“This really is a rag to riches story for me!”
I am speaking with Sharia Sarantis, celebrity stylist and director of flourishing business ‘The Braid Boss’, the ultimate mobile Braid Bar that specialises in amazing Braid Parties and all things to do with braids.
“I would never have guessed I’d be Greek Orthodox and living in Australia with a thriving business,” says Sharia incredulously.
Yet somehow, at 39 years of age, African American Sharia finds herself living in Sydney with her Greek Australian husband Sotiri, their two beautiful children and her 72 year old mother-in law.
And she couldn’t be happier.
Sharia describes herself as a “less fortunate kid” who grew up in Fresno, California in a low-income neighbourhood with a single mother and three siblings.
“Anyone who’s from Fresno knows there is not much opportunity there,” explains Sharia.
Once I left, I never looked back.
“Once I left, I never looked back.”
With several half siblings, Sharia is the eldest of eight children in total.
“I would definitely consider myself the black sheep of my family. Mostly because of my never give up attitude and my determination to be successful,” believes Sharia, whose mum, she says, was pretty tough on her being the eldest and when it came to leading by example.
“The pressure has been on since an early age and I’m beyond determined to break the cycle.”
The pressure has been on since an early age and I’m beyond determined to break the cycle.
Sharia moved from Fresno and by 2015, had been living in Las Vegas for eight years when she met her now husband at a nightclub.
“It think it’s true - you actually can meet your husband in a night club!” Sharia laughs.
Born in Sydney, Australia, Sharia’s husband Sotiri is the eldest of two children, born to Esther, (whose parents were from Symi) and Harry Sarantis (whose father was from Chios and his mother from Rhodes). Unfortunately Harry passed away in June last year after a long battle with cancer.
“Sotiri had been on holiday visiting for 11 days and I was a local living in Las Vegas for the past 8 years. Needless to say we really hit it off,” tells Sharia.
“We spent every day together for 11 days getting to know each other. By the end of the 11 days the love was mutual.
“We had planned a trip for me to visit Sydney in three months, but the love grew stronger and stronger everyday, so we decided to move the trip forward by a month. Even though it seemed too soon, it felt so right.
“I ended up taking a risk and leaving my entire life behind and permanently moving to Australia. Best decision I ever made!”
Sharia’s decision to convert to Greek Orthodox came easily to her.
“My husband wanted to get married in the same church that his parents were married in,” she says.
In order for Sharia to do so she had to either already be a Christian who has been baptised; or otherwise needed to convert to Greek Orthodox and be Christened.
“I grew up a Christian in a Baptiste church. However, I’d never been baptised," says Sharia.
“In my religion you decide when you’re ready to be baptised.
“I decided I was ready to take the next steps to becoming Greek Orthodox. I had to go to classes for several months to learn all there is to know about being Greek Orthodox.
“After studying and learning about the religion I decided that I wanted to move forward with being christened. Lucky for me, one of my husband’s uncles gladly took on the role of christening me and being my Nono.
“Let’s just say christening an adult becomes a bit more tricky. I definitely wasn’t going to fit in the tiny tub of holy water like most babies, but a big plastic rope bucket from Bunnings did the trick!”
I’m proud to be a Black Greek! It’s my husband’s culture and now my kids’ culture.
When asked how she would describe her experience so far with the faith, Sharia answers, ”I’m loving it. I’m proud to be a Black Greek! It’s my husband’s culture and now my kids’ culture.
“I hope to learn all the traditions so that I can pass them down to my children. There’s so much that goes on and so much to celebrate often. All the christenings, name days, and I especially love Easter. Holy Friday is quite the experience watching as they carry the body of Christ through the town.
“One of my favourite parts was receiving my Greek name which is Savina. It really feels like having two birthdays every year. I’m still blown away with how extravagant Greek christenings can be. Before becoming orthodox I had never been to one before. From the baptism to the after party, it’s quite the celebration, and rightfully so considering this is the most important day in a Greeks life. Officially becoming a Christian.”
From the baptism to the after party, it’s quite the celebration, and rightfully so considering this is the most important day in a Greek's life. Officially becoming a Christian.
Fast forward to today and the happy couple’s family has grown to now include two beautiful children a four-year-old daughter named Stella Rae Sarantis, and a six month old son named Stefanos Harryson Sarantis.
“They bring so much joy into our lives especially after losing my father-in law,” says Sharia. “Stella was Harry’s little angel. He would often carry around a brag book with lots of photos of Stella to show off to his friends.
“We had a hard time conceiving the second time around, and about two weeks after Harry passed, we found out we were expecting baby Stefanos.
“It brought so much joy into our lives after the heartbreak of losing our beloved father. It really felt like we lost one angel but gained another.”
The Braid Boss Journey
Before coming to Australia, Sharia was a Real Estate Agent in Las Vegas for eight years. Once she moved to Sydney Sharia wanted to continue on with her career so became a Commercial Real Estate Agent.
“Practicing Real Estate is Sydney was much different than in America. I have to admit, I wasn’t really feeling it,” says Sharia.
After giving birth to her first child Stella Rae, new mum Sharia felt that she was no longer able to work in the same capacity as she had in the past.
“Our child was needy, fussy and would not let me out of her sight,” she remembers.
“I then realised that I would have to find something that I could do to keep me busy and where I could make my own schedule.”
It was one day whilst out shopping that Sharia was struck with the inspiration to start her business, which would grow to become The Braid Boss.
“I started braiding when I was about seven years old., says Sharia. “As part of my culture my mother would braid my hair quite often as a kid. I would watch her braiding other people’s hair and I would practice on my dollies.
“One day while at the shopping centre I saw a little girl getting her hair braided. Not to be rude, but it looked horrible. I knew I could offer so much more, but how without being setup in a shopping centre?"
The idea of braiding in a shopping centre however, never sounded appealing to Sharia.
"I wanted to take it up a notch by providing a more Lux, Glamorous, VIP vibe. That’s when my husband suggested I do braid parties!" she says.
So Sharia braided one of the couple’s friend’s daughter’s hair to get a feel for it.
“I braided it with lots of beautiful coloured hair extensions throughout,” she says.
“All it took was for her to go to the playground with her cool braids and the rest is history. The business has been built solely from word of mouth and I couldn’t be more grateful.”
Being the owner of a thriving business is an achievement that is beyond Sharia’s wildest imagination.
Never in a million years did I expect this!
“Never in a million years did I expect this!” she exclaims.
“While most new businesses take two to three years to make a profit, I knew it would take some time, but to my surprise it all happened much sooner than expected. I didn’t realise that sharing my culture could turn into something so big and fun.
I didn’t realise that sharing my culture could turn into something so big and fun
“The crazy part is I feel like this has become my passion. I never would have guessed that I would be braiding hair for a living, but I literally love going to work every day so it must be right.
Today The Braid Boss is a mobile Braid Bar that caters to clients from all walks of life.
“I think that is what makes the job so rewarding,” says Sharia.
“It’s like a big rainbow. So many different cultures and nationalities, from young children to older adults. It warms my heart that I can cater to so many people.
“I’d never been to a Barmitzvah before until we got hired to do one. The parties are so cool and extravagant. You can tell a lot of money and thought goes into it. We do them often now and I just love being a part of the party.
“One interesting client we did was a celebrity Rapper by the name of Lil Pump. I styled his hair for a performance he did in Melbourne. Seeing videos of him performing for a crowd of about 50,000 with the hair I styled was pretty cool.
“Seeing everyone leave with a smile and that extra bit of confidence is everything.”
Meanwhile, The Braid Boss has been capturing the attention of party hosts across Sydney, as well as capturing the imagination of custom magazines such as Confetti Fair, who recently showcased a feature article about the business in its publication.
And the parties just seem to get bigger and bigger.
“I think I’ve braided something crazy like 30 girls in a two hour time span!” says Sharia for whom despite humble beginnings, with her hard work, dedication and strong family values, the future is now very bright.
So where to from here for the girl from Fresco California?
“I have so many things that I want to do, but mostly I want to give back and do more charity work. I’m hoping I can find ways to use my business to do that,” says Sharia.
“It would be a dream to have a safe place where troubled or less fortunate kids could come and be mentored, learn how to braid, learn other important life skills and even be able to offer them job placement.
“I currently have about six high school aged girls that work with me. Watching them grow and mature into young responsible adults makes me happy.
“I want to do more!”
The Braid Boss
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