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Small businesses are the lifeblood of our communities. They provide services, add jobs, keep our dollars local, support our local nonprofits, and lend color and character to our towns.

We check in with a few of West Volusia’s small business owners to hear their stories, and share some advice for small businesses and prospective entrepreneurs.

Mitzi Caine has been a small-business owner in DeLand for more than 25 years. She owns and operates Mitzi’s First Impressions, a family-oriented, multicultural hair salon at 640 W. New York Ave. in DeLand.

Q: How scary was it to start your own business?

A: When I started, I was living with my parents, so it wasn’t as bad since I didn’t have kids. Later on … I’m a single parent, so it was very challenging. I have two daughters, they are now 24 and 14. My eldest is an aesthetician, and my 14-year-old, she has a little lip-gloss business online.

Q: What prompted you to start a business?

A: It just happened. I’ve always been a hairstylist. I’m from Jamaica, and I left Jamaica in 1992 and came here. And I was doing hair in Jamaica, as well. When I came here, I had to go back to school here and get the credits to work here, as well.

I always loved doing hair. I started out doing my sisters’ and my mom’s hair. I started at home. And then it just grows through word-of-mouth. And that’s how this all started.

Q: Did you make any big mistakes at first? Did you have a business plan?

No big mistakes. I was pretty level headed. And, my dad is a business owner. I really didn’t [have a business plan]. I pretty much just rolled with the punches.

Q: Any turning points, big milestones?

A turning point, I think, was moving here, in this new location. Where I was before, it was a little…. The rent was, like, double what I’m paying here. And the location is better here.

Q: Would you recommend small-business ownership as a career path?

A: I would, I absolutely would. I mean, it has its pros and cons. You know, I have to have insurance. I have to, you know, that kind of world — I have to pay my own retirement. All that stuff comes, and you’re responsible for that.

That’s the con. The pros: Being your own boss is the best. It’s amazing. It’s the best. Being your own boss, I can set my own schedule. I’ve never had to clock in anywhere. I don’t know what that life is like.

Q: Do you have advice for other people?

A: Just whatever you plan, or whatever you want to be in life, just go for it. Don’t let nobody tell you “No.” Just go for it.

Q: What have been the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic?

A: It was rough because we had to close down for about two months. It was hard, but it was kind of a blessing in disguise. I was actually running myself tired. And, closing down for two months gave me a chance to just relax. It made me just literally stop. I actually could clean up my house. I mean, I gained some COVID weight, but who didn’t?

Q: How do you get word out?

A: Pretty much word-of-mouth, because I’ve been in DeLand for so long. A lot of people know of “Mitzi.”

Q: What do you think local governments can do to make it easier for small businesses?

A: Give us more grants or loans.

Q: It’s quite busy in the salon today. Is it always like this?

A: We stay pretty busy. It’s crazy; Black women, when it comes to their hair? We don’t play when it comes to our hair. Rain, shine, hurricane: I don’t care. They’re coming to get their hair done.

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