Thursday, August 17, 2017

A BUSINESS conversation with SISTER CEOs GWEN BRAIMOH AND TRINA JILES

By Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

Gwen Braimoh (left) is owner of Expertise Cosmetology School of Beauty, while Trina Jiles owns the Gritz Café. Photo | Charles TUREAUD

Many people look back on their childhoods and recount the many times they experienced sibling rivalries. On the contrary, Gwen Braimoh and her ‘‘sista’’ Trina Jiles grew up very close, even through there is a 10-year age difference between them. Gwen, owner of Expertise Cosmetology School of Beauty, and Trina, owner of Gritz Café, are natives of Las Vegas and are making positive entrepreneurial community strides as owners and operators of flourishing businesses. With the recession as an economic backdrop, Gwen and Trina are beating the odds and are working together with a shared business location, 902 W. Owens Ave. According to the two sisters the current economic landscape is a struggle, but they consider themselves blessed to have maintained profit-driven businesses.

LVBI: Gwen and Trina, when did you first go into business?

Gwen: I first started my business Feb. 5, 2001, with only 25 students.  Now, we have two locations and we have 123 students.  Our mission is to recruit and train individuals in the field of cosmetology to become economically independent.

Trina: I have been a fire investigator with Clark County Fire Department for 13 years.  I started Gritz Café in January 2008 as my own entrepreneurial effort and decided to open the café in my sister’s cosmetology building.

Gwen: I went to all my brothers and sisters and told them I had a retail space available in my building and Trina stepped up and indicated that she wanted to do a business.  I thought it would be great for her to do an initial snack shop, because there wasn’t any other place close for my students in my school to get something to eat during their breaks.   

Trina: Gwen encouraged me, and now that snack shop is Gritz Café with seven employees.

LVBI: How has the transition been working in the public sector with the fire department and also working as an entrepreneur?

Trina: It’s been a big transition, particularly because of the 240 hours I work for the fire department a month, and I put in 20 to 30 hours a week at Gritz Café.  The transition requires great time management.  

Gwen: Trina is the type of person who reminds me of me.  She is a self-motivator, hard worker and a go-getter.  We have a lot of the same qualities.  When we were growing up, we were very close friends. Trina was always the one I could talk to and help her make life decisions.  When she wanted to move in with me I told her to consider buying her own house and she did.

Trina: Gwen has always inspired me and I thank God for her and the community for supporting Gritz. We keep our focus on serving our customers quality fresh food on time. Keeping the restaurant moving and getting customers in and giving great customer service is a daily goal. We only have 32 seats in our current location, and the challenge to adjust to the volume of people who frequent the restaurant is always met.

LVBI: What is your business formula for success with your sister?

Gwen: I think it is the trust factor. My sister and I both had some kinks when we opened our businesses, and we encouraged each other to keep moving towards a positive result. Trina used all of her own resources when she first opened Gritz Café, because she didn’t get a bank loan.

Trina: I can say that if I wasn’t here in my sister’s building, I don’t think my business would have ever opened because Gwen is my property owner and she allowed me financial flexibility. Gritz Café will be out of the red by next year and most first-time businesses — in a down economy — don’t see profits until their third or fifth year in business. 

LVBI: One of the old rules of business is to not do business with friends and family. How do you feel about that?

Gwen: We have to get out of that mentality. People have to learn how to do business with friends and family and support one another. I know how it is in business and starting off there can be hard at times, but we need to know how to leverage our dollars in creative ways. Just look around and you can see how many businesses are closing after just one year. We have to get back to the village mentality and help each other come up.

LVBI: What are the future plans for your businesses?

Trina: We will expand Gritz Café hours and hope to include a delivery service soon. Another one of our major goals is to franchise the Gritz concept out to others, because we have had so many requests from people who are interested. I can’t do it all myself. I am a single mother and I know that I must plan my business steps. 

Gwen: I, too am a single mom, and I plan on being that entrepreneurial stimulus package and develop Expertise Cosmetology School locations all over the state and stay true to my priorities, which include supporting the community and my family.

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