Operating within the confines of Cleveland, Ohio, Graciela was always in love with finding different ways of impacting the lives of both herself and others through her hair braiding business Hair By Guilty LLC. During her childhood, Graciela dreamed of creating a business that not only helps her make money, but to also make others happy. “I wanted to create a business that allows my customers to leave feeling beautiful, comfortable, and cared for”, She said. “I want my business to be a place where people come for relaxation.”
At first, Graciela did not have a vision for her company. When she was 17 years old, Graciela only wanted to have an opportunity of making extra income on the side, and did not yet possess the other half of what made a business successful: Customer Service. She would bicker back and forth with her clients when they were dissatisfied with her service, and she had to learn how to “agree to disagree” with her patrons and see eye to eye with them, as that was key for her consumer retention.
Eventually, Graciela wanted to differentiate her business from others with the powerful care and compassion she gives to her customers. While she’s braiding hair, she would have very personal conversations with her clients, seeing them as more than just another individual. One particular time, she had a patron who was going through a tough time in her life. She was going through the death of a loved one and had a hard time starting up her very own business, which threw her into a deep depression. However, Graciela was able to uplift the customer by affirming her that she will have a successful business. “Even though I don’t see myself as the best braider in the world, the connections that I make with my customers makes them want to come back. My hair braiding sessions feel like therapy sessions to me.”
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Just like anyone with a business, Graciela had to overcome her own share of obstacles. When she first started her company, she was having trouble finding the motivation to pursue it. At the time, she was struggling to find consistent clients, especially since there were a lot of other hair braiders in the community. She felt as if she was vying with other hair braiding businesses. She kept asking herself; “Is this field of work not for me?”, or “Am I not good at braiding?” Furthermore, she is the sole worker of her business. Graciela had to spend countless hours ordering and creating different hair oils from scratch all by herself, with the residual stress beginning to pile up on her every minute.
However, being the pioneer in her family to have a business, she wanted to set an example for them. When she had her two daughters, she gained a burst of motivation to continue running the business because she wanted to eventually give the business to them. “I can’t wait to have my own salon home where my kids, nieces and anyone else can use it as a hangout spot!” She said excitedly. With Graciela’s newfound motivation and success, her family became inspired by her grit and started their own businesses. Now, her brothers are in both the construction and food industries. Before she found support from her family, she had to seize the moment to find the support within herself.
Graciela’s overarching success came to a head when she received the opportunity to give back to her community. She was able to go to local schools and teach adolescents on how to do hair. There was a palpable moment she experienced when she did a project for a certain school a few years ago. She went to the school where teachers read their class a book on loving both their hair and themselves, and Graciela had different sorts of barbers and braiders do each student’s hair for free, showing them the value of self confidence and appreciating the hair that’s given to you.
Despite FOX 8 attending the project, she did not get paid for the event. However, this was an essential moment for her to show the students that loving themselves was very important to them–A moment that money can’t buy. “There’s some things that are better not getting paid for. Not everything’s about the money.” She said. She also hosts raffles at the schools and has a toy drive where her clients would donate used toys to be given away at The Salvation Army. Graciela not only cares about your hair; She cares about your soul, and she is a living example of what success means to her for her business: Tending to your customers, your community, and ultimately yourself.
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