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From Hair Salon Owner to Landlord, How Ashley Gorham is Fulfilling her Dream of Growing her Community

Ashley Gorham – Roanoke Rapids

We know that entrepreneurs who want to start or grow their business often need to lean on more than one organization in order to make their small business dreams come true. Entrepreneurial Support Organizations(ESO) are critical partners to CDFIs, providing tailored support to help further the dreams of our small business clients. The coaching and connections Thread Capital offers revolve around these relationships, creating an inclusive ecosystem that helps build strong, resilient communities that support entrepreneurship and economic development.

Ashley Gorham, owner of Ashley’s Styles 252 in Roanoke Rapids, is an entrepreneur who took advantage of the relationships offered to her. She had a dream of owning a hair salon after starting her business in her grandfather’s backyard.

“I started when I was a teenager,” Ashley said. “My grandfather built a shed in the backyard, and then I went and worked at a salon to learn the ropes for about five years. After that, I worked part-time at a shoe store, and when that closed, I went full-time as a hairstylist, working at another salon. Five years later I decided to branch out on my own.”

However, Ashley did not know much about how to start a business, let alone find the capital to do so. She sought help from the Halifax Community College Small Business Center.

“I walked in the door and let them know I wanted to start a hair salon,” she said. “That’s where I met Kelly Barber of the Small Business Center. She helped me get my EIN (Employer Identification Number), taught me about cash flow, introduced me to several classes and seminars, and connected me to Thread Capital so I could get a loan to start my business. She helped me actually figure everything out.”

“I saw Ashley’s drive and motivation,” said Kelly Barber, Small Business Center Director at Halifax Community College. “I saw how detail-oriented she was. We worked through multiple edits and suggestions for her business plan, and she was always on point. I’m always hesitant and don’t want to set anyone up for failure, so I worked closely with Ashley to ensure she was ready when it came time to look for capital for her business.”

Ashley came to Thread Capital looking for equipment for her salon in 2019.

She was very pleased with the ease of the whole process. “It was easy,” she said. “Kelly connected me with Shannon [O’Shea, Thread Capital’s Director of Operations], I provided the information they asked for, and soon after I got my loan. Thread Capital gave me the confidence to know that there is money available out there and that I could always come back to Thread for other projects if needed. They really sounded like they are interested in what I have going on.”

“Ashley and Kelly were a dream to work with,” said Shannon. “I’m so grateful we had the opportunity to play a small part in the impact they are both making in their community.”

With help from Thread Capital, the salon opened in August of 2019 and soon after, the pandemic forced her to close temporarily, but she did not stop thinking about what else she could do. One day, she ran into her property owner and found out that the historic building where the salon is located was for sale. “I ran into her one day and saw some people looking around the property, so I asked her about it and she told me that someone was interested in buying it. I did some follow through and made a down payment to buy it myself,” Ashley said. “It took me about a year from when I opened the salon. I closed in February of 2020 because of the pandemic, and by the time I reopened in August, I owned the building.”

“Thread Capital gave her start-up capital to start the salon, and Ashley couldn’t have done it without them,” Kelly added. “But then she bootstrapped and found other sources of funding to buy the building and I find it remarkable that she has the confidence to say ‘I’m going to do this!’ and she did.”

Ashley’s perseverance throughout the initial process put her on the right trajectory, but the connections and relationships she built as well as her tenacity are what continue to make her successful.

“Keeping up with Ashley’s pace was exciting,” Kelly said. “She’s driven, motivated, and has great attention to detail. She is going to jump through all the hoops she needs to make things happen. If she doesn’t know something she researches it so I anticipate spending more time with her as she navigates renovating a historic building while running the salon.”

The future is very bright for her says Kelly, “She’s a shining star. She is going to finish renovating the building, she is maintaining a business, and she is expanding a business all while also being a mom of two young children.”

Ashley wants to be a role model for her children, aged 12 years and just 10 months old.

“I want them to see that it is possible to be a business owner,” Ashley said. “When I was growing up I thought owning a business was the hardest thing in the world. I did not think I had it in me to be but Kelly changed my mind.”


Photo Credit: Ashley Stephenson – Story Photographers