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A Cut Above: Michelle Harris Makes Money While Making a Difference in the Self Care of Others

Black woman entrepreneur in her store holding her whipped shea butter product in a red blouse.

A Cut Above: Michelle Harris Makes Money While Making a Difference in the Self Care of Others

For as long as she can remember, Michelle Harris has had a passion for cosmetology and helping others. She turned that passion into two thriving businesses based in the North Nashville area with plans for expansion. Founded in 2000, The Hair & Nail Gallery is a professional hair and nail care studio with a waitlist. Scentsible Oils, an aromatherapy and natural body care company, supply the studio with all-natural, alcohol-free essential oils and fragrances. Between the two, Michelle Harris provides an immersive experience in self-care for her clients.

But this isn’t Michelle’s first venture into entrepreneurship. She founded Nailz on Wheelz, a mobile nail salon servicing nursing homes and disadvantaged neighborhoods with manicures and pedicures. Michelle later expanded her business, including hairstylists, and rebranded as The Hair & Nail Gallery, trading in her wheels for a brick-and-mortar location.

“Growing up in Nashville, my strong southern roots always pushed me to listen and look to confirmation from God. I’ve always tried to remain humble and work in my own lane to grow. I never try to copy anyone else,” she shares.

Michelle would later reunite with a childhood friend who sold essential oils. Through this relationship, she rediscovered her love of fine fragrances and her next business idea.

“I used to love going to the African Street Festival and buying different kinds of essential oils as a child. That’s when I first started developing an appreciation for beautiful, confidence-building scents. My friend showed me all the tricks of the trade, helping me secure holistic ingredients and teaching me how to mix my own lotions and body butters.”

Starting with just twenty oils, Michelle began marketing her products to family and friends, taking baskets of oils to her children’s cheerleading and baseball games to sell on the sidelines. It wasn’t long before she realized she was on to something. She launched Sensible Oils in 2010 but quickly realized she needed help with digital marketing to generate sales.

One of her customers suggested she take classes at the NBIC. Michelle connected with Angela Crane Jones and enrolled in Foundations, a 12-week program offered in partnership with Operation Hope on a quarterly basis. Mr. Harvey, the class instructor, introduced Michelle to digital marketing basics and advised her on best practices to transition her businesses into a new commercial space.

“The Foundations class help me understand the importance of networking and cultivating banking relationships. I realized there was so much more that I needed to learn. Through the NBIC, I finally gained the confidence to sell a rental property I owned and buy my first commercial building. I’ve been in the NBIC Mighty Oak Pathway program for two years, and I haven’t looked back.”

Michelle also completed the Groundwork program where she learned social media best practices, including how to create Facebook and Instagram ads. “The teachers were phenomenal.”  Groundwork is held twice a year with small cohorts to facilitate deep learning.

In just six months, Michelle used the capital she obtained from the sale of the rental property as a down payment on a commercial building located at 3921 Clarksville Pike.

Today, The Hair & Nail Gallery boasts a full-time staff and a busy schedule, making for few dull moments around the shop. Michelle looks forward to expanding, adding a third stylist and additional space for stylist booth rentals.

Looking ahead, Michelle looks to pursue woman and minority-owned business certifications in hopes of being awarded contracts with government agencies and hotel chains to supply hotel rooms with travel soaps and pocket lotions and commissary items to prisoners.

Michelle Harris has achieved numerous milestones during her twenty years in business, and she has done so while serving as a Nashville firefighter. After a nine-year stint, she recently retired from the Nashville Fire Department and plans to devote more time and resources to finding new ways to give back.

“I’ve always tried to couple my ambition with philanthropy and think outside the box. Where others may shy away from opportunity, I like to imagine what could be and use the resources I have to make it happen. Most importantly, I want to set a strong example for my children. I’ve always told them to work hard and pursue their dreams. If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”