The Story of Us Part 2: Taking Risks
Every story has a beginning. Oftentimes it is the mistakes we make, and the lessons we learn from them, that define all that comes after it. This month we’re delving deeper into the story of Salon Red and how its owner, Jessica, made the move from fledgling stylist to head of a thriving franchise. Join us now for the continuation of The Story of Us with Part 2: Taking Risks.
I’d been an assistant at a salon in Buckhead for six months. It was a tiny booth rental with just a handful of stylists. Even then I knew it wasn’t the right fit. I wanted to be some place more on the cutting edge of trends. I wanted to be somewhere I could grow my career. So I moved on. My next salon was in a smaller, hipper Atlanta neighborhood and that turned out to be a learning curve for me. The owner of that salon had a huge impact on me. I was learning so much there, but still the fit didn’t seem right. I stayed on in spite of those feelings, until one day an old friend reconnected with me. She was working out of this little salon in Candler Park and wanted to know if I was interested in joining her and helping to get that space up and running.
That salon was owned by another gentleman but it was mostly me and her working on our own. Always I was learning from everything that I did. I answered the phones. I worked with vendors. If there was a job to do, I did it. If I didn’t know what I was doing, I figured it out as I went. As a stylist I was still green, but I was beginning to find my feet. That first year we won Creative Loafing’s Best of Critic’s Choice Awards. After that we were able to grow the team to include an assistant and receptionist, and the business started to grow in big ways. We were making a name for ourselves, and I began to feel the itch to step out on my own.
In 1999, I was trying to buy the salon I’d been working at. That deal didn’t work out, but my husband at the time and I ended up finding this little house right behind The Flying Biscuit in Candler Park that was perfect. We jumped at the chance to lease it as the space for our fledgling Salon. I had no clue how to open a business, and neither did he for that matter. Even though we had the lease there were huge obstacles we had to overcome just to move in. But we figured it out. We went in blindly but we had faith. We found enough money to get the doors open, and the rest we made work as we went with whatever we could find. We connected with old friends to get things we needed. I reached out to one of my best friends from hair school, Monique. She was the first person I reached out to, and I asked her to join the new Salon Red team. Monique took her own risks to join us. Leaving a successful career at a well known Atlanta salon to go on this journey with me. To this day she’s a huge part of Salon Red, but more than that Monique has become part of my own family. I will always be grateful for the trust she put in me.
At the time I thought to myself, “I’ll work with my friends, and we’re gonna have a blast and do hair all day and it’s gonna be great!” I learned very quickly that wasn’t the case at all. The reality was I had to be a leader; I had to be the person who made things happen. I didn’t know it then, but I’d made that job so much harder on myself because, at that time, everyone I was working with was a friend or a friend of a friend. In the first years there was so much heartache. There were nights I went home and cried my eyes out. I had to figure out what it meant to have employees, and that I couldn’t always be friends with the people who worked for me. It was a difficult lesson , but I had to learn as I went what it meant to be an owner. Even now, every day, I know there is more to learn when it comes to being a successful leader. But that’s motivates me.
When we opened, we were an Aveda Concept Salon. Mostly because every successful salon in Atlanta had done that. It was just what you did if you wanted to be successful. But early on something inside me told me this wasn’t the right fit. At my very first convention as a salon owner I met a girl who owned a salon in Tennessee who told me about a company in NYC, Bumble & bumble. Again I found myself taking a leap of faith. My sister Jennifer, who by this time had joined our team, and I took a trip to NYC and visited B&b’s offices. I met with the owners. We took some of the first classes offered by Bumble & bumble University. I learned everything I could and was struck not just by their products, but everything about the company. The level of skill they brought to the table. The core values that defined how they ran their business. The way they treated their employees. All of this shaped the way I wanted to approach being a salon owner. And so Salon Red parted ways with Aveda (something that was almost unheard of at the time for an Atlanta salon). We hitched our wagon to Bumble and bumble and that is really how Salon Red began: a leap of faith (followed by another and another).
Looking back, not just over the 15 years of being an owner, but at my entire life I realize I am a risk taker. That’s how I’ve always done everything. Jumping in, having faith, and trusting in my own ability to make it work, and always being grateful. Not just for the help I have been given, but for the lessons that my mistakes have allowed me to learn. I have absolutely made mistakes, but every one of them has motivated me to become better. I think that’s what has been the secret, not only to my personal success, but to Salon Red’s success as a company. I don’t let the mistakes hold me down. I turn them into the motivation to grow; to be better and stronger. I recently heard a quote that I think speaks to this perfectly:
“Do you want to be bitter, or do you want to be better?”
I try and live my life that way by walking the walk not just talking the talk. Every day I strive to share that wisdom with my business, my guests, and every one I meet.
Join us next month as we celebrate the official 15th Anniversary of Salon Red with a look forward to the future for Jessica, the company, and the entire Salon Red family.