Profile: SaBrina Fisher Reece

SaBrina Fisher Reece: Braids by SaBrina Celebrates 15 Years in Business

Compton native’s story of welfare to successful business owner is one both lawmakers and single mothers can celebrate

It’s been nearly two decades SaBrina Fisher Reece, 41, used her sister’s discarded braid extensions to teach herself how to braid.  After practicing on herself and dolls, she moved up to braiding the hair of her classmates for $20 at Compton’s Centennial High School to raise extra money.

A Compton native, her grandmother from age of 3 months raised SaBrina after her mother, who was addicted to crack, put her in suitcase and tried to kill her but was stopped by a passerby.

Sadly, her father was an alcoholic and had died when she was just ten.

Having escaped the clutches of Los Angeles County’s Department of Children and Family Services, SaBrina lived a relatively happy childhood growing up in Compton with her grandmother.  A student at Centennial High School, SaBrina was popular and captain of the cheerleading squad. But that all ended the day she witnessed her grandfather murder her grandmother.  She was 17.

“That was the most traumatic thing to ever happen to me,” SaBrina remembers.  “It’s something that still haunts me to this very day and changed me forever.”

While SaBrina managed to graduate from high school, her life was never the same.  For the first time in her life since she was a 3-month-old baby, she was alone in the world to fend for herself.  She quickly made the decision to marry her boyfriend as a means of survival.

“I just remember that I was scared to be alone and I really didn’t know what to do.”

It wasn’t soon after she got married that she had her first child at the age of 20, a son she named Justin.

Still braiding, but not solely dependent on it as a means of income because her husband was and great guy and the breadwinner in the family, SaBrina had built up a steady stream of clients in her home on 126th and Compton Avenue.

But in 1991, just after three years of marriage, she separated from her husband and found herself on welfare and food stamps trying to raise her son, alone.

“A new mom, alone, it’s one thing to be single and alone in the world, but when you have baby that depends on you for everything, it’s up to you to make a way.  I was determined to be a better mother than my mother was to me.”

It’s at this point in her life, SaBrina decided to take her love of braiding to another level.  She started off with signs made by hand from materials she’d purchased at Thrifty Drugstore.  Each sign made with her trademarked capital B in “SaBrina,” she put her signs up all over South Los Angeles.

Shortly after her marketing efforts began, a community tragedy proved to be a lucky coincidence for SaBrina when on April 29, 1992, the four officers accused of beating Rodney King were acquitted and the 1992 Los Angeles uprising resulted in the beating of Reginald Denny, a white construction truck driver on the corner of Normandie and Florence. Every news crew flocked to that now infamous intersection to report live from the scene, and in the background were SaBrina’s signs.

Her phone started ringing off the hook almost immediately with Black women making appointments to get their hair done.

Still working out of her house, SaBrina was now doing three to five clients per day starting as early as 5 a.m. and ending around 1 a.m.  As her clientele grew, SaBrina hired a neighborhood girl to work with her at her house.

In March 1996, as she was driving down Normandie she saw a for rent sign on a building at 65th street.

“I remember being scared of failure,” she explains.  “It’s so easy to just work out of your house, but actually step out and start a real business was huge step for me.”

SaBrina rented that building and immediately began marketing to the residents that a braid salon was coming to their neighborhood.

With no formal education in business or marketing, on her first day of business SaBrina had five employees and five customers.

SaBrina stayed on 65th and Normandie for a year and admits that she made a whole lot of mistakes in that time.

“I learned by trial and error,” she says.  “I didn’t know what I was doing in the beginning but as my business grew, so did I.”

She eventually made the decision to move due to the high crime in the area and the fact that oftentimes her and her employees worked late hours causing them to be alone in the shop long after most other businesses had closed for the day.

She found a location on Adams Boulevard just west of Labrea that she rented for $350 a month, increased the number of braiders she employed, and stepped up her advertising to include local Black newspapers.

Because of her background and humble beginnings, SaBrina always took a lot of pride in hiring local neighborhood girls in an effort to help them take the first steps of independence and getting off of welfare.  Over the past 15 years, she’s hired 916 women.

“I hire women with the thought that they will use this job as a stepping stone on their own path. For some of my girls, this is the first job that they have ever had.”

As SaBrina grew and learned, she tried to pass on the same information to her employees, most of who were high school dropout single mothers on welfare living in South L.A.

“When I learned about mutual funds and opened my first savings accounts at Broadway Federal Bank and TD Waterhouse. I invited by financial advisor to the shop to meet with my employees to teach them about saving for the future and what steps they could take.  I wanted to uplift and motivate them and teach them to stop using the excuse that they are the product of crackhead parents, the foster care system, or high school dropouts for failure.  So was I and I didn’t let that stop me from going after my dreams. ”

In 1998, SaBrina was the target of an undercover sting by the California State Board of Cosmetology in an effort to tax and govern braid salons in the same manner that barber shops and beauty salons were and require that hair braiders become licensed as cosmetologists. After a two year court battle, where the state board used confiscated hair clips and hair gel as their evidence, SaBrina along with the American Hairbraiders & Natural Haircare Association (AHNHA) and support from Republican state senator Ray Haynes fought off legislation requiring that hair braiders become licensed as cosmetologists, a story that eventually wound up in the Wall Street Journal.

“At the time, I really didn’t understand the impact all of this would have on the braid industry, but now I understand.”

After that, SaBrina’s business increased dramatically and she went from handmade signs marketing her business to having signs professionally made.  A move that caught the attention of the bureaucrats down at City Hall who eventually came after her for being in violation of Los Angeles’ Municipal Code prohibiting the posting of signs on the fences of abandoned property.

SaBrina’s tenacity and spunk allowed her to take photos of her signs which were posted next to political candidates running for office—who were not in violation of the same rule. She also hired an attorney.  The District Attorney offered SaBrina probation of which she refused.  She’d never had a criminal record and wasn’t about to agree to one.  Eventually the D.A. dropped the case altogether.

As she worked hard to build her business over the past fifteen years, SaBrina had two other children, Joi, 16, and Jayden, 9.

And as her business continued to grow, she put her newly acquired business and savvy to good use and purchased her first home in 2000 and enrolled her children in private school ensuring that they’d have a better education than she did.  Having never left California or even Los Angeles County, except to go to Sacramento and testify at a senate hearing, SaBrina got her passport and started traveling, including to Hawaii and Belize.

Something SaBrina says that she’ll never forget is purchasing her trademark Hummer H2.

“I went to Penske Hummer in Torrance with $9,000,” she recalls.  “I had worked really hard to save up that money to put down on my Hummer.  I remember walking in and asking if there were any Black sales reps because I wanted to make sure a Black person got the commission. The Black sales rep either didn’t think I could afford the Hummer or just didn’t want to help me.  I just remember her making me feel lower than the dirt on the ground.  I was devastated and felt defeated.  I ended up getting my Hummer from a white man at another dealership who had my car in 24 hours ready for me.”

While she makes a good living, SaBrina says that she still lives a relatively modest and sheltered life with her main focus being her children and her business.

Throughout the growth and expansion of her business, Braids by SaBrina has serviced over 10,000 clients including singer Natalie Cole, Usher, and Sanford and Son’s Lynn Hamilton.  Besides the traditional braid styles often worn by Black women, SaBrina had expanded her services to include twists, Dreadlock Extensions braid weaves, and loc maintenance–which has brought her customers from as far Thailand,Canada,Hawaii and Costa Rica.  Closer to home, SaBrina is responsible for the maintenance and care of former Oakland Raider wide receiver Jerry Porter.  While Black women still make up the majority of her clientele, white women and Latino men have also boosted her business profile.

In addition to running Braids by SaBrina, SaBrina is currently working on her autobiography and making time to speak to underprivileged inner city youth and young women as a motivational speaker. She continues to teach others how to braid with through the educational component of her business, which since 1998 has taught over 360 students how to braid her properly.  Later this year, her trademark style of braiding will be available on DVD as SaBrina extends her wings even further.

SaBrina will celebrate fifteen years of business with an open house celebration on Saturday, April 16 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.  Braids by SaBrina is open seven days a week at 5372 West Adams Boulevard is Los Angeles.  The phone number is (323) 937-8825.  Online at www.braidsbysabrina.com and youtube.com/braidsbysabrina

The Court of Public Opinion

  • simone jones

    This is a very inspiring story!

  • Joi Reece

    Every time I hear this story I’m inspired more and more to follow my own path to success.

  • I’m so proud of my classmate. Keep up the great work SaBrina.

  • Tameca Anderson

    I’m sooooo Proud of the Woman you have become! Your story is truly an inspiration to All! Keep up the great work, and don’t look back…..keep moving Forward! xoxoxoxoxoxox

  • Quick325

    WOW Sabrina, a very inspiring story. After reading this your one of the strongest women I know..

  • Coletta S Gant

    Your so amazing! I love u Bri!

  • Lisa W

    SaBrina, what an inspiration to the community. You show bravery, fortitude and the ability to make a tragedy into a triumph is a testiment to your strength. Keep up the GREAT work, looking forward to reading your entire story once you publish.

  • Quietly Thankful

    Without Ms. Fisher, I would have not known the person that I am. She very softly whispered in my ear: : “You can, I know you can, just do it”! She could not have been more correct, to see in me, what I did not. She gave me what I needed in that moment to succeed and overcome my self doubts. The moments we shared, the talks, the tussles of two Alpha personalities, and the humble tears we both shared, I will and always remain, Ms. Fisher, you’re just perfect the way you are! I thank you, love you, and truly keep your smile close to my heart…..

  • I want to thank you all so much for taking the time to post these beautiful uplifting comments. They warmed my heart Love you ! and to Joi my beautiful daughter.I live and breathe for u…I can only hope you are as proud of me as i am of u..U and you sister and brother are why i live. I know i cry and you never really understood why but the love i wasn’t given i give to u forever!
    email me: BraidQueenSaBrina@yahoo.com

  • Najee

    Just wanted you to know how proud i am of you Bri!

  • sherisejohnson

    YOU GO GURL!!!!!!!!!! DO THE DAMN THANG <3

  • Mary Taylor

    Congratulations SaBrina!!!!! I love you and I’m very proud of you!

  • what a story. you never know the things going on inside by the outside.

  • jay white

    Congratulations SaBrina this is a very inspiring story i’m so proud of you keep up the good work strong black sista !!

  • marla wallace

    HEY..BRE JUST DROPPING BY TO SAY CONGRATS ON YOUR SUCESS…YOU HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A STRONG WOMEN…DOING YOUR THING TO MAKE IT HAPPEN FOR YOU …AS WELL AS OTHERS……YOU HAVE ALWAYS OPENED YOUR HEART TO A LOT OF PEOPLE…I WISH U THE BEST ON ALL THAT YOU HAVE GOING ON NOW…. AND TO COME……STAY PRAYED UP AND KEEP GOD FIRST……YOU ARE THE BOMB.COM………AND I LOVE YOU KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK …….

  • I’ve been watching Sabrina’s Youtube videos for a long time. Glad to see and now know her story!

  • ROBERT LOCKHART

    I CAN TRULY SAY THAT ALL I’VE READ IN THIS ARTICLE ABOUT MY GOOD FRIEND SABRINA IS THE TOTAL TRUTH BUT, THERE’S MUCH , MUCH MORE TO SABRINA THAN ALL OF THIS ! I WAS THERE AT THE VERY BEGINNING AND I HAVE WATCHED SABRINA GROW FROM ADVERSITY TO A WOMAN WITH OUTSTANDING CHARACTER AND INTEGRITY. SABRINA EVEN AS A TEENAGER DISPLAYED AN AWESOME ABILITY TO GO AFTER WHAT SHE SAW AS A PERSONAL ADVANCEMENT IN HER LIFE AND TURN IT INTO SOMETHING PRACTICAL THAT SHE COULD USE NOT ONLY FOR HERSELF BUT ALSO FOR AN ADVACEMENT OF THOSE WHO DEPENDED ON HER FOR SUPPORT…SABRINA IS AN AMAZING PERSON TO THOSE WHO KNOW HER AND WILL BE TO THOSE WHO HAVE YET TO KNOW HER….

  • LAJUANA

    NO ONE COULD BE MORE PROUD OF YOU THAN I AM….YOU HAVE COME SUCH A LONG WAY SINCE OUR DAYS ON 126TH/COMPTON AVE & WITH YOUR DEDICATION & DETERMINATION YOU’RE ABOUT TO GO EVEN FURTHERI THIS IS SUCH A GREAT ARTICLE I CAN’T WAIT TO READ YOUR BOOK & I DO REMEMBER GETTIN MY HAIR BRAIDED FOR $20……ANY CHANCE OF THAT HAPPENING NOW?……..LOL

  • Eric Johnson

    I have watched This Phenomenal Woman and her Business over the past few years and I must say that she has been an inspiration to me!!! Her drive and ambition makes one think and believe that against all odds and against all doubters WE can succeed and that WE can rise above anything!!! Thank YOU SaBrina!!!

  • Keith D Wiggins Sr

    Congratulations SaBrina On A Good 15 yrs Of A Successful Business And GOD Will Bless You With 15 More………You I Know Got Love For You

  • Phillip Laurh

    Thank you Jasmyne for reminding us all that no matter what happens were capable of rising above ANYTHING , well written. SaBrina you’ve every reson to feel proud of yourself youve accomplished a great deal. No matter the issue you’ve risen above, well done .;

  • Nicole Anderson

    I love Braids By Sabrina, I been getting my hair weaved for almost 15 years and I will not go anywhere else. I now leave in Las vegas and I drive 326 miles every 7 weeks to her shop. We (Sabrina & I) have seen some good & bad times and I’m glad that God continues to show us favor! thru Blessings!

  • SaBrina Rocks, she is a sweet T for sure… she did my hair and it looked great… this is LA so all of the star chasers are out all the time, it was funny people were running up to my car thinkin, and all checkin me out I was a Celebrity…people were thinking and sayin I look like KID ROCK….it was kind of cool…I attracted attention where ever I went…

    Need to Get SaBrina to come out with us to our clubs and do her magic in my scene…lots of Goth/Industrial/Fetish Girls n Guys will benefit from her great work…

    SaBrina is a great lady and I am proud to be friends with such a high quality person as she.

  • That is incredible!!!!!

  • Meredith

    15 years in business is an outstanding accomplishment. Much respect to SaBrina for finding such a successful career and giving so much back to the community!

  • Pingback: Against All Odds: 'Braids By SaBrina' Celebrates 15 Years | The Coily Hair Website()

  • Leo the Yardie Chick

    Excellent! 😀 Now this is the sort of news I’d like to see/hear more about in the media. Great work, SaBrina!