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For Chrystal Graves, just about everything in life comes down to access. Those who have it can accomplish great things; those who don’t end up stuck watching from the sidelines, their brainpower and abilities never fully realized.
As a teenager growing up in St. Louis, Graves was lucky to have a mentor in her neighborhood that exposed her to all sorts of life experiences, from campus visits to etiquette classes to career shadowing. She gave Graves the gift of access, and she performed these services for countless young women in her community, free of charge.
Now, Graves is paying it forward. When her family moved to Columbia in the spring of 1997, it was an adjustment. “I was surprised that enrichment programs for girls and minorities weren’t prevalent,” she says. “It was then, at the tender age of 16, that I knew I had to create opportunities here for girls who looked like me.” And the seeds of The BOLD Academy were sown.
The BOLD Academy — a loose acronym for “black and brown leadership and development” — is just one part of Graves’ mission, which is to give back as much as she possibly can without expecting anything in return. As the owner of her own salon, she can directly impact the lives of less fortunate people in her community in tangible ways, including offering styling sessions for girls in exchange for four hours of community service.
“A professional haircut may not seem like a big deal, but for many it’s a luxury that’s out of financial reach,” Graves says.
Jaime Freidrichs, former director of the Missouri Women’s Business Center, met Graves when she came through the door of the MoWBC asking for help with her growing business. “But more importantly she came to offer her help to get the center established,” says Freidrichs. “Chrystal led the pack of early adopters of our services, and I can’t imagine getting it off the ground without her.”
According to Graves, Chrystal L. Hair & Makeup is a melting of cultures and ideas. “It’s split evenly across ethnicities and income levels,” she says. “We believe hair is hair no matter what the person’s skin color.”
Fun Fact: Chrystal received the 2017 Missouri Progress Award in entrepreneurship.
Get to know the other class members here.