Kansas City Star

Story Behind The Story

When I was a salon assistant, I drove to work every day hating my job. High end salon life was not what I expected. 

In the winter when I made my fist it would crack and bleed from doing shampoos all day. When I left college for cosmetology school my dad said, “don’t be a quitter”.  

I stuck it out and if I had quit- I would not be who I am today. 

Around the year 2000, majority ownership changed hands. It didn’t take long to see change. The stylists from Chicago went back to Chicago, the owners came less, and the local talent stylists started leaving. I was close to two stylists who had already left for a small salon they liked in West Plaza. 

They told me there was one chair left. If I wanted it, I needed to act fast, I hesitated.  

Another stylist that had already left didn’t like her new salon and took the chair. 

Life Inventory

A few days later I sat alone on a bench in the upstairs cutting gallery. All 8 chairs were empty. There were 15 more downstairs in the cutting department alone where a few stylists worked spread out. I have learned people think a salons success is based on how busy it looks, which isn’t true. But I knew what my income was, and I understood overhead. 

 One time when I was in the office, I saw a rent statement. It was double what I made in a year. It felt like a sinking ship. 

I stared at the tennis courts across the street and took a life inventory.  

A few years earlier my parents had moved our family construction business to Springfield. My sister soon followed.

My best friends from high school were graduating college and starting good jobs during the dot.com era. Some took a gap year to backpack through Europe. Now my closest salon friends had moved on too. 

I was 23 and had serious doubts about my future, and myself. 


I started stashing my tips and 15% of my paycheck  in case I’d soon be jobless. A few months later I was digging in the Sunday paper and saw the commercial  listings. I circled an ad for a loft on 39th street.

My tip jar had a little over $2400 . I had zero desire to own a salon, but didn’t like the feeling of my uncertain future. 

Three days later I walked through the space. My brain was battling. One side said “No way we’re doing this”, and other said “nothing worth having comes easy and besides, we’re young.”

I asked the guy showing me the space for a moment alone. I took few breathes and took inventory.

The stairway sucked and the bus stop outside the door was sketch- but I could see myself there.

Little did I know.


That day sitting on the bench I asked myself 

“Why didn’t I go with my friends to that salon?”  

“Why did I leave college for hair school?”  

“Why didn’t I just stay with my parents and work for them?”  

At 23 I didn’t know the human brain doesn’t fully mature until age 25, but I still knew the answer.

None of that felt right for me. 


Kansas City Star Article

Kansas City Star Site

Little did I know on that bench… within 3 years the salon I was sitting in and the salon my friends went to would both be closed. 

Little did I know the dot.com bubble had already burst and a mortgage crash would soon follow, starting a 10 year recession. 

And little did I know I was in a fairly adaptable, resilient industry. 

Studio 39 made me grow up fast.  In a way I gave up part of my youth, but it has also been my life preserver many times, for others too. I didn’t know what “making it” was yet, so I didn’t know my responsibility would grow if I did. 

Later, making it in life would change meaning many times, I knew I just wanted to do hair.  

The choices we make. 

Any small business owner knows it’s difficult to emotionally detach when making hard choices. Especially if you grow up with your business. Especially a business that invests in people. The energy takes on a life of its own that builds strength, yet drains you at the same time.   

Last year I read my old salon owner bought back majority shares of his company in 2017 at 70% LESS than what he’d sold for in the early 2000’s. Saavy! 🔥 

It’s funny. 23 years ago his choice had me pondering my life on HIS bench. Now I know that must have been hard., but I only thought how it affected me.

That time in my life shaped a new belief system on 3 things that became values.

  • Don’t let self-doubt make you forget who you are because you’re always one choice away from a different life. 
  • I didn’t know I was listening to my gut instinct, and it is NOT your brain. Your gut is your intuition- your guide from the cosmos. If we listen.. now if it says wait or go- I listen. 
  • Sometimes we know something needs to change. Humans hate change, whether perceived as good or bad. It’s always both. You have to be willing to give up something for the life you’re meant for. Meant for is different than the life we THINK you want 

I never planned on being a salon owner, I just wanted job security. I never tried to grow the salon, I just filled needs when I saw them. 

I wish I knew what happened to that bench. Little did I know it was exactly where I was supposed to be. 



Thank you Kansas City Star and Anne Kniggendorf.

To my stylists: thank you for not being quitters.


You are Studio 39 ❤️