Mobile business rides out COVID pandemic in style

Special Reports

Styled By Her Boutique took advantage of diverse business model, low overhead during coronavirus restrictions

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The coronavirus response has wreaked havoc on businesses big and small, old and new. One hair stylist, though, said her salon’s mobility and versatility helped her stay afloat despite the trying times.

“When coronavirus first hit, things were very uncertain,” Shurita Calloway said. Calloway offers natural hair care, braids, extensions and wigs, nails and more at Styled By Her.

KOIN 6 News last talked to Calloway in August 2019, just a few months into her venture as a mobile salon owner. She grew up learning from her mom and operated her own brick-and-mortar salon for about six years until taking the plunge and buying a truck off Craigslist. About half a year later, the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing stay at home orders would make it illegal for her to continue styling hair.

Fortunately for Calloway, she has a product line of shampoos, conditioners and edge tamers, plus some clothing items to fall back on.

“So I just took advantage of those things and just went full fledged and started retailing them to continue to generate some type of income without having to physically perform a service,” she said.

The low overhead costs and not being trapped in a lease for a physical location also helped.

“I think mobile businesses will grow tremendously especially with the way that things are shifting in society,” Calloway said. “It’s an easy way to keep your business open and generating income without having such a large overhead.”

Around the same time businesses were allowed to start reopening, Calloway did find a space to park her truck several days a week at the food cart pod on NE Beech and MLK. She still drives to clients too, but said being in a semi-permanent location surrounded by food trucks has helped drive walk-in traffic.

“It does help being surrounded by other businesses,” she said. “I’ve gained quite a few clients within the three months that I’ve been here.”

Camryn, 11, learns how to mix bath bombs in the Styled by Her mobile hair boutique September 6, 2020 in Northeast Portland (KOIN)

She’s also used the pandemic to beef up her brand, drafting her own entrepreneurial handbook and mentoring the next generation, including 11-year-old Camryn who’s learning more about styling and mixing hair products.

“I’m just a kid. I barely know stuff,” Camryn said, a modest statement for someone who already has two hair mannequins to practice on. Camryn added that it’s important for young people to have role models and ask questions. “I always want to make sure I’m getting these great tips so I can come up with these great little products and stuff.”

So despite the temporary hair-styling hiatus and new requirements like temperature checks and masks, Calloway is still – to use her favorite phrase – slaying in her own lane.

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