She escaped human trafficking as a teenager. Now she has a successful business she started with $400

Nakia Vestal was kicked out of her mother’s house at the age of 17, out of work, and broke. In an effort to survive, she became a stripper, then turned to other forms of sex work. Along the way, she became pregnant and ended up in a sex trafficking ring.

Determined to change course, Vestal managed to escape human trafficking in order to earn an honest living. In the process, the Knoxville, Tennessee native founded DollMaker Lashes, a beauty studio in Houston, Texas that offers eyelash extension services. She started her business with just $400 in 2017 and through hard work has grown her business into a full-service lash studio with her own line of products.

“I started with just a bed of eyelashes and my tools that I needed. And I had no marketing,” the 46-year-old entrepreneur and mother of two told CNBC. word of mouth. I left my house in my dining room.

Last year, she received a $10,000 grant from Verizon’s Digital Ready program, which helped her grow. This was after the pandemic affected his business due to low footfall due to lockdown measures, among other things. The grant, according to CNBC, was offered to small businesses impacted by COVID-19 in historically underserved communities.

Before starting her own business, Vestal worked in beauty salons and stores after she was able to escape human trafficking as a teenager. The experience she gained as an apprentice helped her start her own beauty business.

How did Vestal succeed in her entrepreneurial journey? What did she understand? According to her, her success was due to the following:

First, she explored financial options such as grants and small business loans for underserved communities. “There are resources, there are crowdfunding, there are small business loans,” Vestal said. “Especially those in under-resourced communities, minority businesses, veteran businesses, black business owners, and minority business owners.”

Vestal has also leveraged social media channels like Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to grow its business. “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.

Since many training resources come at a cost, Vestal used plenty of free material on the internet and advised others to do the same. “There are free resources. Don’t feel like there’s a stupid question. You really have to talk and you have to look for it.

Finally, she stood out from the rest and that was crucial for her success. She’s willing to give back to her community, and it helped her get the Verizon grant, she said. “You have to find something to surrender to. It’s not just about my business. No, we have to find a cause.

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