Through her small business, self-described natural hair culturist and entrepreneur Megan Davis is educating her community about African American hair heritage and history. She is also developing a line of handmade natural products that support healthy hair growth. Davis is one of several entrepreneurs that have benefited from free support and services provided by the Toledo Lucas County Public Library (TLCPL).
Davis opened The Kitchen Salon in 2007 to offer a holistic approach to natural hair care for African Americans. “I am a woman raised in a traditional African American family home with a strong faith foundation and awareness of our African Ancestry and American roots. I am adopted into all African cultures that span from Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon to Jamaica and Islands,” she said. “Everything I do in my business has been passed down through generations of Africans from across the waters through enslavement and a deep Southern upbringing.”
The Kitchen Salon is a three-part business that offers community education, hair styling, and products specifically designed for use with Black hair. In the last 10 years, she has conducted about 50 free workshops and presentations, most of which have been hosted in public meeting rooms at TLCPL.
These workshops have empowered her community to make better decisions that support the health of their hair and scalp, according to Davis. Building on the success of those workshops, Davis began researching various herbs and natural remedies that she is incorporating into her hair care products. “I call myself a natural hair culturalist as opposed to a stylist. Because it’s not just about the style,” Davis said. “It’s about the health benefits, the culture, and the aesthetic of African hair.”
Davis says the support she has received from the Library was helpful for building the educational component of her business. Small business owners can take advantage of the TLCPL’s free rooms and amenities, such as multimedia equipment, hosting meetings, seminars, and workshops, plus other activities.
Davis has used the meeting spaces provided by TLCPL to host many of her public education workshops. Access to this infrastructure defrays some of the costs associated with planning and running events. It has enabled Davis to continue offering her seminars and workshops freely to the public. “Those workshops and presentations have been attended by members of our community and have positively impacted them to help them to make better decisions about their haircare [and] overall health of their hair,” she said.
Davis also benefited from being mentored by Library staff member, Linda Fayerweather. Fayerweather is a Business Specialist Librarian in TLCPL’s Small Business and Nonprofit Department and is a former entrepreneur and business coach. In a series of one-on-one mentoring sessions, the two worked on various tasks including designing a business plan for The Kitchen Salon and defining specific business goals. “She has a wealth of knowledge, being a former entrepreneur and business coach, to help me [prioritize] what my business needs are, … [and] redevelop, or revise my vision, my purpose, and my mission moving forward,” Davis said. “She gave a great deal of thought and care to each detail.” This is in contrast with a previous entrepreneurship program that Davis participated in which she said offered a lot of helpful information on building a business plan, but not the kind of personalized support she received at the Library.
Providing services that meet the needs of the small business community in Toledo and Lucas County aligns with the TLCPL’s mission. In addition to amenities and mentoring, the Library has compiled a list of resources for small businesses that it provides as a free pdf to the community. The resource includes lists of books, trade publications, and databases of information on businesses in North America. The resource also provides helpful information on setting goals, creating a business plan, obtaining business licenses, and developing marketing plans. It also includes a list of federal and state support resources that small business owners can tap into.
With the support she received from TLCPL, Davis is continuing to grow and expand her business. She is now focused on expanding her business by monetizing some of her content and further building out her community education efforts. “I’ve offered plenty of free and helpful information to the community for a number of years, and that has created a great haircare business for me,” she said. “However, my forte and passion is in education. And in order to continue doing that I needed to find a location of my own.”
Davis is open to working with the Library in future. And she has some ideas for what kinds of support would be helpful for small businesses like hers. “Business owners really need financial help,” she said. “They need to know how to track business [financials] besides ‘download QuickBooks’ and ‘file taxes with TurboTax.’” Davis has begun compiling some of the information on her own, but she plans to tap into the Library’s resources to answer some of these financial questions. Davis recognizes that libraries tend to be resource-challenged and often must make difficult decisions about how to prioritize and allocate funding. Even with these challenges, TLCPL has worked hard to support local small businesses. “[The Library is] much more intentional now about designating spaces for business development,” she said. This includes providing “larger scale printers, digital resources, audio visual for podcasting or to record music, and things of that nature,” she said.
After benefitting from TLCPL’s support, Davis hopes to share what she’s learned about running a small business with other aspiring entrepreneurs.
This blog was adapted from materials authored by Knology, a social science research and evaluation nonprofit. These materials were produced in partnership with Urban Libraries Council for the Strengthening Libraries as Entrepreneurial Hubs initiative, a project funded by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Knology was the independent external evaluator for the project and is solely responsible for the content in the original material.