Mia Thomas loves to feel beautiful in bright, expensive wigs. She wants college students in Gainesville to feel the same at an affordable price.
On Feb. 13, the 23-year-old Edward Waters College student opened a vending machine that sells wigs, hair bundles and false eyelashes in the Oaks Mall, Tomika Kay, Thomas’s assistant, said. She chose Gainesville to make her products more accessible and affordable for other college students who may struggle to get high-quality hair, Kay said. Lace-front wigs can be expensive.
Wigs are $39 each, hair bundles are $10 and false eyelashes are $10. The machine’s opening comes as Thomas celebrates the anniversary of her business, Gurl U Cute Inc. Hair Boutique, in Jacksonville, which she opened after struggling to purchase wigs in the past, Kay said.
Thomas bought her first bulk shipment of hair for $5,000 and sold out within the first two weeks of opening her business, Kay said. Soon after, she incorporated false lashes into the business and now gets her products from a vendor in India. Thomas decided to begin selling her products in a vending machine.
On the vending machine’s first day, Thomas sold 40 sets of lashes, Kay said. She plans to return twice a week to check on the machine and keep track of sales.
Reggiena Priest, 21, noticed the machine when she went to Oaks Mall Feb. 13. When she passed by a second time, she said Thomas approached her to talk about her business.
Thomas didn’t sound confident, so Priest wanted to help promote her. Priest took a picture of Thomas, wearing a long, blonde wig next to the machine, and posted it to her Facebook, where it soon gained attention and was shared in several Facebook groups. The original post has more than 1,500 shares and over 889 reactions on Facebook.
“It’s 2021,” Priest said. “I know we’ve been knocked down. It’s time for us queens to be successful. We’re going to be successful all year.”
Coming up with the design for the vending machine involved hiring a graphic designer, and Thomas herself took the images on the machine, which show her modeling colorful wigs and hairstyles using her product. The machine is bright purple and has the name of her business in cursive, gold font on the side.
Thomas’s focus isn’t only on her business. In addition to studying criminal justice, she recently completed real estate school and works as a bond agent for her own bail bond office in Jacksonville called Get Me Out Bail Bonds LLC.
“This girl is a powerhouse,” Kay said. “She’s doing all of that by herself.”
Thomas’s next goal is to open about 10 vending machines throughout Florida and Georgia, Kay said. Thomas also hopes to have a franchise, where she will help others open their own vending machines.
“She wants to help other people put shoes, clothes,…whatever they’re passionate about and love to do all in a vending machine so they can help pay for their college,” Kay said.
The vending machine sits at the center of the mall and you can’t miss it, Priest said. Thomas and Kay are excited to see continued support and social media posts as people “come get cute” –– her business’ motto –– at the machine.
Contact Lucille Lannigan at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LucilleLannigan.
Lucy Lannigan is a second-year journalism student from Key West. She works as a news assistant on the metro team. When Lucy’s not reporting, she loves to paint and spend time outside.