Business began with dreams, scissors

Alexia Harris

Many people would find simultaneously running a business and taking care of five children difficult. But for Michelle Cobbins, it was necessary.

Cobbins was invited by Joanne Kilgour Dowdy, associate professor of adolescent and adult literacy, to speak to her graduate students during their Black Women and Literacy course yesterday.

Cobbins manages her own salon, Christian Edward’s, in Kent and has been in business for more than three years.

Dowdy, who has written five books about black women and education, said literacy is important to her. Every week, she has someone speak to the class about literacy.

“There is a lot of negative press about black people and education, so I wanted to show the true love and devotion to learning,” she said.

Dowdy said she has listened to Cobbins’ personal stories for more than a year and knew she didn’t arrive at her business by waving a magic wand.

“I wanted her to share her story so others could be encouraged by her determination and discipline,” she said.

Cobbins said she started with a dream, scissors, hair dryer and her hands.

“I didn’t have any money, so I had to work with what I had,” she explained.

Despite the fact she was surrounded by others who made more money, Cobbins said she never became discouraged.

“I am a very religious person, and I prayed a lot,” she said. “God, my Bible, my pastor, my mother, my husband and children – they were my role models.”

Cobbins said she refused to let the fact that she was a mother of two while still a high school student stop her from achieving her goals.

“When you make a mistake, and then another, it’s hard, but you have to step back and see how you are going to fix the issue you just created,” she said, adding she wanted to be an example for her children and not a menace to society.

Dowdy said Cobbins’ success in and outside of the home was the reason she asked her to speak to the class.

“She is a success in our community, and we can learn a lot from her,” she said.

Cobbins’s salon is the only black-owned hair salon in Kent. She said she brought her business to Kent to make the city thrive.

“It was a fight being here because people would say we didn’t need another hair salon,” she said. “But I knew that they needed a salon that specialized in black hair.”

Cobbins said she gets a lot of support from the white community – it’s the black community where she lacks support.

“I worked hard to get where I am, and I want people to know that I am here,” she said.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Alexia Harris at [email protected].