Backstory: Traveling hairstylist aims to help those with disabilities

kblunt@newsobserver.comJuly 1, 2013 

Jacquil Leathers cuts the hair of Christian Johnson, 4, at his house as his mom, Jameka, watches from behind in Cary.

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  • Advice from Jacquil Leathers

    •  Be persistent in promoting your services.

    •  Devise an agenda and stick to it.

    •  Stay organized.

    •  Be confident in yourself and what you can accomplish.

— It was clear from the beginning that a trip to a salon was out of the question for Jacquil Leathers’ younger sister Jessica. She couldn’t stand to have her head touched, and when Leathers raised her hair scissors, Jessica ran and hid.

Jessica has cerebral palsy, and Leathers had to learn through trial and error how to make her sister calm and comfortable enough to get a haircut. The experience inspired Leathers to start 7CutzAbove, an in-home service that provides haircuts for mentally and physically challenged individuals.

“It can be really difficult for disabled individuals to go out and get their hair cut,” Leathers said. “Depending on their physical disabilities, they may have to sit a certain way in the chair, which could make it difficult for the stylist to do their job. The machines in the salon could also trigger a seizure for some people. Safety is a big consideration.”

Leathers provides an in-home consultation before the first haircut in order to understand the client’s specific needs and preferences.

“I want to come over and talk to them and let them get a feel for me,” Leathers said. “I need to check and ask ‘What’s the need?’ ‘Can they talk and walk? ‘Do they understand I’m coming to give them a haircut?’”

Leathers, a 28-year-old Cary resident, has about 10 clients in Raleigh and Cary. She said she hopes to expand into Durham soon.

“Some of the tasks we take for granted become very difficult to do, especially for those who have sensory challenges,” said Sarah Crawford, development director at the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities. “Having someone who comes to the house to provide these services is huge. This is a need that has been around in the community, and it’s not going away. We’re seeing more organizations that are providing community-based support rather than center-based support, and that’s only going to grow.”

Leathers realized her passion for assisting the disabled as she helped Jessica from throughout her childhood, adolescence and early adulthood. Inspired by her sister, she took a job at the Tammy Lynn Center in 2007 and learned to help individuals with a wide range of disabilities. She stayed there for two years.

Around the same time, Leathers received her cosmetology license and began working part-time at several area salons. In 2011, she enrolled as an undergraduate at William Peace University. She began working full-time job as a security guard at Apex High School and a part-time as a stylist at Sports Clips to help pay for school.

Leathers had wanted to start her own haircutting business for several years, and last year, her family and friends helped her hone the idea and launch the initiative. Her pastor, Glenda Scott, helped devise a name.

“In the Bible, Samson’s strength was in his seven locks of hair,” Leathers said. “I wanted the name to demonstrate that strength, and my haircuts are a cut above the rest.”

Geri Baron, the librarian at Apex High School, designed a logo, and her cousin, Jamekka Leathers, put it on t-shirts. Her cousin’s 4-year-old son was her first customer.

Leathers has worked with clients with autism, blindness and several physical disabilities. She gladly serves the general public, as well.

“I’m really working on building my clientele,” Leathers said. “I really want to cater to those with special needs, but if you’re old enough to get your hair cut, I’ll do it.”

Blunt: 919-829-8985

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