Member Success Story: April Austin

In order to launch her mobile hair salon, April Austin had an opportunity to purchase a conversion van at a very low cost. She took it to a dealership to have it inspected, and they told her it was worth more as spare parts than as the centerpiece of her business. They told her to junk it.

April and van
April Austin with the van that will become her mobile hair salon

After a moment of disappointment, she got a second opinion from someone with experience working on RVs. He inspected the van and told her it would be OK with a new battery, some new wires and a lot of soap and water. So she set about saving for the battery and wires.

It was at least the second time someone looked at April’s situation and saw potential where others saw problems.

The first time was at Cincinnati Works.

“I’m not just a number here,” April said. “I’m a person.”

She became a Member in 2010, completed the workshop, got a job and worked with Advancement and Financial coaches over the next few years. She even represented Cincinnati Works at a City funding hearing in 2018 and proudly declared, “Because of Cincinnati Works, my children will not know poverty.”

Unfortunately, hard work and optimism are not always enough.

A divorce left April a single mother with 5 children, and she was no longer able to support her family on her paycheck, which eventually led to homelessness. She thought she had used all of the resources Cincinnati Works had to offer, so she never thought to call. Our staff learned of her struggles from a Cincinnati Enquirer article.

Lisa Mauthe, Director of Financial Wellness, reached out to April and explained how Cincinnati Works can help her in numerous ways beyond a job search. “I assured her that we are in her corner for her lifetime and across any circumstance,” Lisa said.

April choked up when she recalled that conversation: “I know with her I have somebody.”

It inspired April to re-commit to the idea she has long held for her own business – a mobile hair salon built on the philosophy of hair care as self-care. By bringing the salon to the customer, she can offer self-care time to people who think they cannot afford time for themselves.

“I know what that feels like,” April said. “As a parent, especially a single parent, you think about your kids all the time. I will come to you, and I will be there to think about you.”

Lisa connected April to Project Lift, a United Way program that offers critical short-term financial assistance for families striving for stability. April used these funds to take continuing education courses and exams to keep her cosmetology certifications updated.

Cincinnati Works also connected her to OCEAN, a faith-based entrepreneurial program through Crossroads Church. Through OCEAN’s training, April has quantified her idea into a solid business plan. Hope’s H.E.A.R.T.S. LLC – which stands for Healing Every Avenue by Raising Their Spirits – was born.

“She has a distinct vision for both her business and her life and I look forward to being with her every step of the way,” Lisa said. “I am in awe of her dedication and achievements, and I know she will be successful!”

The van is a tangible reminder.

“It might not be the prettiest thing on the road, but it brings peace and hope, and we can all use more of that,” April said. “I look at it every day and see a business worth believing in, just like Cincinnati Works believes in me.”