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Ladies Love Units #fundedbyFACE Feature

Can you tell us more about the story behind Ladies Love Units and how it was founded?

In 2014, our lives took a significant turn when Kevin’s twin sister was diagnosed with cancer. Witnessing her journey and realizing the importance of self-confidence during challenging times, we were inspired to create the perfect wig for her. Her requirements were simple yet crucial – a glue-less wig that was easy to wear, made with exceptional quality hair, and looked natural. These requirements became the guiding principles for every unit created by Ladies Love Units, even to this day.

In 2012, Willie moved to Canada, and it was through the power of the internet that we met and connected. Shortly after, in 2013, we got married. However, the immigration process we had to go through was far from easy. It was a tedious and heartbreaking journey that took almost four years to complete. But it was during this time that we channelled our energy and passion into creating Ladies Love Units, initially operating as a fully functional salon from the comfort of our living room.

Over the years, Ladies Love Units has grown and gained recognition. Our commitment to excellence and providing top-notch products and services has led us to be featured on various platforms. Our units have graced the screens of prominent Canadian shows such as The Marilyn Denis Show, Etalk, CTV Canada, and the popular Drag Race Canada Season 1 & 2. Additionally, our work has been showcased on the hit series Marvel DC Titans Season. We have also had the privilege of making personal appearances on notable shows like CityLine and Breakfast Television, where we shared our story, showcased our products, and discussed the importance of LGBTQ representation in the beauty and entrepreneurship industries. Ladies Love Units is proudly owned by both Willie A. Ballard and Kevin K. Bailey, and we operate as a Limited Liability Corporation. Willie, a licensed Cosmetologist with 11 years of experience, holds 50% of the shares in Ladies Love Units, bringing her expertise in hair care and styling to the forefront. Kevin, with a background in Interior Design and Personal Lines Insurance, also holds 50% of the shares and contributes his creative vision and business acumen to the success of the company.

Initially registered as a Sole Proprietorship in 2015, Ladies Love Units transitioned into an Incorporated business two years later, solidifying our commitment to professionalism, growth, and providing exceptional products and services to our customers.

The journey of Ladies Love Units is a testament to our love, dedication, and desire to make a positive impact on the lives of others. We continue to create units that boost the confidence and self-esteem of individuals facing difficult circumstances.

As LGBTQ entrepreneurs and founders of Ladies Love Units, how do you see your business contributing to the visibility and representation of LGBTQ Black-owned businesses during Pride Month?

As a black gay married couple and the founders of Ladies Love Units, we are immensely proud of our business and its contribution to the visibility and representation of LGBTQ Black-owned businesses during Pride Month. We firmly believe that representation matters, and we strive to be a shining example of what LGBTQ individuals, particularly those from the black community, can achieve.

Through our business, we have created a platform that not only provides quality products and services but also celebrates our identities and the unique experiences of LGBTQ individuals. By being open about our own identities as black gay men, we hope to inspire others within the LGBTQ community to embrace their true selves and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Pride Month holds a special place in our hearts, as it is a time when the LGBTQ community comes together to celebrate our diversity, resilience, and love. During this month, we make a conscious effort to highlight our status as a black-owned business and emphasize the importance of supporting LGBTQ entrepreneurs of colour.

We actively engage with the LGBTQ community through various channels, such as social media, events, and partnerships. We use these platforms to amplify the voices and stories of other LGBTQ individuals and businesses, particularly those from marginalized communities. By doing so, we contribute to a more inclusive narrative of LGBTQ entrepreneurship and uplift those who have historically been underrepresented.

Moreover, we take part in Pride Month events and collaborate with other LGBTQ Black-owned businesses to create a sense of unity and solidarity. By joining forces, we can expand our reach and provide greater visibility to all the amazing LGBTQ entrepreneurs who are making a difference in their respective industries.

In essence, our business, Ladies Love Units, strives to be a beacon of hope and empowerment for LGBTQ individuals, particularly those who are Black. We are committed to creating a world where LGBTQ entrepreneurs can thrive and succeed while being true to themselves. Through our visibility, representation, and dedication to the LGBTQ community, we hope to inspire others to embrace their identities and chase their dreams without fear or limitation.

As entrepreneurs, what have been the biggest challenges you’ve faced in running Ladies Love Units, and how have you overcome them?

As black gay married business owners, we have encountered several significant challenges throughout our journey of running Ladies Love Units. Some of the key hurdles we have faced include limited access to capital, a lack of strong business knowledge due to the circumstances in which we were raised, the immigration process for Willie, the presence of a glass ceiling, being excluded from certain rooms and dealing with industry gatekeepers. However, despite these challenges, we have found ways to overcome them and pave our path to success.  

One of the initial obstacles we encountered was the lack of access to sufficient capital. Starting a business requires financial resources, and as individuals from marginalized communities, we faced barriers in securing funding. However, we adopted a resourceful approach by bootstrapping our business from the ground up. We made the most of our limited resources, maximizing our creativity and strategic planning to gradually invest in our business. Through consistent hard work and perseverance, we were able to generate revenue and reinvest it into expanding Ladies Love Units.

Another challenge we faced was the limited business knowledge resulting from our upbringing. Growing up, we did not have access to extensive entrepreneurial education or mentorship. However, we recognized the importance of acquiring business acumen to effectively run our venture. To overcome this challenge, we took advantage of available resources such as online courses, workshops, and networking events tailored to entrepreneurs. We also sought guidance from business professionals and mentors who were willing to share their expertise and experiences. By actively seeking knowledge and continuously learning, we developed the necessary skills to navigate the business landscape. An organization that helped us along our entrepreneurial journey has been the Federation of African Canadian Economics (FACE), which helps Black business owners gain access to loans and resources with the mandate of supporting the Black community.

Willie’s immigration process from America added another layer of complexity to our entrepreneurial journey. The immigration process itself was time-consuming, emotionally draining, and required us to navigate complex legal procedures. During this period, we had to balance the demands of the immigration process while simultaneously building and running our business. It required resilience, effective time management, and constant communication between us to overcome the challenges associated with immigration. We remained focused on our shared goals and supported each other throughout the process, ultimately emerging stronger and more determined to succeed.

As black entrepreneurs, we have often encountered a glass ceiling, limited opportunities, and a lack of representation in certain industries. There were instances where we were not invited into the “right” rooms or faced exclusion from networks that could have provided valuable connections. In response, we made a conscious effort to create our opportunities. We sought out diverse networks and communities where we could connect with like-minded individuals and potential collaborators. We actively engaged with LGBTQ organizations, black business associations, and other platforms that celebrate diversity and inclusivity. Through these efforts, we were able to establish our presence, build valuable relationships, and expand our professional network.

Navigating industry gatekeepers presented yet another challenge. We encountered individuals or organizations who held significant influence in our industry and could potentially hinder our progress. To overcome this, we adopted a proactive approach by showcasing the quality of our products and services. We focused on delivering exceptional customer experiences and building a strong reputation within our target market. Through word-of-mouth recommendations, positive reviews, and media exposure, we gradually gained recognition and credibility. By letting our work speak for itself, we were able to break through some of the barriers imposed by industry gatekeepers.

What kind of full-service experience do you provide to your clients? How do you ensure that their needs and desires are met throughout the entire process?

At Ladies Love Units, we strive to provide our clients with a full-service experience that goes beyond simply selling wigs. We understand that our clients have unique needs and desires when it comes to their hair, and we are committed to ensuring that these are met throughout the entire process.

Our dedication to creating premium custom-made units starts with our handcrafted approach. We believe that each wig should be more than just a wig – it should be a custom Unit that reflects the individuality and style of our clients. That’s why we take the time to listen to our client’s preferences, hair goals, and any specific requirements they may have. By understanding their needs, we can create a custom-designed unit that is truly one of a kind.

We take great pride in the quality of our units, using only the finest raw hair materials. Our custom-made units are constructed with 100 percent raw hair, ensuring that they are durable, natural-looking, and of the highest quality. We source our hair materials carefully, focusing on maintaining the integrity and authenticity of the hair.

Throughout the entire process, we maintain open and transparent communication with our clients. We provide personalized consultations, where we discuss their desired style, colour, and any other specifications. We offer expert guidance and recommendations based on our years of experience in the industry, ensuring that our clients feel confident and informed in their choices.

Once the design is finalized, our skilled team of craftsmen brings the vision to life. Each unit is meticulously crafted with attention to detail, ensuring a comfortable fit, seamless hairline, and overall exceptional quality. We understand that our client’s satisfaction relies on the craftsmanship and attention to detail that goes into every unit we create. Our full-service experience extends beyond the creation of the unit itself. We offer a range of specialized services, Unit Care Services, Hair Care Products and various merchandise to help our clients wear and take care of their units with confidence. This comprehensive approach allows us to cater to a diverse clientele with varying needs and preferences.

Looking ahead, what are your future goals and aspirations for Ladies Love Units? Are there any new initiatives or developments that you are particularly excited about?

Looking ahead, we have ambitious goals and aspirations for Ladies Love Units that revolve around expanding our services to the medical hair loss industry making a positive impact on individuals facing hair loss challenges. We recognize the emotional toll that hair loss can have, particularly for those going through major illnesses like cancer. We aim to restore confidence and provide a sense of normalcy during these difficult times.

To achieve this, we plan to focus on two specific target groups: cancer patients and women experiencing hair loss. For cancer patients, we are fortunate to be located within proximity to renowned cancer centers like Michael Garron Hospital in Etobicoke. We see this as an opportunity to offer our specialized services to these patients, providing them with options for hair replacement and restoration. To ensure that these patients are aware of our presence, we will engage in targeted advertising campaigns, reaching out to doctors, therapists, and patients in these centers. By doing so, we can provide support and assistance to those in need, helping them maintain a sense of normalcy and confidence during their cancer treatment journey.

In the case of women experiencing hair loss, we understand that many are unaware of the causes and available treatments. Our goal is to change this by incorporating hair replacement services into our existing offerings. By doing so, we aim to transform what could be a distressing experience into just another day at the salon. We want women to feel comfortable and relaxed in our salon while receiving our specialized services, knowing that they are in the hands of skilled professionals who genuinely care about their hair loss concerns.

How has FACE helped contribute to your success with Ladies Love Units?

Thanks to the invaluable support provided by FACE, Ladies Love Units successfully embarked on a transformative journey that led to the opening of a captivating storefront location situated on The Queensway. This significant milestone was achieved through careful planning and execution, including extensive renovations aimed at fashioning a safe and contemporary space. By meticulously attending to these details, we created an environment that perfectly aligns with our company’s brand.

The strategic decision to establish a storefront on The Queensway has proven to be a pivotal move for Ladies Love Units, as it has considerably elevated the company’s operations and augmented its brand presence. The location itself, being situated on The Queensway, has endowed Ladies Love Units with a prominent physical presence, greatly enhancing its visibility and accessibility to a wider range of customers. This strategic positioning has opened up new avenues for engagement, enabling us to connect with a larger audience and solidify our market position.

The extensive renovations carried out have not only elevated the store’s aesthetics but have created an exceptional opportunity for emerging entrepreneurs who previously operated their businesses from the confines of their homes. By offering this dedicated space, Ladies Love Units has facilitated a seamless transition for entrepreneurs, empowering them to cultivate their ventures in a professional setting.

The FACE program has served as a catalyst, igniting our journey toward Black generational wealth by providing a comprehensive framework for financial success. The program’s resources have empowered Ladies Love Units to take the crucial first step on our transformative path, setting the stage for sustained growth, prosperity, and a lasting legacy of economic empowerment within the Black community.

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Rob G.C. Sobey

Board Member

Rob G.C. Sobey is a corporate director. Mr. Sobey was the President & Chief Executive Officer of Lawton’s Drug Stores Limited from 2006 until his retirement in 2014 after 25 years with Sobeys. He serves as a director of SeaFort Capital and the Institute of Corporate Directors. Mr. Sobey is Chair of the Sobey Art Foundation, a member of the Queen’s Smith School of Business Advisory Board and serves on several foundation and not-for-profit boards. For his work as an Honorary Colonel of the Canadian Army, Mr. Sobey received a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. He holds an undergraduate from Queen’s University, a Master of Business Administration from Babson College, and the ICD.D designation.

Denburk Reid

Board Member

Denburk Reid is the founder of Montreal Community Care Foundation (MCCF). Its mission is to empower youth by developing their leadership skills by using programs, workshops, and events, and by building bridges between communities. As the founder of MCCF, he beliefs that the youth hold the key to Montreal’s future and over the past eight (8) years, its programs have helped hundreds of Montreal youth stay on track, perform community services as well as set and achieve academic and life goals. The organization seeks to empower youth to become engaged citizens and leaders in their homes, schools, and communities. For the past five (5) years, MCCF celebrates and promotes community engagement across Montreal through the Montreal Community Cares Awards.

Along with his role as the founder of MCCF, Mr. Reid is the Founder of Red Rush Basketball & Red Rush Basketball Leadership. He has a passion for empowering youth and meeting them where they are lends to a successful outcome.

Abdikhier Ahmed​

Board Member

Mr. Ahmed is a recognized community leader in the non-profit sector with specializations in immigration and refugee resettlement, poverty reduction, and community empowerment. A dynamic, highly motivated individual with extensive experience in program development and delivery, providing strategic visioning and leadership. Over 10 years’ experience managing programs for non-profit organizations and working with communities and people from diverse socio-economic and cultural backgrounds both locally as well as internationally. Fluently multi-lingual: speaks and writes English, Swahili, Somali and basic Arabic. This experience help guide Mr. Ahmed when he was in the role of Director of Policy at the Office of Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development.

Mr. Ahmed is currently the Executive Director of Aurora Family Therapy Centre. Aurora is a progressive, non-profit family therapy centre that offers family therapy on a sliding scale; sees clients through services funded by Manitoba Department of Families and Department of Justice; provides community building groups for Newcomers to Canada; hosts a Psycho-Social Settlement Needs Assessment program for incoming refugees; provides summer youth programming for many newcomer communities; supports its own staff and other agencies through vicarious trauma and resilience programming; develops supportive relationships with community partners, and engages in advocacy for accessible community-based therapy services for all. Aurora is in the process of becoming a Centre of Excellence in providing cross cultural therapy from a systemic lens with a special focus on psychological trauma & recovery and community development.