These Five Sisters are Changing the Game for Curly Girls

For a lot of hairstylists, the bubble braid isn't actually a braid at all, rather a Pinterest-worthy pony alternative that's dominating Instagram feeds. But for Glynnis Smith, it's a natural-hair technique that's not only paved the way for her family's success, but also brought new life to curly hair. 

More than 25 years ago, Glynnis and her sisters, Shelly, Allecia, Leslyn and Rhonda, immigrated from Guyana, South America to Kansas City. As the eldest, Glynnis recognized that her talent for braiding could become a lucrative business. After putting her talents to use on family and friends, others started to take interest in her unique braiding style and before she knew it, her skills were in high demand. With a growing wait list, Glynnis brought her sisters on board and opened up their first family business called Braid Heaven.

Now more than ever before, African American women are embracing their natural curls. Bubble braiding, a technique that the Smith sisters use daily in their salon, was created to emulate the look of natural curls as a go-to option for women who have short or thinning hair, or those who just want a low-maintenance style. And unlike other braiding or weaving techniques, bubble braids can be worn up or down without showing wefts. It's also a protective style, meaning that the clients' natural hair is hidden and resting within the braids to promote growth. 

So how exactly does it work? Even though the Smith sisters are adamant about keeping the technique within their family, they shared a few details with us. "We attach hair extensions to small sections of natural hair using the brick-laying technique," Shelly says. "We combine that with the bubble braiding technique so the extensions can lay to cover up the scalp, which in turn allows the hair to lay naturally and allow for desired styling." According to Shelley, the technique can take anywhere between four and six hours depending on the thickness and length of the clients' natural hair. 

What started as a small business in Kansas City has grown into a successful five-chair salon with loyal clientele—and that's not all. Today, the Smith sisters have the Kansas City location, run by Glynnnis, Shelley, Allecia and their niece Jasmine; a Dallas location run by Leslyn; and a Miami location run by Rhonda.

With a solid grasp on a market that's consistently growing, the Smith sisters aren't showing any signs of slowing down. "We're currently in the development stages of taking Braid Heaven on the road, doing pop-up shops in different cities and sharing tutorials to teach our techniques to others," Shelley says. "We're also extremely excited about launching our own natural haircare product line. The products are based off of natural ingredients from our native Guyana that we used growing up and believe strongly in." Take note—we predict you'll be hearing much more about the Smith sisters in the future.