Lewis, a licensed cosmetologist since 2011, opened her own salon this spring. Joyola Mei Hair, at 1432 Michigan Ave. in Detroit’s Corktown neighborhood, is the culmination of years of hard work for 34-year-old Lewis. The salon specializes in serving clients who have wavy, curly, curly and tight hair textures.
“I’ve been doing my hair since 2006,” said Lewis, who previously worked in government including the state House of Representatives and Detroit’s District 7. “It’s something I’ve wanted for a while, though.”
Lewis is a $25,000 cash grant recipient for the Round 18 Motor City Match. She started her business with $100,000 loans from Michigan Women Forward and ProsperUS Detroit, as well as Motor City Match funds. The salon is one of at least 15 black women-owned businesses slated to open in Detroit this year, the city said in a press release.
Lewis said she pushed to open her salon a year ago after a two-year run at an Ulta beauty store. As her district’s main earner, Lewis believed she had maximized her potential as an Ulta stylist.
“I quickly passed it,” she said. “There were no more pay raises, career development or other opportunities for stylists.”
Its customer base has also overtaken Ulta, Lewis said. Even though the country remained in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she saw the spring of 2021 as the right time to make a move.
This decision led her to run a 1,100 square foot salon with space for six stylists. Joyola Mei Hair uses clean, sustainable and vegan products and Lewis said she is also aware of some allergies customers may have to certain products.
“Beauty doesn’t have to be a waste,” Lewis said. “You don’t have to throw away the products, tools or hair you use. It can all be recycled. We also do our best to think about the brands we bring into the salon, making sure they have all ethical practices.”
Lewis is grateful for the ethics of the various groups she has received help from. The entrepreneur is aware of the impact groups like Michigan Women Forward and Motor City Match can have.
“It’s going to allow me to give back, build a legacy and become financially independent. It’s huge,” Lewis said. “All of these organizations work together. It’s a wonderful ecosystem where anyone who can help you will work to make sure you succeed.”
In 19 rounds, Motor City Match distributed $9.1 million in grants for startups and new businesses in Detroit. Motor City Match and Detroit Economic Growth Corp. said they had helped over 1,400 businesses and, since 2015, had helped facilitate the opening of more than 130 businesses. Applications for Round 20 are open until Friday
Lewis is excited about the prospects of her new venture.
“I still take it all. I cried so many tears,” she said. “My mind is blown by how it took off. I’m grateful to be in this position. I wake up, do what I love, and make people feel good about themselves.”