ENGLEWOOD — Entrepreneur Demetria Hayden said she wants to open the city's first "Institute of Braidology" by next year to train women and men how to braid hair.
"The school would offer an eight-week course to prepare people to take the state exam, which is required to braid hair (in a shop)," said Hayden, 47. "Over the past year I have had a lot of young ladies ask me if they could work for me at my shop. And as bad as I need the help I could not hire them because they are not licensed."
In 2011, the Illinois Association of Hair Braiders successfully helped lobby for the passage of a new state law that now requires a person entering the hair-braiding field to have 300 hours of classroom and practical experience to get a license from the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.
In 1998, Hayden founded Altogether Lovely Inc., a hair salon at 1841 W. 63rd St., with her husband, the Rev. Wesley Hayden, pastor of the 98-member Love Unlimited Christian Ministries Center. Hayden said her husband also works as an engineer for the city's Water Department.
The church is conveniently located across the street from the two-story hair salon.
"Our church used to be located here at the shop. Back then the shop was located upstairs but when the church moved across the street in 2006, I moved the shop downstairs," Hayden said. "Upstairs is a three-bedroom apartment we are renting to a family that attends our church."
Braiding hair has been a custom in the African and black community for years, Hayden said.
"It has been the most enduring style of art in the African tradition, which includes cornrows, box braids and plaits," she added.
To start the school, Hayden said she needs $32,025, which would be used to rehab the vacant space in the church basement for the school. As of Thursday morning, Hayden had received online pledges totaling $2,492.
Regardless if she raises enough money online, Hayden she said she still would seek alternative financing.
"I tried getting a bank loan but was not approved. I want to keep cost to a minimum for students. A lot of people are out of work and cannot afford to pay a lot," said Hayden, who said each class could hold up to 10 students.
Hayden was set to meet Thursday with Ald. Toni Foulkes (15th) to see what assistance she could lend.
"Small businesses are always getting a hard time when it comes to funding. I am all for entrepreneurship and if this school could help others become just that then I am all for it," Foulkes said.
Hayden, whose 20-year-old daughter works with her at the hair salon when she is not pursuing a bachelor's degree in finance at Roosevelt University, has been braiding hair since she was 15.
"I would braid everybody's hair on the block when I was teenager. But little did I know that my brother was getting paid by everyone and never shared the money with me," she recalled.
Longtime client Pam Spurlock, 49, said she has been traveling from her home in south suburban Country Club Hills to the salon for the past 10 years.
"When you find someone who does good work, you don't mind traveling," Spurlock said. "I have tried other places closer to my home but was not satisfied."
The cost for braids varies depending on the style, said Hayden.
"I charge between $50 to $250 for braids. People say I am not charging enough but I am not trying to break anyone," Hayden said. "And I do not charge to take down braids either. I do it as a courtesy because I do not want my clients to damage their hair trying to take down braids."
The time it takes Hayden to braid someone's hair varies too. She said it could take between one and eight hours, depending on style and hair length.
Cynthia Grimm, 47, lives around the corner from the hair salon, and was at the salon Wednesday to get a touch-up on her braids.
"I love her. She is gentle, professional and fast," said Grimm.
While Hayden works in Englewood she lives in the New City neighborhood, where she grew up.
"The Englewood community is a low-income area where a lot of positive influences and opportunities are not readily available," Hayden said. "It has been labeled one of the most violent in the nation. But [she and her husband are] determined to bring some positive influences back into our community."