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 the 34-year-old Lewis. The salon specializes in servicing clients who have wavy, curly, coily and tight hair textures.
“I’ve been doing hair since 2006,” said Lewis, who previously worked in government, including at the state House of Representatives and in Detroit’s District 7. “This is something I’ve wanted for a while, though.”
Lewis is a Round 18 Motor City Match $25,000 cash grant awardee. She started her business with $100,000 in loans from Michigan Women Forward and ProsperUS Detroit, along with the Motor City Match funds. The salon is one of at least 15 Black woman-owned businesses set to open in Detroit this year, the city said in a news release.
Lewis said she made the push to open her salon a year ago after a two-year run at an Ulta beauty store location. As a top earner for her district, Lewis believed she maxed out her potential as an Ulta stylist.
“I quickly outgrew it,” she said. “There were no more pay raises, no career development or other opportunities for stylists.”
Her clientèle outgrew Ulta, too, Lewis said. Even though the country remained in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, she saw spring 2021 as the right time to make her move.
That move has brought her to run an 1,100-square-foot salon with space for six stylists.Joyola Mei Hair uses clean, sustainable, vegan-friendly products and Lewis said she’s also conscious of some allergies customers may have to certain products.
“Beauty doesn’t have to be wasteful,” Lewis said. “You don’t have to throw away the products, tools or hair you use. That can all be recycled. We do our best to be thoughtful of the brands we bring into the salon, too, making sure they all have ethical practices.”
Lewis is thankful for the ethics of the various groups she’s received assistance from. The entrepreneur is aware of the impact groups like Michigan Women Forward and Motor City Match can have.
“This is going to allow me to give back, build a legacy and become financially independent. That’s huge,” Lewis said. “All of those organizations work together. It’s a wonderful ecosystem where anybody who can help you will work to make sure you’re successful.”
Through 19 rounds, Motor City Match has distributed $9.1 million in grants for startups and new businesses in Detroit. Motor City Match and the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. said they have aided more than 1,400 businesses and since 2015 have helped facilitate the opening of more than 130 businesses. Applications for Round 20 are open through Friday
Lewis is excited about the prospects of her new business.
“I’m still taking everything in. I’ve cried so many tears,” she said. “My mind is blown at how this has taken off. I’m grateful to be in this position. I wake up, get to do what I enjoy, and make people feel good about themselves.”