CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Khiana Morton spent more than a decade as a mental health counselor.
"My degree's in psychology, and so I worked in mental health for about 13 years," Morton said. "It was very rewarding but also very stressful at the same time."
When her mental health job cut her pay, she found a way to turn her side hustle into a full-time focus. It was just the push she needed to open Queen Sugar Studio, a hair removal business in Charlotte’s Elizabeth neighborhood.
Queen Sugar Studio is more than what it seems, though. It's Morton's mission to make every woman feel like royalty, to feel seen and appreciated just as they are.
"I started this because of my love for women and celebrating our beauty," Morton said. "Making us feel beautiful inside and out."
From the vibrant décor to the motivational mantras that line the hallways, everything about Queen Sugar screams sisterhood.
"You're not going to just come here and get a wax," Morton clarified. "You're going to come here [and] you're going to get a wax. You're going to get some encouragement. You're going to get some motivation and some inspiration, some ‘you go, girl,' and then you're going out the door feeling like a brand new you."
She's still leaning into her mental health counseling background, too.
"I realized that I was supposed to be right here where I am," Morton explained. "It is one of the most ironic, yet beautiful bridges of any two industries that I could have ever imagined."
Of course, building and owning a business isn't easy. According to Brookings.edu, just 4% of businesses in the Charlotte-Concord-Gastonia metro area are Black-owned, with the number of Black, female-owned businesses just a fraction of that already small number. And Queen Sugar Studio isn't just Black-owned, it's also Black-operated. It's causing some employees, like Areriana Herring -- who's worked there for less than a year -- to dream big.
"I've never worked for a Black female boss," Herring said. "By watching her, I'm watching where I can go and how far horizons can be."
WCNC Charlotte is always asking "where's the money?" If you need help, reach out to WCNC Charlotte by emailing email@example.com.
Empowering employees and encouraging clients is exactly what makes Queen Sugar so sweet, Morton said
"People are literally the reason why we started this," Morton said. [I’m] in the business of making people feel happy and making people feel good about themselves."
If you or a loved one are facing thoughts of suicide or self-harm, there is help readily available. You can call Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or chat with them online. There are also resources in North Carolina available here and in South Carolina available here.