By Bridgette Babb:
They say the things you go through shape who you become. For Shayla Smith, life changing events came in threes.
Originally from Atlanta, Smith relocated to Buffalo, New York in 2012. Succeeding in high school was never an issue for the young scholar, as she was able to rack up over $40,000 in scholarships to attend The College at Brockport. Branching out and making connections became easy after her sophomore year, when she joined the step team, which is a form of dance involving stomping and clapping. At this point, she was working full time, while pursuing a major in accounting.
“College is literally it’s own job,” Smith said. “You won’t survive if you don’t put in the work, especially with a major like this.”
The summer of 2017 brought something Smith did not expect: a pregnancy. Fear overwhelmed her, but she was comforted by her boyfriend John Harber.
“When I first found out I was going to be a dad, I was very happy because I knew who I wanted my child to be with,” Harber said. “I was also scared, thinking I was messing up what was going on for Shayla, but we stayed strong and got through it.”
Deciding to take a break from her education at this point, Smith’s next plan of action was to figure out a way to share the news with her family back in Georgia. She never thought that her mother, Shawna Boyd, already knew.
“I came to visit and took one look at her and just knew she was pregnant,” Boyd said. “She’s my daughter.”
Once her mother told her father the news, he was initially unhappy, but eventually became part of the aide she desperately needed.
There were comments from family and friends about her not being ready for a baby, but Smith never considered having an abortion. She knew that while she may be going through certain issues, this baby was coming whether she liked it or not.
On February 20, 2018, four days before her due date, she welcomed Sariyah into the world.
“She came out absolutely perfect, just gorgeous,” Smith proudly boasted.
The joy of being a new mom didn’t last long, as both her and the baby contracted a fever immediately after delivery.
“It was a long five days in the hospital,” Smith said. “I was so scared for her because I was already so in love.”
Thankfully, the young mother and her daughter pulled through and were able to go home. While on maternity leave, Smith started playing with the idea of starting her own business. It was important to her to have something more stable than part time jobs to create the life her daughter deserved.
“I wanted to create something that would empower women,” she said. “What can I do to set my business apart from the others?”
Her daughter was the driving force behind her wanting to excel.
“I have a responsibility to my child to make sure she is good,” she said.
Starting with YouTube videos, Smith researched different products and ingredients she could use on her own. The dessert theme came early, since she had always loved making sweets. Her family was behind her all the way, especially Boyd.
“Shayla is very creative and driven, and gets along well with others,” Boyd said. “She’s always had a love for bath and skin products. I encouraged her to turn any passion into a profit.”
Smith choose to base the name of her website on her own middle name. She felt everyone pictured “Shayla” with a goofy personality, but “Anisa” was ‘down to earth, someone the everyday girl could relate too.’ May 2nd brought about the launch of anisasbathsweets.com, Smith’s new baby. She recalled the startup being pretty cheap, including the graphics for the website and buying a label printer to put the the ingredients on her products.
The support that came at first was overwhelming. Old teachers, family and coworkers shared, posted the site and purchased some products. The most popular scents and body butters are ‘peaches & cream’ and ‘lemon butter.’
“It is a very good feeling to have someone support something you are so passionate about,” Smith said.
Businesses however, always have their challenges when introducing themselves to the market. She realized that as the initial hype simmered down, most buyers were not return customers. She tried to mimic other businesses, offering giveaways, coupon codes and marketing to a different demographic.
“I’m still learning, especially with the marketing and pricing,’ Smith said. “Of course you want to be fair, but the goal in the end is to turn some sort of profit.”
She gets the word out by doing local vendor events in Buffalo. Another struggle of course is that she is the mother of a young child, while working her conventional jobs of a food deliverer, fitness employee and home health aide alongside that.
She returned to school in fall 2018. Though it was only three days a week, it took a toll on her early on.
“I was spending 50 dollars every 3 days to get to and from,” Smith said. “The pressure became too much and soon I had to stop.”
Harber was also worried about Smith commuting, saying his thoughts were all over the place.
“Knowing my girlfriend is driving to school a hour away was a big worry,” Harber said. “But I always had faith she could do it, going to school and being a mother.”
Smith plans to return to school Fall 2019, but for now is working three jobs while taking care of her beautiful daughter. As far as her business, she sees herself opening a storefront in five years, along with having a bachelor’s degree in business.
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