This is the fifth story in a series called “Back and Better Than Ever” which profiles business owners who have made it through the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and changed services or product offerings that have contributed to their operations coming back even stronger than they were before.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Born in the Dominican Republic, Vickiana Cappellan, 42, grew up watching her mother cut, style and color hair.
But she didn’t immediately possess a burning desire to follow in her footsteps, despite having attended cosmetology school in the Dominican Republic.
In fact, after immigrating to the United States and settling on Staten Island, she was studying computer science at the College of Staten Island, Willowbrook. However, being a “talkative,” very social person, Cappellan said she couldn’t envision herself working long hours in front of a computer. So she switched gears and reverted to what she knows best — hairstyling.
This led to her opening Kiara’s Beauty Salon, named after her 16-year-old daughter, on Bay Street in Stapleton 12 years ago. She specializes in Dominican hair styling, but works with all types of hair.
CLOSED FOR 4 MONTHS
In fact, she had built up a loyal following and ran a very busy salon until the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shuttered the business in March 2020. Closed for four months, the mother of two was at a loss for how to pay her bills. On top of having to close her business, she also contracted COVID-19 in March 2020.
“Not being able to make money to pay the bills was really scary,” said Cappellan. “When they first shut us down, I had COVID. Three or four days after I was home and everything was shut down, I started to feel very dizzy and weak. … I was freaking out. It took me two months to feel better.”
Before the pandemic, Cappellan worked more than 60 hours per week running and managing her own shop. But the health crisis strained most businesses, and particularly the minority-owned small business community in each borough of New York City.
Each month her business was closed, debt mounted. She applied for government loans and was turned down, said Cappellan. That’s when a friend told her to apply for a grant from the non-profit Local Initiative Support Corporation — New York (LISC NYC).
With the support from LISC NYC, Cappellan received a $10K grant that helped her pay her rent, basic necessities and day-to-day bills.
“We knew that businesses and certain neighborhoods that were commercial quarters were some of the negatively impacted areas during COVID,” said Valerie White, executive director of LISC NYC. “We wanted to be sure that we were providing those businesses with opportunities for some cash infusion of capital that they didn’t have to pay back.”
“After COVID, we worked with 16 community-based organizations across the city who had economic development programming in certain neighborhoods and in the case of Staten Island, it was the Staten Island Chamber of Commerce,” she added, noting 284 businesses in the city received these $10,000 grants.
LISC NYC has provided 16 grants to Staten Island businesses for a total of more than $270,000, said White.
BUSIER THAN EVER
Cappellan was proud to say she has now picked up more hours and foot traffic in her salon, which is open six days a week. In fact, her salon is busier than ever.
“Business is great. I’m doing excellent,” she said. “Because clients see how much we care about their health, and their hair, they always keep coming back.”
When Cappellan reopened, she said she knew she needed to add some services that would drive business.
In addition to cutting, coloring and styling all different types of hair and eyelash application, Cappellan now offers a new service of braids for “all kinds of hair” that have become very popular with her clientele.
“When we closed, I just left everything in God’s hands. I did get frustrated because I wasn’t working. I wasn’t getting unemployment at that time; I wasn’t getting anything. But the way that God was providing for me and helping me, it was just a relief,” she recalled.
“It was hard, but I always remained positive. I’m still here and the business is too, even though there’s a variant and things happening again, the business is still running great. And I thank God for it. I always put God first, and He always backs me up,” Cappellan said.
If you own a Staten Island business that had to change course during the pandemic, or has come back stronger, please e-mail Tracey Porpora at [email protected] to be considered for a story.
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