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Annapolis native offers entrepreneurship lessons during National Women’s History Month

Andrea Blackstone | 3/6/2015, 8 a.m.
Women’s History Month offers an excellent opportunity to highlight local women who step out in faith like Ericka Wilkins.
Ericka Wilkins and her parents started a beauty supply business in Annapolis in the late eighties. Over the years, they have given back to community area youth. Rosemary's Beauty and Barber Supplies recently opened a new location at 2240 Bay Ridge Avenue in Annapolis. (Photo: Andrea Blackstone)

Women’s History Month offers an excellent opportunity to highlight local women who step out in faith like Ericka Wilkins. The Annapolitan and her parents— Rosemary Wilkins and Willie Wilkins— offer lessons in determination to own a family business. Around 1989, Ericka became the co-owner of a beauty supply store. It was an unplanned endeavor for a 21-year-old with multiple skills and interests. Ericka embraced the challenge. Since she began working in the business full time, the entrepreneur and hair stylist has never turned back.

“My parents wanted to own a business. Mom thought consignment was the way to go, so we opened a consignment business on West Street. We were in danger of losing our home and were approaching eviction from the building where we were located at the time. Someone came along and said they had something to consign. Mom said we were going out of business. They suggested putting some of their beauty supplies in the store. That is how we ended up in the beauty supply business,” Ericka said. “It started taking off. People started buying hair items, so we transitioned from a consignment store to a beauty supply.”

Although Ericka originally aspired to become a doctor, she completed a three-year cosmetology program at Center of Applied Technology South (CAPS) located in Edgewater. Her interest in hair care began as a teenager. She earned her cosmetology license in high school.

“I got into pre-med program at Catholic University. I interned at the National Rehabilitation Center in D.C. I realized that I did not like that field as much as I thought I did. I felt like I was boxed in,” Ericka said. “My scholarship ended the same year. I wasn’t one who wanted a bunch of student loans. I planned to take a year off, save some money and go back to school, but I just stayed in the business.”

While Ericka attended college, her parents opened up a second Rosemary’s Beauty Supply location on the Eastern Shore. She decided to work there while her parents worked at the Annapolis location. Her father held down another job. Ericka integrated her cosmetology skills, by building up a clientele who were seeking hair care services.

“A cosmetology career allowed me a little more freedom and space,” Ericka said.

Today, she divides her time working in Chester, Md. on the Eastern Shore, and in Annapolis as a stylist and salon owner. Studio Styles Salon and Barber Shop is located at 2242 Bay Ridge Ave. in Annapolis.

Two barbers and three stylists work with Ericka. She provides natural hairstyle services, braided looks, dread maintenance and chemical services. However, she is also skilled in working with all hair types.

Her customers range from ages five to 70. The retail part of her business is located next door. A soft opening of Rosemary’s Beauty and Barber Supplies was held in Annapolis a few months ago.

Although Ericka did pursue a career in medicine, she remains in the business of helping others. For the last fifteen years, Ericka has been dedicated to working with community youth. She currently serves as an advisor of Super Leaders at Annapolis Senior High School. She helps to provide life skill support, while working “to shape students to become the best people they can be.” Many students stay in touch with her after graduation. Her parents and sister, Cassandra Wilkins, have also been supportive of youth. The Wilkins family has become extended family to many who encounter them.

Over the years, Ericka’s caring nature and talent have helped her to stay popular with customers. She provides hair styling services for chemotherapy patients and individuals who seek to overcome hair challenges.

“I like mission impossible situations and troubleshooting. I enjoy making people feel good about themselves and giving them the look that they want to achieve,” Ericka said. “Being a business owner takes a lot of hard work. It requires a lot of long hours, but I like having the ability to make decisions and design my life how I want it be. I think it’s exciting to own a business.”

Ericka plans to have a spring grand opening for Rosemary’s Beauty and Barber Supplies, located at 2240 Bay Ridge Avenue in Annapolis. Currently, store hours are Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information, connect with Ericka on Facebook via https://www.facebook.com/

RosemarysBeautyandBarberSupplies/about or call 410-643-5952.