“There’s a lot of competition in this business, so you have to step out of your comfort zone. You have to do something different.”
So says Tamika Douglas, and she’s certainly backed up those words. The Jamaica-born entrepreneur and mother of two, who emigrated to the Bronx with her parents at just 12 years old, has started three businesses since coming to the region.
Douglas said she has learned a lot from her parents — chiefly how to become a savvy businesswoman. “They wanted more opportunities for me and for them,” she said. “They did well (in Jamaica), but they still wanted more.”
Her mother Carmeta Albarus was a teacher in Jamaica, but upon coming to the U.S. went back to school and eventually earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees. She now owns her own company, CVA Consulting Services Inc., and works as a forensic social worker. Her father Dennis Douglas, meanwhile, worked as an engineer in his home country, and now runs Dennis Douglas P.E., P.C., a building inspection and engineering office in Mount Vernon.
“They both worked very, very hard for what they have and what they want, and that’s what they instilled in me,” she said.
During her childhood years, Douglas said her parents were always supportive of her interests and endeavors. Still, “What I didn’t have a lot of was their time because they both worked a lot,” said the Mount Vernon resident. “After having my own child, I said, ‘I can’t do what they did. I have to be available to my child.’”
That desire was highlighted by an experience Douglas had when her first son, Douglas Baldeo, was only a few months old. Douglas, who was at the time working long hours at her mother’s company, said she hired a nanny to take care of her son.
“There was one day where I was home,” Douglas recalled, “but my son didn’t want me. He was crying for the nanny.”
That experience led Douglas to fire her nanny and enroll her son in daycare. But after becoming increasingly frustrated with the care her son received there, Douglas decided to take an even greater step.
“I bought a house and shortly after, I said, ‘Why don’t I just open a daycare in my home?’” she recalled.
In 2005, she launched Tamika’s Happy Faces, a business she ran out of her new home. More than just a daycare, Douglas also brought in a range of instructors to teach lessons to the children she cared for, including ballet dancers and karate experts.
That business grew, Douglas said, and in 2008, she decided to start an after-school program at Cedar Place Elementary in Yonkers. Douglas said students and families flocked to the program because it offered more than traditional after-school programs.
“I had vocal coaches, I had guitar instructors, I had dancers,” she said. “When I first started, I had 10 kids. By (that) summer I had 125.”
Her oldest son, meanwhile, was busy starting on his own career path. A singer, dancer and actor, Baldeo’s resume includes stints in Broadway’s “Kinky Boots,” in the travelling production of “The Bodyguard” and on the television show “So You Think You Can Dance.”
Taking a cue from Baldeo’s interest in show business, Douglas later launched a talent development company called Four Star Talent. Similar to her after-school program, Douglas said she would invite actors, singers and dancers to teach lessons to a group of students, who would then perform their routines in front of a panel of prospective talent agencies.
The self-described “serial entrepreneur” isn’t done yet, though. In November she launched an e-commerce hair extension business called Four Star Tresses.
“I’ve always worn extensions and I spend a lot of money on hair extensions,” she said.
Still, the idea to begin her own business didn’t occur to her until recently, when after falling into a bout of depression she took the advice of a close friend and decided to head for a makeover. Along with having her hair and makeup done, that makeover included getting a new set of hair extensions.
“I wasn’t taking care of myself,” she recalled, but after the makeover, “I loved how I looked and I said, ‘You know what? I have to take care of me.’”
Drawing on her own experience of how those extensions changed her mood and outlook, Douglas decided to launch Four Star Tresses in November. The company’s website offers clip-ins, tape-ins, ponytails and wigs, along with a range of false lashes that are all made from human hair. Prospective customers can see samples provided by Douglas in person, though sales are made online and products are supplied and shipped by an outside firm.
In order to differentiate herself from other companies, Douglas said she’s hired a publicist and an outside company to manage her social media feeds, something she’s never done before.
“I was like, why not?’” she said. “I’m spending the money on it, why not invest in it?”