Shamika Rainer has never been one to sit idle. Nor is she the type to wait for opportunity to come knocking.
Her motto: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
For Rainer, it’s a philosophy that has fueled her life’s work.
“I create opportunities,” said the 35-year-old with an infectious and vivacious energy. “Especially when there is a need for those opportunities. That’s always how I’ve been, and that’s just who I am.”
A hairstylist and local entrepreneur behind Luxurious Hair Spa, located at 1464 Central Ave., Rainer also is the mastermind behind the Little Luxuries Girls Club, a mentorship organization that she has operated for nearly four years.
Little Luxuries saw its start connecting with girls in grades 4 through 10. Collaborating with Hillcrest Family Services and the Multicultural Family Center, it implemented everything from cooking to crafting and community service projects to encourage young women to make positive contributions within their communities.
Little Luxuries further aimed to offer “a safe place for girls to feel free to be themselves” and to “empower, inspire and mentor girls to live a life full of power, enabling good decision-making for purpose and value through positive information and different cultural experiences,” according to the organization’s mission statement.
Today — and due in part to gathering restrictions that were in place during the COVID-19 pandemic — the organization’s mission has broadened to include young men and young adults in some cases, even employing a few at Rainer’s salon to learn the basics behind entrepreneurship.
“Everyone needs help and needs the tools to learn how to cope and grow,” Rainer said. “Especially now, going through everything we’ve gone through and coming out of everything we have.”
Rainer said she recently has taken Little Luxuries “to the streets” in an effort to meet those in need, where they are.
“It’s more about taking action in the community and being more hands-on with the people,” she said.
It’s something Rainer said she believes not only helps drive inspiration in the next generation but also continues bridging the gap in diversity within the community.
“You have to be the change you want to see,” she said. “You have to get out there and do it. Why wait for someone else to do it? Why can’t it be you? It’s like dropping a piece of paper, seeing it on the ground and waiting for someone else to pick it up. If no one picks it up, then we’re all at fault. Just pick it up.”
Defying the odds
A native of Chicago, Rainer relocated to Dubuque when she was 18 to attend the University of Dubuque. With a 5-month-old in tow, she worked to put herself through school, pay the rent and make the best of her situation.
Drawn to beauty and fashion from a young age and inspired by her aunt, it wasn’t long before the desire to pursue that interest and work toward owning a salon took hold. So, Rainer enrolled at Capri.
Upon graduating and even teaching for a period of time at the school, instructors gently warned that opening a salon wasn’t as easy as it looked.
An ambitious Rainer had other ideas.
She admitted that while starting a business venture was scary, Rainer knew she had it within herself to do.
“I’m hard-headed,” she said, slyly grinning. “If you tell me ‘no,’ I think, ‘You mean not today? OK. So, tomorrow.’ When I’m running, I’m never looking at the spectators. I only see the finish line.”
Rainer owned and operated Mi Amour Salon in Dubuque before eventually opening Luxurious Hair Spa in 2015.
A business that powered through the pandemic, there, Rainer caters to all hair types, including Black hair, which she said is a passion for her.
Additionally, Rainer developed and launched a hair care line appropriately dubbed Luxurious Hair Care.
“When I couldn’t find a product that did what I needed it to do, I just made my own,” she said. “It’s so people can have that luxurious salon feel at home.”
It was through Rainer’s connection with clients in the community, as well as raising two children — Kamareyah, 14; and Kamarreon, 16 — that she began to realize the need to do more.
“Kids these days are more alone now than ever before,” Rainer said. “When I was growing up, I had my siblings around and my cousins. We might have fought like cats and dogs, but we were connecting. We weren’t sitting with an iPad.”
Rainer said she started small, working with her children and her friends’ children before word of mouth grew. Eventually, she was forging partnerships within the community and noticing that Little Luxuries was making a difference in the lives of local youth.
“There were other after-school programs but nothing being run by people who looked like me,” she said. “That representation is important for young people to see, coming from a different cultural background. They need to know that they can be business owners and that they can be the ones creating change in their communities. Most of all, they need to feel like they belong and have an outlet to get to know themselves. They need to develop their skills and make sure they’re putting their God-given talents out there.”
Drawing from her faith
In addition to tapping into her tremendous drive and determination, Rainer also draws upon her faith.
“Faith is everything to me,” she said. “If you are drawn to doing something, God is going to make it happen. That’s a key belief I have and is a huge part of me.”
In addition to her reach throughout the community, Rainer also has made an impression closer to home.
“I think what my mom does is pretty inspiring,” said daughter Kamareyah. “She’s really out there in the community, and she’s done a lot for people who need the most help. It’s a cool thing to see.”
As for what the future holds for Rainer, she said she is right where she belongs.
“I just want to continue growing and expanding and reaching out to those people who need help,” she said. “It’s all about gathering as a community.”
Megan Gloss writes for the Telegraph Herald.