Former Educator Turned Entrepreneur Launches Black-owned Beauty Supply Store with SBA Community Advantage Loan
Lawndale’s newest small business is female-owned and ready to close the gap for black-owned hair care retail.
There’s a new movement afoot among Black women, and if Christina Smith has anything to do with it, it’s going to be loaded with “luv.”
Christina recently opened Curly Gurl Luv, a retail beauty supply store and community for black, brown, and multicultural women to shop, learn natural hair care and celebrate their beauty.
“I wanted to create a safe, clean, inviting space for women to shop for products designed to celebrate their natural hair texture and beauty,” Christina said.
Before launching Curly Gurl in Lawndale, California, Christina worked for six years as a special education teacher – but she always had a deep desire to give back to her community. Long interested in doing creative things with her own hair, she did a deep-dive into the hair-care retail sector and discovered that Black women are almost entirely absent from ownership.
Boosting Black Small Business Ownership
“Once I had the idea, I was all in,” she said, describing how she immersed herself in a nine-month beauty-supply program and engaged a consultant to help find shop space, negotiate a lease and contract with vendors.
With her shop location determined and the lease signed, all Christina had to do was build out the space to her liking. But that required additional funding. With the clock ticking before her first lease payment was due, she first turned to the South Bay Small Business Development Center. Advisors there quickly referred her to Noe Castillo, a loan officer with CDC Small Business Finance.
“I discovered Christina was a great candidate for our Los Angeles initiative that provides greater credit flexibility for African American and Latino entrepreneurs in low- and moderate-income areas,” explained Noe. “Christina was very proactive during the prequalification process and we got her approved for an SBA Community Advantage loan in short order so she didn’t miss any financial obligations.”
The Community Advantage loan (or SBA 7a) is an essential product for new and existing businesses that need up to $250,000 in financing. Offered by mission-based lenders, which are primarily nonprofits, the Community Advantage loan is focused on boosting economic development and creating access to capital for small business owners.
Susan Lamping, Vice President of Sales at CDC Small Business Finance, said the mission-based lender was one of the first to gain SBA approval to offer the Community Advantage loan.
“This loan program has proven to be an important tool for diverse entrepreneurs across the country to start new businesses, secure financing based on projections and receive much- needed technical assistance, ” Lamping said.
SBA Financing Comes Through In the Nick of Time
Christina characterized her CDC Small Business interactions with a sigh of relief: “We were definitely in a sticky situation time wise, but the people at CDC came through. Their turn-around was lightning quick.”
The financing Christina received was used to pay for new equipment and product inventory as well as cover other start-up expenses.
True to her past, Christina still has a passion for teaching so part of her business strategy at Curly Gurl Luv is to teach women how to appreciate and care for their natural hair and better understand the damage that processed relaxers and straighteners can do.
“I want to show women the fun they can have with their natural curls, including twist-outs and braiding,” she said, adding that her customers can also receive crochet styles and loc maintenance.”
Curly Gurl Luv
“I want to show women the fun they can have with their natural curls, including twist-outs and braiding,” she said, adding that her customers can also receive crochet styles and loc maintenance.
Christina’s long-term vision for Curly Gurl Luv is to provide space for a stylist in the shop as well add a nail tech and aesthetician to her staff. And then there’s what she calls her “big” vision – to invest in her Black community and support other Black-owned small businesses.
“I’m excited to teach others the value and importance of recycling the black dollar,” said Christina. “Our store is dedicated to supporting black business and highlighting black-owned brands.”