PORTLAND, Ore. — Lasheera Chambers started styling her classmates’ hair at school to earn money for food. It was a passion but also a way to survive.
"It was important to me to not become a statistic," she said.
Chambers grew up in Seattle, and her neighborhood suffered from gang violence, homelessness and drugs. She moved from house to house to stay off the streets and continued to struggle after finding a home.
"My mother was in prison and I was adopted by people who meant well but they were also involved in drugs and the street life," Chambers said, "so it was kind of hard to navigate for me because I wanted something better, I knew there something more out there for me."
She found that 'something' in barber college, where she graduated valedictorian. On April 24, Chambers held the grand opening for Queendom Cuts, her barbershop on Northeast Alberta. She currently has two stylists and looking to add two barbers to the team.
"We offer natural hair care services and we also offer barbering," Chambers said. "We definitely take pride in being able to crown everyone in town, that was the goal."
Chambers says she would have never reached that goal if it weren't for Micro Enterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). The nonprofit organization provides assistance to unbanked, underrepresented entrepreneurs.
"We match small businesses-to-business specialists or coaches that walk with them along their journey, wherever they are in their small business journey," said Cobi Lewis, the nonprofit's executive director.
MESO gave Chambers access to a savings plan, business classes and funding for her business.
"Without them it would have all been a dream," Chambers said. "MESO changed my life."
As for her true crowning achievement, Chambers hopes it will be inspiring others to pursue their dreams.
"Everyone has a past, but not everyone has a future. Focus on how you can change your now," she said.