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Winona never had a beauty store for multicultural hair needs, Vineka Ross is changing that

Winona will soon have it's first ever multicultural beauty store open this summer as local resident Vineka Ross is working to make hair products available for everyone's needs in town.

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Vineka Ross will become the first Black woman to own a beauty store in Winona once her store, Flo's Hair on Fleek, opens.
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin
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WINONA — See a need, fill a need. That was Vineka Ross’ thought process when she saw the city of Winona did not have a beauty store that catered to the hair needs of Black citizens of the town.

Now, Ross is beginning her own beauty store in Winona that will not only have hair care products for African Americans, but people of all backgrounds with her store Flo’s Hair on Fleek.

“To me, it’s never made sense that we have never had a beauty supply store here that is meant for every type of hair,” said Ross. “That’s the big question here that I have been asking people. Why hasn’t this happened?”

Ross and her family members have often been traveling out of Winona and even out of state to have their hair done for the last 25 years. Chicago was the city for Ross to go for her hair to be stylized and to acquire the products she needs everyday that cater to her hair style.

After experiencing the need in Winona first-hand, Ross hopes that the opening of Flo’s Hair on Fleek will not only cut back on her own family’s travel time out of state to have their hair done, but everyone that has to travel more than 20 minutes outside of Winona for hair care.

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Business mentors such as Thein and Degallier have been crucial for Ross' success in opening Flo's Hair on Fleek (From left to right, Thein, Ross, Degallier)
Theodore Tollefson / Post Bulletin

“The idea originated from a dream,” said Ross. “I just acted on my vision. I have been living in Winona on and off for 25 years, and we have never had a Black beauty supply store. The most important thing for me with having this beauty supply store was having a place for all types of hair to be taken care of.”

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“To see Vineka act on her dream to start a beauty supply store is really inspiring,” said Jan Degallier of the Rochester Small Business Development Center. “She’s very courageous, and that’s the journey of any entrepreneur. She isn’t alone in this even when she feels like she is.”

Ross said she hopes Flo’s Hair on Fleek will become a family business. A grandmother of six, she wants to be sure that the business is around for them after she can no longer run it herself.

“I want to have a name sake for them because there have been so many people in Winona that haven’t had their needs met for their hair," Ross said. "Hair is tradition, it’s a part of life. Everyone has hair, it’s just how you maintain it according to your lineages that sets things apart."

To ensure that Ross will have everything she needs in order to maintain her business before and after it opens. Ross has enlisted the help of the Rochester Small Business Development Center's Mark Thein and Degallier. Thein and Degallier have been assisting Ross for months to help find the right location to open Flo’s Hair on Fleek in Winona and to be sure no steps are missed before the store’s opening.

“It’s difficult when you want to open a business that hasn’t been done before in any town," Ross said. "I want to open now but I don’t want to rush it either. I want to make sure everything is done correctly because I don’t want to start my business and have it gone in two months."

Thein said as mentors, he and Degallier have been helping Ross with each step along the way to ensure everything goes smoothly when she's ready to open.

Ross has also received support from the Southern Minnesota Initiative Foundation's Prosperity Initiative, a program which provides free coaching and training to minority entrepreneurs from Mankato to Winona. There are currently 10 minority entrepreneurs in the program, including Ross.

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The program provides business owners with business coaches who meet with them one-on-one for 40 hours over a six-month period. The program also offers in-person and virtual trainings, and an opportunity to participate in a peer network with past and current clients.

When Flo’s Hair on Fleek opens, Ross wants to be sure the inside of her store has the feel of those she grew up around in Chicago.

“The beauty supply store is in the front where you could buy synthetic hair, human hair, whatever you need for your hair is in the front," Ross said. "Then if you are going in to get your hair done, you’d head to the back of the store.”

Like any modern business Ross plans to be sure a website for Flo’s Hair on Fleek will be up and running along with the location’s opening in June. The website will also have hair care products, wigs, etc. available for customers to purchase.

Ross and she has been grateful for the ups and downs that have come along the journey to owning Flo's Hair on Fleek.

“Some days I feel like I am going to have a nervous breakdown and some days I feel like I am going to open tomorrow," she said. "Once I have my location settled in, it'll be good to go.”

Related Topics: RETAILWINONA AREAEXCLUSIVE
Theodore Tollefson is a business reporter for the Post Bulletin. He is originally from Burnsville, Minn., and graduated from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls with a bachelor's degree in journalism in December 2020. Readers can reach Theodore at 507-281-7420 or ttollefson@postbulletin.com.
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