Local hair stylist refuses to let COVID keep her down

Aaliyah Shields. Photo courtesy Jonathan Howard

Like many small businesses that have been drastically impacted by the pandemic, Aaliyah Shields has had her share of hardships. The 24-year-old is a hair stylist.

“I was unable to sell hair due to price increasing, and my hair vendor in Korea being closed,” she said.

To keep her business afloat, Shields found a solution to save her business by buying fewer items. 

“I would normally buy 20 to 25 wigs, but since the pandemic I have decreased them to 10 to 15,” she said.

According to Fox 13 news in Memphis, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found the number of active business owners in the country dropped from 15 to 12 million. Black-owned businesses suffered the steepest decline, at 41 percent while white-owned businesses declined by only 17 percent.

To assure that she and her clients are being protected and safe from COVID, Shields implemented safety precautions such as wearing a mask, cleaning tools, capes and chairs after every client, and checking temperatures at the door. Aniya, a devoted client, said: “I felt very comfortable while getting my hair done because of the rules and guidelines that were put into place to make sure that I was safe.”

When COVID caused most of the United States to shut down in March of last year, Shields had to find ways to continue marketing and branding herself.

“I continued to utilize my social media Truly_Laced_ on Instagram, paid Instagram models to promote my products on their Instagram stories or making a post, and I also began selling clothes,” she said.

Shields is the business owner of Truly Laced specializing in lace wig installations, sew-ins, and more. The name Truly Laced was inspired by feeling beautiful and confident after being touched by the hands of the hair slayer. Once the clients looked into the mirror after the finishing touches, seeing their lace wig coming out of their scalp, they have been truly laced. 

Shields declined the help from local government services, and the small business loan also known as the Paycheck Protection Program. 

President Donald Trump signed a $900 billion pandemic relief bill on Dec. 28, including the PPP small business loan. The Paycheck Protection Program is for small businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have seen a decrease of at least 25% during the pandemic. Borrowers can receive up to $2 million and give businesses more flexibility on how to maintain their business.

Shields used prayer and self-care as a way to stay in good spirits and stay in good health mentally. 

“I had more time to come up with new ideas, and to rest between clients to regroup, clean up and prepare for the next person,” she said.

Due to great customer service, strong reviews online and marketing with 7,000 followers, Shields continues to strategize and come up with new ideas to continue a successful business during this pandemic.