Beauty and community can be magical things when perfectly balanced. Just ask Aesha Ray, an accountant turned retail entrepreneur redefining what franchise beauty supply will look like in the future.
Aesha Ray owns Envy Us Beauty Supply, a chain of two black-owned beauty supply stores in Alexandria, Virginia, and Fort Washington, Maryland. As far back as she can remember, Aesha dreamed of owning her own business. In grade school, Aesha made and sold jewelry and snacks and did hair on the side for extra money.
“I always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” said Aesha. “I wasn’t sure how I would hone that as an adult in my career.”
At seventeen, Aesha started her first business. She had no experience as a real entrepreneur and needed to learn what it took to own a business. But through research and help, she gained valuable first-hand knowledge on how to run a business. Aesha understood the concept of expenses and profit at a young age, which gave her the confidence to become an entrepreneur and eliminated any fear.
After high school, Aesha went to college and studied business. Though she didn’t know what industry she wanted to be involved in, Aesha knew she would either run a business for someone or create a business for herself. Her business degree gave her a strong foundation as an entrepreneur.
Upon graduating college, Aesha entered corporate America and became an accountant. While the salary and lifestyle were excellent, after a few years, Aesha realized she wanted to return to the entrepreneurial mindset that had motivated her journey up to that point.
In 2018, Aesha quit her corporate job and opened a beauty supply store.
“I expected to create some freedom for myself,” said Aesha. “Grow in a career and business without limits.”
Though she enjoyed the acclaimed freedoms of entrepreneurship, Aesha realized that the commitment was more significant than any job she had ever had.
The realities of business ownership were more rigorous than she’d imagined. While she set off with high expectations, the truth was that it takes time to scale a business.
“I went into it eyes wide shut,” said Aesha.
Fortunately, Aesha was not alone. Aesha discovered Wacif last year, which helped her build community and connections.
“The community I was looking for, I found through Wacif and going through that cohort,” said Aesha. She is still close with many of the people she met through Ascend Thrive, Wacif’s business growth program.
Aesha also praised Wacif for bringing real-world knowledge and experience to her toolkit. Though she’d developed a strong business foundation, Wacif gave her a greater understanding of marketing, accounting, HR, and other principles to keep her business strong.
Aesha has learned over time that nothing great is built overnight. She shares that patience is the most important lesson she has learned.
As an advocate of change, Aesha has seen that the entrepreneurship landscape changes daily. Great entrepreneurs adapt to change as the world changes to meet the needs of those they serve.
In addition to her most recent store’s grand opening in Fort Washington, Maryland, Aesha hopes to move into a franchise model soon, helping other entrepreneurs license beauty supply stores while expanding her brand.
You can support Aesha and shop her beauty supplies at either Alexandria, Virginia, or Fort Washington, Maryland locations and online. Small businesses can also sign up to do a pop-up at either location. For more information, please check out her website: https://www.envyusbeautysupply.com/