BABE #307: LATOYA DIXSON - Owner, I Heart Hair
LaToya’s various hustles have made her one heck of a multi-talented babe. She’s an entrepreneur, professor, speaker, philanthropist, consultant and lover of all-things marketing. While her calendar consistently stays full, her genuine love and passion for all of her hustles makes the early mornings and late nights worthwhile. LaToya is an advocate for building community, empowering businesses and motivating our youth, and she weaves all three desires into every project she gets her hands on. We’re super impressed with her dedication and are rooting her on as she continues to make waves and ignite change in a variety of industries.
Hometown: Atlanta, GA
Current city: Jacksonville, FL
Alma mater: Alabama State University; Strayer University
Degree: MBA, Marketing
Very first job: Working as an administrative assistant at my mom’s office at 13
Hustle(s): Owner, I Heart Hair; Director, Show Me Shoes Foundation; Professor, Southern New Hampshire University, Speaker
Babe you admire and why?
Mellody Hobson, because she’s worked her way in and through several industries without allowing her gender or skin color to hinder her from achieving her goals. She’s currently the President of Ariel Investments, one of the largest minority-owned investment firms in the world.
How do you spend your ‘free’ time?
I love going to the beach to watch the sunrise and chat with my beach crew.
Go-to coffee order and/or adult beverage?
Chai Latte with Almond Milk and Caramel Drizzle from Starbucks, and a nice red wine.
Current power anthem?
Lil Wayne - “Let It All Work Out”
What tools, books, or ideas help you in your day-to-day work?
My trust in God.
Tell us about your hustle, providing an overview of your job and roles.
I own I Heart Hair, a 100% virgin hair extension business that is now 9-years-old and was born from a layoff from my job in television. I also teach online marketing and strategic brand management at the collegiate level, serve as the chapter Director of the Show Me Shoes Foundation in Jacksonville, and work with other small businesses and brands to help develop and implement marketing strategies to assist them in accomplishing their goals.
What does your typical workday look like? Which ‘hats’ do you wear throughout the day?
My typical workday starts somewhere around 5:30-6:30am. I always have various projects going on at once, and you can find me head-down fulfilling or placing inventory orders, preparing and educating myself for my new brand, working on branding and marketing projects for clients, grading and responding to my students online, working out—I just got back in the gym—and building my network by meeting and greeting. My day ends around 11:30pm but if I find I’m inspired after this time, I work!
What inspired I Heart Hair? What has the evolution of the business been like since you created it, and what was the most important piece of your vision for it?
I knew a full lay-off at my corporate job was approaching, and I wanted to get back into entrepreneurship. I decided that I'd take my some of my severance package and start a business. Although I wasn't sure what that business would look like, I ended up noticing—while on a cruise, on vacation—that almost every woman I saw had either braids or hair extensions. Some extensions were very nice, and others—not so much. I Heart Hair was born on that ship. As soon as I got home to Atlanta, I got to work. Atlanta is just a Mecca of everything, and there weren't that many people in the hair business at the time, so it was a no-brainer. My initial goals were to create a great online presence, open a couple of stores and consult with others about the industry, and I've been able to accomplish all that and more. The vision has always been to provide opportunity for others: from employing female college students, to sponsoring large events, to speaking to other entrepreneurs about truth through transparency about owning a business.
Tell us about Show me Shoes. How did you get involved with the organization, and what has your journey looked like so far?
Longtime friends Shiv'on and Anneka both had the vision to inspire young girls to follow their dreams and to help build confidence from the “Sole.” In 2009, Show Me Shoes Foundation was launched. Show Me Shoes Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose vision is to create a movement of confidence through self-love, mentors and sisterhood. The foundation has served over 2,000+ young girls and women in chapters in Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Jacksonville FL; Los Angeles, CA; San Diego, CA and the founder's hometown of Kansas City, MO. I love everything this foundation stands for and started out as a sponsor in 2015. I felt there was a need for organizations that help young ladies to feel appreciated and loved.
Have you always been passionate about the nonprofit world? What advice would you give to a fellow babe considering nonprofit work?
Yes, I believe it’s important that we give—even if it’s just your time. My advice is to find something that you’re passionate about, or where you feel your skillset will benefit the most. Nonprofits need people that want to help people and make a difference.
Tell us about the Prom Project. How did it come to be, what problem(s) does it aim to solve, and what can we do to help?
Prom Project: More Than a Dress was created to assist high school teen girls who are unable to financially afford the luxury of the perfect prom. The event empowers young women with positive energy, Confidence from the Sole and affirming they are enough all while preparing for the magical moments of prom.
What's your process for managing your time properly between your various hustles, as well as staying organized while doing so? Any specific tools or platforms you recommend to fellow babes juggling numerous hustles?
I keep a schedule both on my phone and physically. I have notebooks where I write my thoughts and goals on to stay focused. I also have mentors that help me not to become overwhelmed with my workload. My advice would be to try different systems and find one or two that work for you. Developing systems to help you manage your hustles and businesses. Get an accountability partner when setting goals so you have someone or a few people to hold you to getting things done.
Based on your experiences at SMS, what do you think needs to change for more girls and young women to feel confident and regularly/comfortably practice self-love?
The stigma that we have to be accepted in a world of popularity needs to change. We need to be told that it’s okay to be different; that’s what makes one unique. We need to stop placing a divide on skin color and what is considered beautiful.
How have your past professional and academic experiences and lessons prepared you for the work you do today? How have they not prepared you?
I’ve worked for small businesses, Black-owned corporations, and mega television networks. They’ve made understand how make myself an asset to a team or organization. They’ve taught me how to treat people that work for you and with you. They’ve inspired me to continue my entrepreneurial journey. They’ve also taught me what I do and don’t want when it comes to my own businesses.
What would you say is your biggest career milestone to date and why?
Failure is my biggest career milestone. I see it as the biggest lesson one will ever learn from in every facet of their career. Failure has gotten me promoted, laid off, dead broke—and it also has given me the opportunity to start over, speak my mind, become respected, and wipe the board clean to rebuild.
How would you say being a woman-of-color has affected your professional experience? What can we do to create more equal, uplifting (and well-paying!) spaces for women-of-color in your industry?
I’ve never seen my skin color as a hindrance to my professional experience. I’ve learned and mastered the things people didn’t want to do in their jobs, which put me in a position to learn their entire job. We as women have to research and negotiate for what we believe we are worth not accepting nothing less. If that doesn’t play well—build it!
What does your approach to work/life balance look like? How do you unplug and unwind?
I love being out in nature: the beach, the mountains, chasing waterfalls, skydiving, and admiring the beauty of the world!
Career and/or life advice for other babes (both inside and outside of you industry?)
Find something that you’re passionate about, and become an expert and authority in your field. Master a few things that will add value to you and your personal brand; make yourself an asset. Surround yourself with smart people that are willing to teach and mold you. Find mentors that want to grow you. Give to others always, but don’t allow yourself to be used.
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