As a solopreneur, Jayla “Yaya” Williams doesn’t have anyone else to lean on when it comes to finding opportunities for her business. That’s why she’s grateful for Alice.

Williams first stumbled upon the site in March of 2019 when she was looking for funding for her business. The 26-year-old founder established Styles by Yaya in 2017, but she studied cosmetology during high school and worked her way through college doing hair and makeup. She’s no stranger to running a business, but now she’s planning on launching a fleet of one-stop mobile beauty shops inside trucks, a company she calls The Beauty Experience. With the new, bigger investment she’s making, she realized it was time to get serious about business, not just making people look great.

Initially, that meant learning about the Bumble Fund on Alice. When Williams learned of the fourth annual Circular Summit in May, she knew that she’d be able to gain the expertise she was looking for. All she needed was the capital. She got a scholarship from Alice, but still needed to pay for the flight. So she took to Facebook. Through her own form of crowdfunding, she was able to get there to meet some of her “favorite people.”

But in October, the relationship between Williams and Alice became even more auspicious. The Houston-based entrepreneur attended Growth Tour: Houston, where Alice was giving away $1,000 to an attendee who shared the Houston City Guide using the hashtag #growthtour.  “I tweeted my little life away,” Williams says with a laugh.

Courtesy of The Beauty Experience

But working overtime is nothing new for Williams. She learned her work ethic early. Her father owned a car detailing business that he inherited from his father. “It was a very profitable business, but it got shut down during the recession,” she explains. The family had its lights, water, and cable cut off before becoming homeless. But the family overcame that. “We grew through the classes,” Williams says of her family’s social mobility, from homelessness to now being able to afford vacations. “Not a lot of people get the opportunity to say they’ve done it more than twice.”

She credits her parents with stressing education. Though her high school was only interested in making sure students graduated, Williams’s parents were dedicated to her getting a college education. As a result, she completed a double major in nursing and social work. But by the time she was ready to apply for nursing school, she knew her true calling was to make people feel good from the outside in. “It’s about shedding positivity and light,” Williams says.

That sometimes means donating her services. She does pro bono prom makeovers and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, she spent 72 hours styling evacuees in the George R. Brown Convention Center. “I did hair from 6 a.m. until they kicked me out,” she recalls.

But in recent years, Williams has made her own transformation: from stylist to business woman. As Styles by Yaya, she already has customers in 12 cities around the country, with 475 in her native Houston alone.

But she’s ready for the next step. The Beauty Experience will start with a single vehicle in Houston, with Williams and two other technicians on board, ready to fulfill customers’ every beauty need. “My goal is to have at least five or six so they’re operating simultaneously,” she says. Trucks will be different sizes to allow for just one person or for a whole party’s worth. She’s working on getting an app up and running, too, which will allow customers to schedule with their favorite stylists, then get service right at home or work.

And she has no plans to be a solopreneur forever. “You can’t be the accountant the COO, the CEO, the founder, and the marketing strategist, and the graphic designer. You can’t do that all by yourself,” she says.  She already has her eye on the people she hopes to hire. Nearly everything is in place, and she’s still eyeing that $1,000 check and deciding what equipment she’ll buy with it. She’s also in touch with lending organizations she met at the Growth Tour.

But ultimately, Williams is just hoping to give back to the community that kept her and her family going through tough times. She’s starting a nonprofit called R.I.S.E. (Rethink, Ignite, Succeed, Empower), to help people with both financial and spiritual literacy. “I was a young girl who grew up poor, moved around a lot and grew up to have my own successful business,” she says now.  “When I do my TED Talk, it’s going to be all about uplifting people.”