- September 4, 2021
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Last summer, Annastasha Trevino and her husband did the unthinkable: They opened a salon and spa at the height of the pandemic, just two months after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer lifted an executive order closing such businesses.
Trevino and her husband, Hezekiah, were well aware of the pandemic’s effects on the cosmetology industry. But they were steadfast in their goal of providing personal care in Lansing.
So in August 2020, Bella Viita salon and spa was born.
“It was really just learning how to do that with all of the stipulations — making sure things were safe, making sure people were comfortable, still able to come in and have a relaxing time regardless of what was going on outside in the world,” Trevino said.
The salon’s name pays homage to Trevino’s Black and Italian heritage, translating to “a beautiful life.” The phrase is also tattooed on her forearm, serving as a mantra reminding her to live with strength and positivity.
That positivity helped Trevino keep her business afloat during a time when many had to close their doors. She applied for grants and loans along the way, receiving a microbusiness grant from the Lansing Economic Area Partnership last fall.
Now, she’s one of nine local businesses receiving a forgivable loan from the City of Lansing funded with CARES Act dollars — $19,999 for Bella Viita.
Bella Viita isn’t the only beauty and personal-care business getting a boost in the second round of loans, announced last month. They accounted for four of the nine loans, with nearly $50,000 of the $100,731 paid out going to such businesses.
The loans range from $5,000 to $50,000 each.
This round of funding also differs from the first in that a majority of loans went to business owners of color — at least five of the nine. Last round, at least seven of the 11 loans went to white business owners.
Related: Have last year’s calls to support Black businesses held strong?
Lansing Communications Director Valerie Marchand said the city wants equity in fund disbursement and is “continuously reviewing how to assist minority business owners to apply and be successful.” She said loans going out to multiple beauty businesses was coincidental.
For Trevino, the money has been pivotal, especially as the delta variant muddles her industry longer than some expected.
“It just means another blessing,” Trevino said. “It was definitely very helpful, and it took away a lot of stress in the meantime.”
A third round of loans could come depending on “funding and needs of businesses,” Marchand said.
“Some of the awardees announced in the most recent release participated in loan application technical assistance, which was offered to all applicants through the program,” she said. “Application assistance was provided at the participant’s pace and the approval process was the same for all businesses.
“Applicants had to demonstrate need for requested funds, costs had to be verified and reasonable, any duplication of benefits had to be considered,” she continued.
LEAP helped the city distribute the funding, according to Victoria Meadows, chief strategic officer.
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Last year’s executive orders closing nonessential businesses hit salons and barbershops hard, as services had to be scaled back due to COVID-19 safety precautions, Trevino said.
Many estheticians didn’t return to work even when restrictions eased, since they couldn’t perform services that interfered with a mask.
“We kind of put a stop to everything and then things got back up to rolling, and then they’d slow down again, and get back up to rolling into a roller coaster,” said Asya Pearl, a stylist at Bella Viita.
Pearl was a client at the establishment before joining in July. The salon itself has changed since she joined with the expansion of private spa rooms. She previously styled hair out of her home and said her clientele grew drastically during the pandemic. When she was hired at Bella Viita, she brought those clients with her.
Both Trevino and Lizbeth Nave, another staffer, said that’s part of how the salon aims to grow as a network.
The salon is one of few specializing in services for clients who suffer from hair loss or have skin sensitivities. Trevino deals with psoriasis herself, and brings empathy to her care with clients.
“Once my psoriasis got really bad, it was hard to find stylists that either dealt with it, or weren’t afraid to and then also understood it,” she said.
She hopes to one day supply inexpensive products and specialized services to those clients.
“It gives a big opportunity for everyone from different demographics to come to our salon and experience whatever service they need because everyone can service whatever demographic or background,” Nave said.
Contact reporter Krystal Nurse at (517) 267-1344or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @KrystalRNurse.