HISTORY PART 1: THE STORY OF US PART I: LAST CHANCES
In 2014 Salon Red celebrates its 15th Anniversary. In that time, it has grown from a tiny unheard of salon tucked into a back corner of an Atlanta neighborhood, to a six location, thriving pillar of the community. Their selection as one of the 2014 Salon Today Top 200 Salons has solidified the Salon Red brand as one of the most respected in the country. No small feat for a company that has had to weather some of the most difficult economic times in a generation. Ultimately the love, sweat, and tears put in by its staff have defined the brand, and fostered the deep connections it shares with the guests who have kept Salon Red running for fifteen years. I invite you now to take a peak behind the curtain with our new monthly feature: The Story of Us. A sit down with owner, Jessica Soler, as she shares how a unexpected dream became Salon Red. This month we’re exploring how Jessica came to the beauty industry and how Salon Red was born.
The answer to how I became a stylist and eventually the owner of my own salon isn’t a pretty one.
For a long time I was fairly lost in life. I didn’t go to college. I had no direction. Finally after years of wrong turns and getting into trouble I found myself standing in the last place I thought I would be: a courtroom. There I was in those ugly orange suits they make you wear. I’d managed to curl my hair using pages from a book the night before. I was young and scared of what was about to happen. There was this judge..I couldn’t stand him….this judge was sitting there telling me I was on my last chance. He told me I had one year to straighten out my life or I was going to spend the rest of my sentence in a jail cell.
I remember crying as I went home. I was just SO angry. Who was this old guy trying to tell me what to do with my life? Faced with making a decision on what to do I sat down with my mother and did the only thing I could think of. We opened the phone book and looked up any kind of degree or certification I could get within a year.
I had three options: Dental Assistant. Nail Technician. Or Hairstylist.
The next day my mother drove me to a school in Marietta called Roffler Hair School. We went in, I signed
up, and the day after that I was walking into my first class. Immediately I knew it was what I was supposed to do. It just felt right. Being there, I had flashbacks of all the times in my life when I had done hair. As a cheerleader in school I’d done all the braids and curls for my teammates at competitions. I did the hair and make-up for our high school plays. I’d even done the styles for the marching band and color guard. It was then that I realized I’d been doing hair my whole life. I knew then I was in the right place. I had passion for
it. In that moment I fell in love.
Looking back on that year I feel so differently now. If it hadn’t been for that judge forcing me to make a choice in that moment….. I am blessed to have been given the opportunity to change. I’ve found what I
was meant to be doing all along. I wake up in the morning excited to head to work. Most days, I don’t even feel like I’m working at all. Yes, I help people feel beautiful. I am so grateful for that, but even more so I am grateful that Salon Red has become more than a salon. Every day I have the opportunity to help my employees and guests grow in their own lives. I can help heal others. Looking back on everything that led
to where Salon Red is at now, I remember all the heartache and tears that got us here. But I can also look back and see all the memories we made. The love we have shared and the hearts we have helped to heal. I look back at all of that, and I am humbled to have found the place I was meant to be.
About a year after that fateful day in the courtroom, the time came where I found myself standing in front of that same judge again. That judge that I had been so angry at. By then I was getting married and I was there to get permission to travel for my honeymoon. In that year, I’d graduated beauty school. I was starting my family. I had a career. I had a life.
Standing there I found myself crying again. Except this time it wasn’t in anger.
All I could say was “Thank you”
Join us next month for Part 2 where Jessica will be sharing the story of the very first days of Salon Red and how learning to leap taught her to be the leader she became.
HISTORY PART 2: 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.
867771519_lThe founding team: Jessica and Monique
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.
Where it all beganWhere it all began
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-OrDo you want
“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.
HISTORY PART 3: THE STORY OF US PART 3: REDEFINING SUCCESS
Sometimes life teaches us new ways of defining success.
“Success is moving forward through life’s challenges, knowing that surviving these obstacles makes success so much sweeter. Combing this with helping others to blossom—that is magical!”
When my friend Wendy asked me how I define success, I was surprised how quickly that answer came. In seconds it was there in my mind, but there was a time when this would not have been my answer. Fifteen years ago, when Salon Red was barely more than a dream, my idea of success was being a millionaire.
Having the kind of fame that came with your name in lights. The big house. All the best toys. So much has happened since those early days, and looking back I am overcome with emotion at how the highs and lows
of the years have pushed me to grow and expand how I view success.
We’ve already touched on some of those moments. Building the business. The hard work, dedication and inner strength my team and I had to rely upon. There have been so many moments when my early dreams seemed almost impossible. The late nights spent working a second job as a server because my paychecks were all used just to keep the lights on at the salon. Rebuilding the company almost from the ground up when almost my entire staff, save a few loyal friends, walked out, not once, but twice. These are the moments when failure has felt near, but I’ve learned the only choice is to dig deeper, have faith in my team and myself, and carry on.
Building Salon Red has shaped who I am, not just as a business woman, but who I am in my personal life as well. I’ve come to realize that I am an all-or-nothing kind of person, and that’s forced me to make hard choices in my life. As the mother of four beautiful children, it’s been a struggle to find balance. To be the mother I want to be and follow the passion that I have found in my work.
erewJessica’s children are her #1 priority!
A few weeks before Wendy asked me how I define success, I was asking myself that same question. It was
the end of 2013, and I sat down to do my personal “annual review”. Every year I like to write down what my personal values are, and reconnect with my priorities for the year ahead. As I listed the parts of my life, of course my children were right at the top. But this year, seeing it written on that piece of paper, I had such an eye-opening experience. I realized that the list of priorities in my head wasn’t matching my actions in life. It was an immensely difficult realization.
Determined to change that, I took a hard look at myself. On a scale of 1 to 10, how would I rate myself as a mother? It broke my heart to know that, if I was being honest, I was a 4. What was the answer? I couldn’t completely restructure my life. My business was more than a passion. It’s what kept a roof over our heads, and there were other families, Salon Red families, that depended on me as well. I started small. What could I do to get to a 5?
I knew that right away, I couldn’t up the quantity of time that I spent with my children. Not without creating just as many problems in another area of my life. Instead I focused on quality. The first step was an easy
one: no cellphone. Each night when I left work I turned my cellphone off. No calls. No texts. No checking work emails. Not until after everyone else was asleep.
Family dinners were a huge help. With four growing children, whose time is split between me and their fathers, dinner together doesn’t always happen. But at least twice a week we make the time. Everyone together sharing a meal. Talking. Telling stories of our day. I try not to worry about work, or anything other than the family right in front of me. I focus on being present in the moment.
Sometimes its just about hitting pause and enjoying the momentSometimes it’s just about hitting pause and enjoying the moment
Next came bigger changes. I made the sacrifice to spend one Saturday a month out of the Salon. Having an entire weekend with my children was a huge change. Saturday has become our movie night, and then
Sunday we have a schedule for one-on-one time with each of my children. Each week I set aside two to
three hours, and the child I’m spending that day with gets to pick what we do. Lucas and Layla love to go antiquing with me, and as of late they’ve discovered a love for any kind of horror film. From classics like Dawn of the Dead to more recent films, you name it and we’ve probably seen it. (The Conjuring is the
current family favorite.) Rowan loves to spend our quality time doing crafts, or going hiking, and my two-year-old son River loves just spending time outside. We play in our yard and sometimes he “helps” me garden. No matter what we do, I focus all of my energy on them. Getting to know them, and creating memories.
Pink Wig FunIt’s about making memories full of laughter and love
I am so grateful for “my dads”. Everyone is there for all four children. We attend as much as we can
together, helping each other out when we can. No matter how we may be feeling about each other, our
focus in on the kids. Making these changes in my life hasn’t always been an easy task. When I am at work I am definitely busier. I’m two years into a five-year personal plan, and it’s definitely an intense place to be. But this is all part of planning for the future, and I know that things get crazier before they get calm.
I’ve also come to realize that balance as a sign of success is a myth. No matter how hard we try, life will always be skewed in one direction or another. Balance isn’t an ending point, so much as something we are always striving for. I’m embracing the obstacles that land in front of me. I’m learning to let go of this idealized view of the perfectly balanced life, and instead I’m enjoying the moments of peace when they do come. If you asked me how I was doing as a mother now, I’d give myself an 8.
2014 is a huge year of growth for me and my company. We’re growing, and learning, and I’m understanding more and more what my own definition of success is. I have still have a long way to go, but for today, in this moment, I can say that I’m not perfect, and it’s okay.