“I never have to live in poverty anymore. I will never go back.”


August 20, 2019 11:45AM

You might remember Debra Nutall as one of the people most responsible for Beacon Impact’s successful legislation that removed harmful barriers on natural hair braiders. Her stand for braiders’ freedom to work changed hundreds of lives. But did you know that braiding itself changed her life?

For years, Debra lived in government housing, on government assistance. But she was never satisfied with that. She deeply desired to be independent and was prepared to work as hard as she possibly could to achieve that independence. With her talent braiding natural hair—a skill set that was uncommon in Memphis at the time she started her career—Debra got to work. She began her business by braiding during the day while still holding on to a job at a nursing home.

Because of her hard work, dedication, and natural hair styling ability, it wasn’t long before Debra’s business took off. She was able to rent her own apartment without government assistance. As Debra continued braiding, her clientele steadily grew, and now, she owns a business and trains other braiders in the skill that changed her life. She has even taught young women who are in college to pursue other career paths how to braid so they have a tangible skill they can always fall back on.

“Through braiding, I was able to take care of my family,” Debra said. “I never have to live in poverty anymore. I will never go back.”

Our state and country rely on highly-motivated individuals like Debra—people who value hard work and their own independence. It truly is amazing what Debra and hundreds of other Tennesseans have done to end the cycle of poverty with their generation.