio, with her own line of products.
“I started with just a bed of lashes and the tools I needed. And I had no marketing,” she said. “It was all word of mouth. I started from home in my dining room.”
Vestal’s business has been hurt by the economic downturn from the Covid-19 pandemic, but last year it received a $10,000 grant from Verizon’s Digital Ready program, which it attributes to its expansion.
Verizon’s grant helps small businesses impacted by the pandemic, especially in historically underserved communities. Nearly 800 small businesses have received grants of up to $10,000 to help pay for staff, rent and other financial needs.
Here are four tips that have helped Vestal succeed as an entrepreneur:
1. Apply for grants
2. Use social media
According to GlobalWebIndex, 54% of regular Internet users access social networks to research products. And this percentage is only expected to increase.
“Social media is free marketing. You have Facebook, you have Instagram, now you have TikTok. These are free tools you can use to really target the audience you’re trying to get,” Vestal said.
3. Look for free resources
In the digital age, you can find just about anything on the internet – from free courses and advice columns to virtual mentors and networking events.
“There are free resources. Don’t feel like there’s a dumb question,” Vestal said. “You really have to talk and you have to look for it.”