Hair is an extension of our outfits, an extension of our souls, and defines our charm. Around the world, hairstyles have influenced the fashion and event industries. We can all recall during the pandemic, across the globe, citizens were asking their leaders to deem salons and barbershops as essential. They are imperative to who we are and have contributed USD 75.33 billion globally in 2018 and are projected to reach USD 111.98 billion by 2026.
The wearing of wigs and hairpieces dates back to the beginning of time. It is said that women shaved their heads and wore wigs to protect their heads from the sun. Our hair journeys tell our stories.
‘Beyond BeauTi’ had a sit-down with the multi-talented and lovely wig designer, Bria Gushard-Blanc, to discuss her hair journey into becoming an entrepreneur. At just 25, Bria has been creating masterful headpieces for the past four years. She refuses to allow the impacts of COVID-19 to deter her drive, tenacity, and ambition in building a successful brand. Instead, she has utilised this time to develop her brand, improve her marketing plans, and implement strategies to strengthen her business for future growth and opportunities. Although she has experienced a decrease in sales, and her suppliers have significantly increased their wholesale prices, Bria remains consistent and committed to the quality that her customers have grown to love.
BB Tell us a little about Bria Guishard-Blanc, your brand, and when you started on this journey.
BA About Bria Guishard-Blanc:
My name is Bria Romaine Guishard-Blanc. I am a 25 years old Christian, mother of two, wife, accountant, and entrepreneur; born and raised in the British Virgin Islands. I hold an Associate Degree in Business Administration from the H. Lavity Stoutt Community College and a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting (BA) from Missouri Southern State University. I am a lover of all things fashion and beauty.
About my brand and when the journey started:
Bliss by ARIA Hair Extensions and Wigs offers 100% unprocessed top-quality hair extensions, custom wigs, and premade wigs. Our slogan is “Be Blissful. Be Beautiful” because we want our customers to feel that way when they wear our products. We now have a growing customer base, including the BVI, USVI, and most recently, the USA. We also get quite a few inquiries from potential customers in other Caribbean countries, with which I am hoping to expand within that market soon.
Bliss by ARIA was conceptualized in October 2017. Hurricane Irma was a driving force behind my decision to tap into my entrepreneurial spirit. I would never forget that feeling when I was finally able to leave my home a few days after Hurricane Irma; I ventured into Road Town and saw that my place of employment was destroyed. I was nine months pregnant at the time, and as you can imagine, thoughts about my family’s future were racing in my mind.
I was a bit hesitant about starting a business because the BVI had just gone through the worst hurricane in decades. However, I worked up the courage, put pen to paper, and started writing my business plan. The business is named after my daughter, Aria. The first week in January 2018, I applied for my trade license, and I can say that that was the best decision that I’ve made to this day.
BB Why hair? What drew you to it?
BA I have been doing my own hair and wearing hair extensions since I was in High School. I’ve always had a love for hairstyles and enjoyed keeping up with the latest hair trends. The first wig I ever wore was a synthetic wig that was given to me by my aunt, and I completely fell in love with its versatility.
BB Share with our readers details of your product offering and the difference between the various products.
BA Bliss by ARIA offers 100% unprocessed virgin hair extensions, which include lace frontals, lace closures, bundles and ponytails, custom wigs, and premade wigs. Initially, we started with four main textures of hair; and now we currently offer eight hair textures. Each texture has a distinguished pattern, for example, curly, wavy, and straight.
Our custom units are hand-stitched and machine-made by me. The process of making a custom wig is tedious, but the finished product is always rewarding. Our custom wigs are also given names which makes it easier for customers to identify.
Premade wigs or factory wigs are wigs made by our hair supplier. We do, however, customize the wigs to get them ready for our customers.
BB What would you say are the top reasons a client would opt for extensions or a wig? Are there any benefits of weave extensions compared to wigs?
BA The number one reason that customers would opt for a wig is because of the versatility. Other reasons are:
Wigs allow you easy access to your hair whenever you want to switch up your style.
They are a wonderful protective styling alternative.
They’re also a long-term investment (my oldest wig from my collection is roughly three years old and is still in excellent condition). Our wigs, if properly maintained, can last 1 – 3 years.
Some customers express to me about hair loss and damage due to excessive styling of their natural hair, so investing in a wig allows them to feel beautiful and confident while their natural hair heals and recovers.
BB What does hair do to the psyche and self-image?
BA Hair is literally the first thing that you notice on a woman. A woman’s hair is a reflection of her identity/personality. For some women, hair is symbolic. When a woman goes anywhere, i.e., to attend a social event or go to work, the first thing she thinks about is the condition of her hair, and that is a fact. Having a good hair day adds more confidence to a woman.
Wig makers and hair retailers have a quote that we love to share on social media; “Invest in your hair; it’s the crown that you never take off”, and that is 100% true.
BB What is the versatility of utilizing your products?
BGB Our hair extensions and wigs are of excellent quality and can last you 1 – 3 years, depending on how the hair is maintained/stored. Hair extensions can be used to achieve various hairstyles such as traditional sew-ins, ponytails, and clip-ins. You can use them to add more volume to your hair for a fuller look. Wigs are perfect for customers with hair styling commitment issues. If customers invest in multiple wigs, they can have a wig style for any occasion.
BB We have a large number of hair suppliers in the Territory. What makes your products
BGB The hair industry in the BVI is saturated, and we’re all offering similar products and services. What sets a business apart from its competitor is how you brand and market yourself. I am the face of my business, so I am always wearing my products. The majority of our local sales come from individuals that have seen me in person and have inquired on the spot about the hair that I am wearing.
BB Explain the details of your custom services.
BGB We offer services for custom wigs, wig revamping, and wig construction. We refer to the service of custom wigs as “Design Your Own Wig”. Our custom wig styles from our collection are limited, so we offered this service to allow customers to actualise and design their own wigs. Some of the submissions that we receive are inspired by their favorite celebrity or a style they found on the internet. I love the ‘Design Your Own Wig’ service because it offers a challenge and allows me to step out of my comfort zone.
BB Unfortunately, we have all dealt with cancer and what it has done to persons in our lives. In this climate, it can very well be a family member or friend. Have you had the opportunity to create some magic for a cancer patient? If so, how has that experience changed or affected you?
BGB I have not had that opportunity to provide a wig for a cancer patient. I personally cannot fathom what a cancer patient goes through mentally, physically, and emotionally. In the future, I would love to offer a free wig programme specifically for women that suffer from hair loss due to cancer or any other hair disorders.
BB Do you think there is any stigma or negativity that women who opt to wear weave extensions or wigs faces?
BGB Oh yes, the number one misconception that most people have towards individuals who decide to wear a wig is that they do not appreciate their natural hair or are completely bald.
BB What are your thoughts about the impact hair has on women of colour and the beauty industry?
BGB I am completely honest when I say that women of colour and our hair have been under attack for years, and unfortunately, it still is. The stigma that our naturally coiled tresses aren’t considered “good hair” has been reinforced for centuries. Presently women of colour are still being pressured to conform to the “beauty standards” engrained by the beauty industry to align what they perceive as “good hair” or “beautiful”. However, I am seeing more and more women like myself embrace our natural hair and still ‘rock the heck out’ of our wigs. It’s the best of both worlds.
BB Where are your products sold?
BGB Our products are sold exclusively on www.shopblissbyaria.com. We offer local delivery to customers in the BVI, and we ship internationally via FedEx and DHL.
BB What are your goals and plans for your business in the next five years?
BGB In April 2019 – June 2019, I partnered with a salon and opened my first pop-up store. It was a wonderful experience, and I have high hopes of opening a Bliss by ARIA brick-and-mortar store in Road Town.
As far back as I can recall, my hair has told my stories. My story evolved to one of self-awareness and self-love when I embraced my natural tress some 30 plus years ago. My hair says I am free, strong, fierce, fearless, bold, and proud,….I embrace me! So no matter your hair choices, no matter the reasons, let your hair speak your truth. Let your hair define your BeauTi!
Be sure to support Bria by following her on FaceBook and Instagram @blissbyaria. Connect with her for your custom services at phone (1) 284-342-8691/0 or email (email@example.com). Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to be featured.