“YEAH, I’M HERE
AND I’M LEGITIMATE.
I FEEL FLY”
Yolonda Coles Jones
Heal Fund Grant as
Business Launching Pad
Under normal circumstances, the Community Foundation would not have funded someone like Yolonda Coles Jones. Community foundations generally can give money only to nonprofit organizations. That leaves out Coles Jones, an entrepreneur whose website offers her services as a life coach, natural hair stylist, singer, writer, and photographer.
For more than a decade she’s been styling black people’s natural hair—which means no chemical straightening. At Coles Jones’s salon in Charlottesville, it’s all—in her words—“kinks, curls, waves, locks, and afros.” More than that, though, it’s a celebration of the hair and the person wearing it.
Many of Coles Jones’s clients live in a world that makes them feel as if there’s something wrong with their waves. “We’re countering that whole narrative by providing a space where our language—interacting and interfacing with the client, standing behind the chair and face to face—is nourishing and affirming and uplifting,” she said. “It enables you to go back into society and feel like, ‘Yeah, I’m here and I’m legitimate. I feel fly. I’m professional.’”
Coles Jones has a large client base and a long waiting list. In order to spend more time pursuing her other, non–hair styling services, she sought to hire and train a protégé. She hoped a Heal Charlottesville Fund grant might allow her to do that.
But what about the prohibition on funding businesses?
Enter Stephen Davis. He’s the executive director of the Community Investment Collaborative (CIC), a Charlottesville nonprofit that provides education, mentoring, financing, and networking to under-resourced entrepreneurs. He said the Community Foundation reached out to see if CIC could take Heal Fund grant money and put it into the hands of “businesses who are doing really socially directed activities.” The Community Foundation, he said, was interested in more than simply building businesses; it wanted to improve the community. It wanted to foster the kind of space that Coles Jones was creating with her salon.
Stephen Davis, executive director of the Community Investment Collaborative
Through the Heal Fund, Davis paired with Coles Jones, helping make possible her expansion plan. It’s help that ought to be understood, Coles Jones said, in a historical context.
Her own grandparents were not able to go to school because of Massive Resistance, Coles Jones said. She’s the first generation in her family to go to college and only the second to graduate from high school.
“If you’re talking about education,” she said, “you’re talking about access. You’re talking about mobility in society.” That’s why it’s so important to offer opportunities for money, Coles Jones said. It provides access to down payments, to land, to the networks that will help grow businesses.
This is how we empower the community, she said. This is how we heal.