woman in red shirt gesturing to things around her with mannequin heads in the background
IDA Saver, Tralice Lewis

With the support of an IDA, Tralice Lewis started Callie’s Custom Hat Wigs, a business that brings together her experience, expertise, and passion for serving her community and helping others. Inspired by her mother, a hospice nurse who had spent years helping people feel comfortable, as well as childhood visits to Mrs. C’s Wigs, a Black-owned business that had thrived in Northeast Portland for 30 years before its closure, Tralice seeks to create a safe space that offers education and support as people navigate deeply personal concerns related to their hair.

As the 2020 COVID shutdowns disrupted the labor market, Tralice was searching for a way to bring together her cosmetology training and her nurturing personality. She saw a need for a local wig retailer in Portland but had never owned a business before. Her sister Michelle Lewis, owner of Third Eye Books Accessories & Gifts, referred her to Microenterprise Services of Oregon (MESO). MESO provided a broad range of business education to help her get started, and then introduced Tralice to the IDA. 

After saving in an IDA for 18 months Tralice used her savings and IDA match funds to open a store in the Rockwood Market Hall. “It’s a 24/7 job; when you’re an entrepreneur it never turns off,” states Tralice. “We have to wear so many hats until we can get to that point where we can hire people and pay ourselves, which the IDA can help with. So many people are turned away from loans.”

Tralice works to be of service to the community as she provides education on hair care and wig care. While she owns what is currently the only black-owned wig store in the Pacific Northwest, Tralice emphasizes that wigs offer easy-to-maintain solutions for people of all races and colors—Black, brown and white. She sees people dealing with hair loss related to cancer or alopecia. Nurses and doctors facing sudden hair thinning due to COVID or stress have come to Tralice, uncertain of where to turn. Her customers include trans and gender-diverse individuals seeking a style that allows them to feel like themselves. Tralice takes the time to greet people and hear their story. “You never know what someone is going through and how you can help somebody,” she states.

“Small businesses are important. When you have a small business, you look out for one another, help out one another, protect one other. It’s important for us as small businesses to be supportive and also to have that support,” states Tralice. “The IDA gives hope, helps people achieve their dreams, and helps community achieve their community’s dreams.”