Black-owned hair salon expands with help from Covington’s small business program

COVINGTON, Kentucky — Wale Giwa, owner of Upper Kutz in Covington, smiled as he discussed the move to a larger location.

“When I got to this spot, I knew it was going to be very different from the old spot,” he said. “I knew it was going to be crazy. The potential, it would have everything that comes with it. New customers. More people who would work with me. I wanted to improve my business.”

He’s been in the new store on Madison Avenue since November 1st. Before that, he spent six years at the corner of 16th Street and Greenup Street.

“It’s bigger. More room. The old store was cramped everywhere. It wasn’t a good area for people to come here,” he said.

Giwa’s hope is to bring something new to Covington.

“I firmly believe that opportunities will arise. When the opportunity presents itself, I took it,” Giwa said. “I was across the street, had some food, came out and saw the rental sign. I said let’s jump on it. If it’s there, why not take it?”

Another opportunity arose recently when Giwa applied for Upper Kutz to receive a rent subsidy through the city’s small business program. The goal of this program is to provide funds to small businesses to help with rent or facade improvements.

The Covington City Commission is expected to meet soon to consider and approve six different companies for this round of funding. If approved, Upper Kutz would receive $6,000 to help with rent over the next year.

Giwa said this is a big help in the wake of the pandemic and a global recession.

“It made it better for me to know I was going to get that. It made it better for me to put more money into the store,” he said. “Many people are sometimes afraid to accept help. I don’t want to be afraid to accept help. It will offer me to build my business and help someone else get to the top.”

Another goal of Giwa is to be a beacon of hope for children in the city of Covington and beyond.

“I have children of my own. Covington’s youth has not seen the best. I’m from Covington and I know I can do it in Covington. To place something like that in Covington. I like to lead by example. That’s always what I want to do. Show the kids you can do it without… you can do it right,” he said.

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