When I first started as a salon assistant, I went to work every day hating my job. The high end customer service world was very different than I expected. In the winter when I’d make a fist, the skin on the back of my hand would crack and bleed. I didn’t want to be a quitter so I stuck it out. I ended up loving it and worked there for almost 5 years. I would not be the stylist I am today if I had quit that job. Around the year 2000 majority ownership changed hands. It didn’t take long to sense change. The Chicago stylists went back to the salons there, the owners came here less, and the local talent was leaving. I was close to two stylists who had left for a small salon off West Plaza. They told me there was one chair left, if I wanted it I needed to act fast. I hesitated. Another stylist who had already left didn’t like where she was. She decided to take it.
A few days later I sat on a bench in the empty upstairs cutting gallery waiting for my next client. Now I know you can’t gauge a salons success based on whether it “looks busy” like many think, but I did understand overhead. I saw a rent invoice once when I was in the office, the monthly cost was way over what I made in a year. I stared at the tennis courts across the street and took a “life inventory.” A few years earlier my parents had moved their business to Springfield for the Branson building boom. My sister soon followed. My best friends from high school were graduating college and starting jobs during the busy dot.com era. Some took a year off to backpack through Europe. Now my closest salon friends had moved on too. I was 23. I had serious doubts about my future and myself. I’ve always been a social butterfly but for the first time in my adult life, I felt very alone.
I started stashing my tips and 15% of my paycheck in case I wouldn’t have a job soon. A few months later I was reading the Sunday paper of the Kansas City Star digging for the sports page and came across the commercial real estate listings. I circled an ad for a loft on 39th street. I had saved a little over $2400. I had zero desire to own a salon but I didn’t like the uncertainty of my circumstances. When I went to see the space my inner monologue was in a battle. One side of my brain said “What are you doing!?” The other side said ” shut up because change comes at a PRICE, literally and figuratively.” I shut my crazy up and asked the man who showed me the space if I could have a moment to walk through alone. The stairs sucked and the bus stop by the door was super sketch, but I could see myself there.
Little Did I Know…
I remember sitting on the bench that day thinking “Why didn’t I go with my friends? Why did I leave college for hair school? Why didn’t I stay with my parents?” But little did I know the salon I was sitting in and the salon where my friends went would both be closed in less than 3 years. I didn’t know the dot.com bubble was already bursting. I didn’t know a mortgage crash would soon pull construction down with it and I didn’t know I was in a recession proof industry.
Last year I read somewhere my mentor became majority shareholder of his company again by buying back at a price 70% LESS than what he’d sold for. Saaavy! 🔥 Studio 39 made me grow up fast so in a way I missed part of my youth, but it was also my life preserver many times in many ways. Any business owner knows it’s difficult to emotionally detach yourself when making hard choices. It’s funny because 20 years ago his choice had me pondering MY life on HIS bench and thank God! It taught me two very valuable things.
- Don’t let self doubt define you. You’re always only one choice away from a different life.
- I didn’t know it then but listening to my gut instinct led me to where I am now. So now whether its says ” wait..”or “GO!” I listen.
I never planned on being a salon owner, I just wanted to buy job security. I never tried to grow the salon, I just tried to fill my businesses needs when I saw them. I wish I knew what happened to that bench because looking back, I was exactly where I was supposed to be.
Thank you Kansas City Star for helping me find my first space for Studio 39 and for this write up. Thank you to the kind person who unbeknownst to me, submitted my info to the reporter. Thank you Anne Kniggendorf for coming to the salon, and THANK YOU to my staff for being the opposite of quitters!
You guys are Studio 39.❤️