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  • Khaila King

Breaking into the Bloomington Beauty Business

Minority owned businesses are on the rise nationally, but they make up less than six percent of the total number of businesses in the state of Indiana according to the US Census Bureau (2001). However, those numbers did not deter Jessa Watts from starting her line of natural beauty, health, and hygiene products and establishing her beauty supply and salon in the city of Bloomington. Named after her children, Empress A’Shauntess has been established in Bloomington for around 8 years, providing a variety of services to the community. Watts gives insight on how to break into a competitive market and maintain success as a minority:

· What were challenges you faced when starting Empress A’Shauntess?

“In this line of business everyone is pretty much for themselves. It takes a long time to establish connects. No one wants to share that information with you, because it may have taken them 7 or 8 years of just crawling and contacting the right people. Secondly, I know a lot of people and to be honest with you, it’s hard. The people you know are less likely to do business with you versus the people you don’t know. It is almost like they are afraid to see you get an extra dollar, or they are afraid that their dollar may help you reach a next plateau. Knowing everybody can hurt you or it can help you. Eventually they fall in line, but it takes for them to see strangers helping you out and being there for you before they say ‘alright, here I am.’”

· What have you learned, and considering that information where do you see yourself going with Empress A’Shauntess?

“I learned how to communicate with people from different walks of life. Bloomington is very diverse. You meet so many different people with so many different backgrounds and everybody is open. The vision is to have a chain of beauty supplies, all named after my kids. I want the biggest beauty supply company in Bloomington, and for people to come from all over Indiana to visit it. The next step is getting out of this small location into a bigger one to service a broader range of people and offer more services.”

· What are some words of advice that you would give to other aspiring business owners who face the same kind of systemic oppression that you do?

“Stay focused, keep your eye on the prize no matter what any one is saying. Do not buy into anyone’s fears about what you have planned for you. Your dreams, your goals, if you can think them and envision them, you can definitely manifest them.”

Thankful for her family, her clients and the lessons she has learned so far, Watts says she hopes to one day expand her business into a chain and expand her services following the motto, “we are not doctors, just lovers of nature.” Empress A’Shauntess is one of over 60 minority owned businesses in Bloomington, which can be found through the Bloomington minority and women owned business directory.

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