Dakima Maria Builds A Beauty Empire in Vancouver
Traveling down the Sola Salon hallway takes clients directly to Dakima Maria Makeover Studios. They are then met with inspirational quotations, mannequins in Dakima Maria originals, display cases lined with branded makeup and Dakima Hicks herself who is often sporting stylish thick-framed glasses, athleisure as she’s likely en route to the airport and welcoming eyes above her protective face mask.
At 14 years old, Dakima – professionally known by a combination of her first and middle name, Dakima Maria – styled people’s hair in order to eat. Having lived through a difficult childhood, troubling marriage and temporary period of homelessness, Dakima was led to where she is today as the entrepreneur behind her personal, self-titled brand.
Now based in Vancouver, Washington, the mother of five works as a traveling hair stylist, fashion designer, cosmetic line creator and author. Dakima credits her success today to the hardship she endured throughout her life.
“I had a challenging childhood where we were very less fortunate,” Dakima said. “There were times when we didn’t have food. When I would do kids’ hair after school, I wasn’t thinking about making a difference in people’s lives like I do now. Then, it was survival. Today, it’s a passion.”
Dakima’s story starts in Detroit, Michigan where she grew up as the middle child, dropped out of high school, began designing clothes professionally, married young and became a mother. She had five children in seven years – three girls and two boys – and after fifteen years of marriage, she left her husband for a better life.
Support from family
“My relationship was lacking in what I needed,” Dakima said. “I left for Las Vegas and was homeless when plans I made didn’t pan out. At that moment, I told myself I would take this and make it into a success and do it for my kids, myself and others. But I realized that before I can make a difference, I need to work on myself and get educated in order to grow.”
When Dakima left Detroit in 2008, she was designing clothes and selling them in stores at the mall and a small boutique. In Las Vegas, she had to start over.
“I sat down and wrote a 10-year plan to go back to school, create the capital from doing hair, provide for my family, and then allow the resources to make room for my fashion design,” Dakima said.
With no money nor a place to stay, a lifeline came from her eldest daughter’s longtime basketball coach who helped Dakima apply for housing assistance and secure a home. Dakima also began working two jobs – a graveyard shift at Walmart and as a teacher’s assistant at a preschool during the day.
Things were beginning to improve, and Dakima was ready to get her GED and go to cosmetology school.
“I made a commitment to myself that I would take cosmetology school seriously,” Dakima said. “I decided to move my focus to completely changing my and my family’s lives.”
In 2016, Dakima proudly finished her degree at the top of her class and spoke at her graduation ceremony. She was then ready to make another move to the Pacific Northwest, following other family members who settled in the area.
Dakima moved to Washougal, Washington and styled hair in the City of Roses, Portland, Oregon. A this time, she decided to write an autobiography appropriately titled, Inside This Dress: God Turned My Pain into Rose Petals. Once her book was published in 2018, Dakima began the blueprint for opening her own business in Washington.
Launching Dakima Maria Makeover Studios
Two years later in early 2020, Dakima Maria Makeover Studios found its home in Vancouver, Washington.
“I felt like I could add to what Vancouver stylists were offering,” Dakima said. “Personally, I offer resilience, safety and confidence. I offer the average Vancouver client the ability to walk into a space and feel like it’s a home away from home.”
Dakima was able to start her business with the support of Sola Salon Studios, a national company that provides beauty professionals with high-end, fully equipped salon studios, coupled with other resources needed to launch a salon business.
Once Dakima launched, her datebook quickly filled, and new and existing clients of differing ages, genders, races and hair textures came for appointments.
Simultaneously, the studio owner continued to pursue her dreams of Dakima Maria becoming a lifestyle brand, rather than just a hair salon. She picked fashion design back up and booked shows at both Portland and New York Fashion Week. She also pursued a third venture, cosmetic product development, with plans to create eye shadow palettes, eye liners, lipsticks and more inspired by her daughters.
Overcoming a business setback with Mercy Corps Northwest support
Newly back from the East Coast, Dakima saw her appointments begin to slow down and the doors suddenly closed on all Sola Salon businesses due to COVID-19.
“I didn’t know what to do. No one was coming. People were fearful,” Dakima said about the start of the pandemic. “Because I had to continue to stay closed but still pay rent, I became resourceful. I made face masks for sale and then decided to open a Las Vegas salon to help me not drown.”
The persistent go-getter embarked on expanding the Dakima Maria empire to a new state, all while working to improve her mental health.
“When COVID hit, I fell into a deep depression, but I had to fight and figure out how we were going to eat,” Dakima said. “I didn’t know if the world was going to shut down. I was so nervous.”
Dakima tapped local resources to help keep her Vancouver location afloat before she broke ground in Las Vegas. Having taken several business classes with Mercy Corps Northwest, Dakima looked into potential support from the organization and learned of its COVID Small Business Relief Grant program that aimed to support small business owners in the Pacific Northwest who were hard-hit from pandemic closures.
After completing the application process and receiving aid, Dakima was able to pay rent, purchase product, supplies and continue to fund her makeup line.
“Mercy Corps has been my angel,” Dakima said. “When I was drowning, they saved my face. They saved my integrity. They saved me from being embarrassed because I thought I was going to have to shut down the Vancouver salon because of the lack of clientele we had at one point. The grant helped turn my life around. I’m still trying to get back on track to where I was before the pandemic, but it has really helped.”
"Hairstyling is my ministry"
Dakima is currently enrolled in Mercy Corps Northwest’s Building Your Foundation course series that helps people gain the confidence, support and technical business skills to continue with their dreams and down the path of entrepreneurship.
“I take my hat off to them,” Dakima said of Mercy Corps Northwest. “Because I know that what they’ve done for me, they’re doing for other people, too. And we’re all striving to get back on track. But the best part is that in classes, we have each other. Education is key to me. Having the knowledge behind what you’re doing is so much better than assuming.”
With the Vancouver studio rent paid for and fully equipped, Dakima was able to lease space in Las Vegas to establish her second location. Dakima describes the new space as smaller but very similar to her home salon with personal quotes and branded goods lining the salon walls.
Dakima flies between Washington and Nevada every few weeks, working hard to keep clients satisfied in both places, earn the double income, while also further spread awareness of the Dakima Maria brand.
The businesswoman also values supporting her community in conjunction with growing her brand. Dakima currently donates wigs to people undergoing cancer treatment. She creates custom wigs and only the hair gets paid for by the client; she makes the wig unit at no cost.
As for the future, Dakima hopes to one day run a training program to help cosmetologists in-the-making learn how to master their trade. She is currently testing her skills as a mentor with her daughters, two of whom are slated to begin cosmetology school this year. Dakima shares guidance with them, pulling directly from her personal experiences.
“Hair styling is my ministry,” Dakima said. “And some of my advice to people is that you don’t have to worry when you’re going through the worst. Just stay as strong as you can and even if you’re not feeling strong, remind yourself that you can be because there comes a time when it changes, you find your calling and it’s your turn to pay it forward.”
Dakima Maria Makeover Studios is located at Sola Salon Studios at 13875 SE Mill Plain Blvd, Vancouver, Washington. More information, including how to book salon services, can be found on her website, www.dakimamaria.com.