Gabby Goodwin shows one of her Gabby Bows before giving a tutorial on how to use them.

Gabby Goodwin says her Gabby Bows solves the age-old problem of disappearing hair barrettes because they are patented with a double face, double-snap barrette.

Gabby Goodwin says the first step in using Gabby Bows  is to open the barrette and place your hair in it, while wrapping it around the center strip of the clip.

Gabby Goodwin says once you’ve wrapped the hair, snap one end of the bow closed at a time.

Rooted in style

Hair can be curled. It can also be straightened, or pressed, braided, crimped, cornrowed and waved. Hair reveals history, acting as a signifier for different time periods.

For African-American women, hair goes deeper than history. As Ayana Byrd and Lori Tharps note Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America, the style of braids tells a much more complicated story.

“From day one, Black children are indoctrinated into the intricate culture of hair,” writes Byrd and Tharps. “Learning the language of Black hair culture goes hand in hand with understanding the technology.”

Continuing, the pair writes, “the original tool of Black hair culture has to be the ancient hand-carved African comb.”

As new tools were created to manipulate hair, the vocabulary expanded. “Other equipment can be grouped according to function in the following categories: straighteners, styling tools, moisturizers, pomade, and accessories.”

Knowing the tools and understanding the language of Black hair culture doesn’t mean you’re in the club yet, according to Byrd and Tharps. “Certain rituals and rites of passage must also be experienced.”

Rites of passage

“Little Black girls usually get their hair washed anywhere from once a week to once a month, and then it must be arranged into some sort of style or it will be nearly impossible to manage until the next washing,” the authors note.

For many people, “memories of early hair-care rituals are unforgettabl. Regardless of the look, “the hair has to be combed out, a small section at a time, and blow-drying is often necessary.”

Gabby Goodwin and her mother, Rozalynn, of Columbia wanted to change that hair care routine and make it a little bit easier. For them, like so many others, the hairstyle was way too hard to maintain.

“My mom used to drop me off at school after spending hours on my hair, only to pick me up later with half the bows missing,” said Gabby.

The start of something big

Surrounded by kids who are visiting EdVenture Children’s Museum in downtown Columbia during spring break, 11-year-old Gabby Goodwin arrived for a different reason entirely. She had spent most of her break traveling and working on projects for her business, something most other pre-teens aren’t doing.

“It’s a great experience to be an entrepreneur,” Gabby said. “I get to meet new people and see new things.”

As the face of Gabby Bows, a company she started with her mom six years ago, Gabby has had the opportunity to build a brand while still attending school as a straight-A student.

Gabby Bows took off after Rozalyn Goodwin vented on Twitter about barrettes that never stayed in her daughter’s braided hair. As it turns out, she wasn’t the only parent looking for an answer to this exasperating problem.

“I was always playing outside, so when I got home, my braids and barrettes would be a mess,” Gabby said. She recalls her mom and grandma always fixing her hair; the problem was never-ending.

“My grandma’s pet peeve was when my bows weren’t positioned right, so you could see the hair and not the barrette,” said Gabby.

That’s where the idea for the Double-Face, Double-Snap barrette came to fruition. With two faces, the design of Gabby bows ensures that no matter what activity you’re doing, the bow will always stay in place and look the way it should.  

Since then, the duo has been featured in national and local media outlets, including The Washington Post and the NBC Today show.

“It probably took about two years to make the products,” Gabby said. “Now we fill online orders in all 50 states and eight countries.” Edventure is one of 57 locations across 16 states.  

Living the dream

As Gabby arrived with her mom and brother, Michael, they stopped in the gift shop to see the set-up of Gabby Bows barrettes.

“I’m four years in the business, so it’s just natural now,” said Gabby, smiling ear to ear with the confidence of someone well beyond her age. “Now, what a five-year-old or a seven-year-old was doing is now an 11-year-old living her dream.”

It’s not easy to balance it all, though. Gabby’s day starts around 6:30 a.m. so she has time to get ready for school at 7:30 a.m. “I get home around 3 p.m. and start doing my homework,” Gabby said. “My mom usually comes home a little bit later. That’s when we fill orders for the business.”

Gabby is in the gifted program at school, which she credits for her high standards. “It’s strict work, so I have to make sure I balance my schedule to get everything done,” said Gabby. “The teachers expect higher performance than last year because we’re in fifth grade.”

However, despite all of the stresses of maintaining her grades and contributing to the family business, Gabby still manages to have fun. “I do tap and ballet, but sometimes I like to make up my own dances and dance with my friends.”

As she talked about her friends, Gabby laughed recalling those dance routines. Even now, as her laugh filled up the cafeteria at Edventure, it’s hard to remember that Gabby is only 11.

Almost as quickly as she started laughing, she stopped and begins to talk about her hopes for the future, just in case becoming a professional dancer doesn’t work out.

Passing it forward

“I just ran into a customer when I was in Washington, D.C.,” Gabby said. “That happens all the time, but I always love meeting new customers.”

For Gabby, who started Gabby Bows to help girls like her who were losing their barrettes and getting into trouble, it’s always been about her customers.

“I won’t give up on other people,” said Gabby. “My classmates and customers look up to me, so I don’t want to give up on them now.” In fact, one of the things Gabby is most passionate about is helping the next generation of young entrepreneurs, a sentiment that seems to start within the family.

Gabby turned around with a toothy grin after helping her younger brother with his work. From the table we’re sitting at, it’s clear how much he looks up to Gabby.

“He wants to start a business too, but with books. He’s always watched and learned from me,” said Gabby. “It’s great to see him go out there and go after his dreams too.”

Although Gabby makes it look fun, it’s not easy starting a business, which Gabby’s learned from experience. “I always say ‘no’ is just an abbreviation for ‘next opportunity,’” said Gabby. “That’s why my biggest piece of advice is to never give up.”

Staying true to that was harder at the beginning for Gabby, who considers herself an introvert. “In our first commercial, I kept crying because I was so nervous. I had this necklace on, and if you watch the video, I held onto it the whole time. Now, I talk to people all around the world.”

It’s that resilient mindset that keeps Gabby going when she could’ve easily called it quits. “A lot of people are scared to follow their dreams because they don’t want to fail,”  Gabby said. “I always say to just follow your dreams and don’t lose hope.”

“I want to grow the business with my future daughters,” she said.

For her, this is just the beginning.