Photo above: Angela Braan Photo courtesy Cassia’s Salon & Spa
By Gabriel Logan
In a region with a relatively low percentage of young entrepreneurs, fewer female entrepreneurs, and very few minority entrepreneurs, Angela Braan, who is a U.S. Army veteran to boot, stands out. Those uncommon qualities haven’t driven the growth of her two-and-a half year old business, Cassia’s Salon & Spa, though. That growth has been driven by the fact that Braan is a detail-oriented, customer-focused businessperson who has found a niche and made it her own.
Cassia’s is the first salon in the region to succeed in providing high-quality salon services to women regardless of race. Black hair, Caucasian, multicultural – what matters to Braan isn’t a customer’s race, it’s that the customer deserves to feel valued.
“Having a local salon that does black hair means the world to me,” Aundrea Wilcox, executive director, Kingsport Office of Small Business Development & Entrepreneurship (KOSBE) said. “I’ve been living in this area for 14 years. I have only recently been able to experience a positive high quality, relaxing salon atmosphere, while having my hair done by a professional stylist who is not only capable but up-to-date with new trends and techniques.”
Braan is originally from Washington, D.C. She served in the Army four years until 2000. She worked as a stylist in D.C until moving to Kingsport in 2015.
“We have really just tried to tear down barriers when we moved here,” Braan said. “I could tell that there were many barriers when we moved. There was a lot of traditionalism. People do the same thing the same ways over time. Coming with a new perspective I wanted to do something different in business.”
Braan, who refers to herself as a perfectionist and, “a little OCD,” decided to create not just a salon, but a space in which women could feel a certain way. “People say all the time ‘Oh my gosh, it is so peaceful in here,’” Braan said. “They will sit in here and watch a movie after their hair is done like for the next hour. I think that is why the business has been successful. I do not just worry about your hair. I want to know what is going on in your life. What can we do to help you? I think it is important to deal with the entire woman rather than ‘I am going to make your hair look good, give me your money, and go home.’”
In the future Braan hopes to create a product line of shampoos and conditioners. She is allowing herself five years to get it done.
“My long-term goal is to open up a school to teach how to do black hair because nobody here knows how to do it so nobody gets their hair done,” Braan said. “Then a lot of black women do not want to move into the city because if nothing else, a black woman wants her hair done. I hear all the time ‘There is nowhere to get your hair done.’ I do not want to be the only one. That is why I am looking for someone to train to do what I do so that I can transition into a school.”
Wilcox, who mentors entrepreneurs every day, likes Braan’s chances. “What stands out to me is the value that Mrs. Braan places on others,” Wilcox said. “She values everyone, no matter who you are.”
“When you meet someone like that,” Wilcox said, “you know that they are trustworthy and authentic in everything they do. She values others so much that she is deeply involved in nurturing her family, growing her business and the people who work for her, and contributing to the betterment of our community. This is evidenced by her service with the Kingsport Neighborhood Commission and her church leadership. She really cares for us—all of us— and she wants to help us.”