By EMMA BARTLETT and FRANKLIN PAULINO
It was Christmastime in 2005 when Margaret Titilola talked with her sister, Moji, at a party about starting a business. That night, everyone made a wish for something, and Titilola wished that next year she’d have her own store. 365 days later, Titilola was the proud owner of Titi Beauty Supply.
Since she was 10 years old, Titilola knew she wanted to be a CEO. She emigrated from Nigeria, Africa, to Rhode Island in 1979 and now lives in Providence with her husband. Titilola also raised three children – two boys and a girl.
As for why she wanted to start a beauty salon, the answer is simple.
“I love playing with hair,” said Titilola.
Her love for hair is evident since individuals walking into her store are immediately surrounded with wigs, hairpieces, combs, brushes and more. As the sole business employee, Titilola runs the shop Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Titilola’s first shop was located on Elmwood Avenue, but the lack of parking accessibility caused her to search elsewhere. At the time of her search, Titilola’s tailor was closing his business on Park Avenue, causing Titilola to move in. In February of 2007, she opened her storefront to customers. Titilola’s husband, who works as an accountant, helped her with launching her business.
Titilola said business has been up and down for the past 16 years, with the store not driving a lot of foot traffic. However, one person who came in through foot traffic was Franklin Paulino, Cranston’s Director of Economic Development who spoke to Titilola about different grants she could apply for with her business. She said when he first walked into her store talking about grants and her reply was ‘what grant?’
During the pandemic, Titilola received a Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) grant which covered up to $1,000 worth of PPE supplies such as masks and hand sanitizer to protect against Covid. Titilola later applied for a Prevent, Prepare, Respond (PPR) grant and received $2,500 which helped with reconstruction, job creation and retention and stabilization.
While these funds have helped Titilola stabilize her business, she is applying for a state level grant that will hopefully take her business to the next level and assist her in establishing a website so she can reach more customers through an online platform. She said the highest selling products are wigs, especially for people with cancer. The next level is to connect Titilola with a business consultant specializing in marketing to take her business in the digital era.
Titilola recently had the opportunity to meet Governor Daniel McKee and Mayor Ken Hopkins visited small businesses around Cranston and spoke about the aid small business owners can apply for to support their businesses.
“I was surprised, shocked and excited,” Titilola said. “It was like shaking the President’s hand. I was honored and so happy they chose my little shop.”
Come July, the City of Cranston plans to have an ARPA Fund Small Business Relief grant available for the city’s 2,000 plus small businesses to take advantage of. The funds will be available until 2026 and will be dispersed evenly throughout those years. More information about grant opportunities can be found at https://www.cranstonri.gov/departments/economic-development/.