Ja’Lisa Calaway is busy. She worked multiple jobs while attending college, earned a degree from the University of Minnesota, became a licensed lash and nail tech, opened a storefront at 38th & Grand more than a year ago, and is now opening a second location in St. Paul. She’s also working with a realtor to create a “safe house” for people needing shelter.
“Come and see me baby,” she tells friends. “I’m doing 50 other things but I promise I’ll stop and talk to you.”
Calaway made her own wigs in college to save money. She started the business two years ago with $1,000, and found herself surrounded by boxes of hair extensions.
“I remember telling my grandma, ‘What if all of this hair doesn’t sell?’” she said.
Her dad encouraged her to “just do it,” and the effort paid off.
“I never expected it to go this far,” she said.
At 38th & Grand, staff members offer braiding, washing, styling and lash extensions. Calaway said she prefers extensions made from real hair for longer-lasting styles, and all of the hair can be colored, cut and permed. She also provides teeth-whitening services and sells her mother’s “Gorgeous by Ja’Lisa” line of healing oils and lotions. The new location at 866 University Ave. W. in St. Paul will add waxing and nail services as well.
As a side project, Calaway oversees the Facebook group Ja’Lisa’s Safe Place for women to discuss issues they are going through. Calaway said she and her family relocated to Minnesota for safety and stayed in a hotel for a time. She’s now hoping to buy a safe house as a stopping place for people to “eat and sleep and think for a second, what’s their next move.”
“You’d be surprised how many people don’t have a resume or don’t know how to do an interview. Little things like that can help save a person and help them on to the next step,” she said.
Ja’Lisa’s Gorgeous Extensions and the surrounding shops are hosting their first annual Open Doors at 38th & Grand event on Aug. 25 from 12 p.m.-6 p.m. The event will feature live music, sips and bites, puppy treats and games for kids.