Taking care of business

Taking care of business

Shanikqua Dandy, left, of Woonsocket, launched Fine and Dandy, a makeup services company, after taking a course offered by the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Leadership. She is pictured with Keno Mullings, founder of the institute and course instructor for its Bootstrap Bootcamp business training program. (Breeze photos by Lauren Clem)
Nonprofit course helping local entrepreneurs find their groove

WOONSOCKET – Shanikqua Dandy, known to her friends as simply “Dandy,” is having a good year. Her newly launched makeup services company, Fine and Dandy, is averaging three to four customers per week, while her latest online tutorial numbered 4,200 views. That’s a significant growth from six months ago, when her videos had around 500 views apiece.

Dandy, a 27-year-old entrepreneur from Woonsocket, has been interested in founding her own business for a long time. As a student at the Art Institute of Boston, she attempted to launch her own photography company, though without knowledge of how to run a business, she said, “It didn’t go well.” In her second semester, she became interested in makeup when she took a portraiture class and later started doing makeovers for family and friends.

“I was more interested in these techniques (the professor) was using to make this person look more like the image, and that was all makeup,” she said.

In her 20s, Dandy returned to Woonsocket to work at NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley and Riverzedge Arts, where she currently serves as arts and business program director. But makeup, she said, was always in the back of her mind. Last June, she began posting online makeup tutorials under the social media name @dandyuploads. The tutorials were popular with friends and teenagers looking to get ready for prom season, but she hoped to turn the platform into a brand name that could make some extra income on the side.

Then, in the fall, she learned about a new training program for budding entrepreneurs. Bootstrap Bootcamp is a course offered by the Providence-based Institute for Entrepreneurship and Leadership, a nonprofit organization that seeks to end poverty and increase diversity in the tech economy through business training. The organization, which became an official nonprofit in 2017, had recently started offering its program in Woonsocket and, thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Foundation, was offering the course to Woonsocket residents free of charge.

Dandy signed up for the November session, joining five other aspiring small business owners for the 24-hour course. The business ideas were varied, she said, and included skill sets ranging from a locksmith to an acupuncturist to a comic book illustrator. By the end of the session, she and two other participants were ready to launch their ideas. On the Friday the course ended, Fine and Dandy became an officially registered business at City Hall.

“The biggest takeaway for me was actually coming up with a plan and figuring out how to do these makeup sessions and these makeup services at such a low cost, but also, is it needed?” she said.

According to Keno Mullings, founder of the Institute for Entrepreneurship and Leadership (IEL) and course instructor, the program stems from his own experiences in business. Mullings moved from Jamaica to the United States to study software engineering at Northeastern University before founding The Mullings Group, a software development company. Rather than focus solely on a business plan, he said, the program works to develop participants’ goals and leadership skills to help position them for success. It covers topics such as registering a business, setting up a bank account and promoting a brand while helping participants build confidence and focus.

“My hope is that they transition from startups to long-term businesses,” he said.

Mullings said he thinks Woonsocket is uniquely positioned to benefit from the program. While Main Street has seen a lull in small business activity in recent years, the vacant storefronts also create an opportunity for new businesses to move in. He first had the idea to bring the program to Woonsocket after visiting Woonsocket Middle School to speak with students about software development.

“I think just putting businesses in there that are active, that are keeping that hum, I think it would change downtown,” he said.

Downtown is exactly where Dandy sees herself someday. The young entrepreneur would eventually like to open a brick-and-mortar makeup studio, but for now is focused on growing her client base through online promotion and word-of-mouth. She recently signed her first corporate sponsor, an online jewelry retailer called Fashion Mink that sponsors her tutorial videos in exchange for promotion of their products. For now, she provides her makeup services in clients’ homes, and anticipates a rush in calls during prom season in the spring.

Mullings is planning to return to the city in March to offer another session of the Bootstrap Bootcamp program. The course, which will again be offered free of charge thanks to the Rhode Island Foundation, will take place on Fridays and Saturdays, March 1 through 23, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Fridays and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Mullings is hoping to once again reach energetic entrepreneurs who are interested in investing in their community through small business.

“Woonsocket needs it. Woonsocket absolutely needs an entrepreneurial spirit,” he said.

More information about the upcoming course is available at bootstrapbootcamp.com .

Shanikqua Dandy records a makeup tutorial video to post to her online social media pages.