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Meet the 10-year-old CEO who nailed her business plan in the middle of a pandemic

Khiley Braxton, 10, started her nail polish line Sissy B. Nails as she shows off the Cali color polish in Long Beach Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

When Khiley Braxton appears on screen, as she does often these days, it seems as if the pixels can barely contain all her energy. The 10-year-old, who also goes by her nickname Sissy B, has no problem being in front of the camera, whether it’s for a TikTok video, a virtual school appearance or a Zoom interview with a reporter.

As a freshly-minted CEO, that talent serves her well.

Like many kids right now, Khiley is experiencing one of the most formative years of her life locked indoors, with nothing but her phone and laptop connecting her to the outside world.

But unlike most other kids, Khiley has used the past six months to start a business of which she is the CEO, social media manager and brand ambassador. She’s quite literally the face of the brand, a kid-friendly line of nail polish with each bottle carrying a tiny sticker featuring her smiling likeness, framed by a crown of curls.

The junior entrepreneur founded Sissy B Nails with her mother, Krystle Braxton, who helped her start the company as a birthday present, replacing a planned trip that was canceled because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Since then, the company has sold over 5,000 bottles of nail polish through the company’s website and a beauty supply store in Rose Park, amassing an equal amount of followers on TikTok.

The line consists of 18 different shades, designed especially for youngsters: the nail polish easily peels off without chemical removers, dries quickly and doesn’t exude the same pungent smell as traditional polish. All of the colors were picked by Khiley and named to reflect her personal experiences, from the shimmery “Santorini,” inspired by a family trip to Greece, to “Brown Skin Girl” in honor of girls like her.

“I want to support Black little girls and Black people,” Khiley said. Her mother, Krystle, said she’s happy that her child is proud of her community and her culture. “I value my culture and I want my child to value her culture,” Krystle said.

Khiley Braxton, 10, stands next to her mother Krystle as they stand in front of Khiley her nail polish line in Long Beach Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

On Sissy B’s TikTok channel, Khiley shares videos of a typical day in her life and answers followers’ questions about owning a company.

“I’m trying to inspire other kids to start their own business and not give up on their dreams,” said the emerging entrepreneur, who now books several virtual speaking engagements a week at different schools.

Her wish to inspire others is also part of what prompted her mom to replace Khiley’s planned birthday trip to Nickelodeon Resort in Punta Cana with funds and support to start her own nail business.

“I hope that through our story, we might start a new tradition,” Krystle said. There are Sweet Sixteens and Quinceaneras, she figured, so why not make a child’s 10th birthday an occasion for a business investment?

“I wanted to start something that could create something that could provide for our kids and that could start the conversation about financial freedom and generational wealth,” said, Krystle, a sixth grade teacher at Green Dot Public Schools, a charter school in the South Park neighborhood of Downtown LA.

Krystle said she was fortunate that her husband worked full time while she attended college, enabling her to stay focused on her studies. She said she doesn’t want her children distracted by money problems, either, when it comes time for them to pursue a higher education.

“I don’t want my kids to have three jobs just to pay for college,” she explained. Instead, she wants them to start building their legacy now.

Most 10-year-olds would likely be a bit upset to see their ticket for a cartoon-themed trip to the Caribbean turned into a business registration form, and Khiley was no exception. “I was so mad,” she said.

But Khiley always had a passion for nail polish—an early riser, she would do her nails every day before school—so the product idea was a perfect fit. When Khiley presented it to her extended family on a video call, her passion was contagious.

“Everyone was blown away,” Khrystle recalled. “Once I saw that, I said: ‘We’re onto something.’”

Sissy B. Nails a polish line started by 10 year-old Khiley Braxton in Long Beach Monday, January 25, 2021. Photo by Thomas R. Cordova.

Since then, Khiley has been juggling virtual schooling at KIPP Scholar Academy and running the business out of the family home on the Westside of Long Beach. “It’s kind of hard to balance those two without going full mind on school or full mind on my business,” she said.

Still, Krystle has found ways to combine her daughter’s educational goals with those of her business. Khiley had been struggling in math class and the business’ finances became the perfect way to practice.

“Having a shop or a line, it basically means: math, math, math,” Khiley explained. So together with her math tutor, she worked on determining the price point of each bottle, for example, based on the profit she was hoping to make.

“She’s learning so much, more than I originally thought,” Krystle said. “She’s matured a lot. She’s my little adult.”

Starting a business with her daughter under the restrictions of the pandemic was an experiment, but one that has paid off, Krystle said.

“We might be in this pandemic and there’s a lot of things we can’t control, but we can control our happiness and we can control what we do with our time,” she said. “Through this business, we can still achieve greatness. We can still be great, thrive and be successful.”

As for starting a new tradition, at least in the Braxton household, that seed has been firmly planted. Khiley’s 6-year-old brother, Kayden, has already been asking his mom when she’s going to help him start his business.

His business idea is already a tradition of sorts: he wants to start a lemonade stand.

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