Gabrielle Goodwin will put a knot in your hair and your heart.
The shy, humble 7-year-old Columbia girl says she likes to play tag and draw -- she’s also an entrepreneur, an inventor of her very own line of hair barrettes that won’t fall out, and the face of a campaign to stamp out bullying.
Goodwin and her mother, Rozalynn, created the innovative Double-Face Double-Snap Barrette, which will be sold under the brand name GaBBY in 39 Walgreens stores across South Carolina and Georgia starting Saturday.
“She really does believe she can do anything now,” Rozalynn said. “This is her business and she reminds me of that quite often. It’s been a great lesson for her on entrepreneurship and pursuing her dream.”
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The mother-daughter duo will hold two events geared towards bullying prevention alongside the launch of GaBBY, including a play date at the YMCA Splash Pad with Gabrielle, who says she wants to “play with all the girls others won’t play with.”
“They can play with me if that person that’s bullying them doesn’t want to play with them,” Gabrielle said.
And it all started with a bad hair day.
“I’ve loved styling my daughter’s hair in twists, pigtails and braids since she was 2, but the barrettes that we used were more like ornaments,” Rozalynn said. “They’d fall out. … I’d pick her up from school and half her barrettes would be missing. I was constantly buying barrettes to replace them.”
Over the course of three and a half years, Gabrielle and Rozalynn would sit at the dinner table comparing barrettes, studying what worked and what didn’t. Finally, they came up with a solution.
Normal barrettes simply clamp around a section of hair, a method that doesn’t provide nearly enough grip for a heated game of tag. Enter the GaBBY Double-Face Double-Snap Barrette: It’s got a centerpiece for wearers to twist their hair around and two teethed faces that snap soundly together -- perfect for a young girl on the go.
But a good idea isn’t always enough to make a business. The company they originally tried to sell the barrettes to, Goody Hair Accessories, wasn’t biting, and the trickle of revenue from their website wasn’t enough to keep making new pieces. Before long, the Goodwins found themselves tied up in a hairy financial situation.
“Gabby said, ‘Well, OK, my piggy bank’s in my room; we’ll just pull something together,’” Rozalynn recalls with a laugh. “That innocence and that pure faith she had got me to come to my senses and be like ‘Wow, that’s child-like faith right there – that’s how we all need to be.’”
Eventually, after sharing pictures of the GaBBY barrettes with a friend who works at a local Walgreens, Rozalynn got a call on her birthday telling her that the pharmacy chain’s district manager agreed to sell their product for 60 to 90 days.
“(Gabby) was so engaged in it that I couldn’t disappoint her,” Rozalynn said. “I wanted her to know that all things are possible with God and that she can do anything … if he gives you an idea, he is able to see it through.”
The pair is using their business start-up to help put an end to bullying -- a cause near and dear to Gabrielle.
“Mostly at school, people were saying ‘I don’t want to play with you,’ or they’re not my friend anymore,” said Gabrielle, who will start second grade this fall at Escolares Academy at Harbison West Elementary School.
Gabrielle hopes to use the events surrounding the invention to show some love to other kids going through what she did.
“Bullying is a bad thing because if they do it, they’ll do it back and forth and they won’t be friends anymore, and everybody’s supposed to be friends,” Gabrielle said.
The barrettes come in two different styles that were hand-drawn by Gabrielle: the “Little Lady” is shaped like a ladybug and the “Sweet Pea” is shaped like a sweet pea flower. Cupcake, sunshine and butterfly designs are currently in the works. They sell for $2.99 for a package of five barrettes.
Each style is named after something you would call a little girl, and GaBBY is dedicated to preserving that youthful spirit -- to run around, play tag and make friends (with everyone).
“I’ve noticed after having a little girl that our culture is pressing them to grow up too fast. I’ve always had a difficult time finding clothes that are fitting for her age,” Rozalynn said. “I guess the big picture goal is to celebrate girls being girls … and not trying to be a teen or not trying to be a young woman. Just have fun being a girl.”