When Melissa Taylor was a little girl, she dreaded getting her hair done. She’d spend hours at the salon, hoping for a positive outcome. When she walked out, she didn’t feel any differently about her hair than when she walked in—she never liked it. She observed other girls and women who loved their hair. She noticed a direct connection between how people felt about their hair and their self-esteem. As a teen, she started styling other people’s hair. It gave her an opportunity to try out new ideas and express her creative side. What she enjoyed most was seeing the boost of confidence her friend or family member would get when they loved what she had done with their hair. She wanted to pass that feeling on whenever she could. But Melissa never imagined being a hairstylist or owning a salon one day.
Melissa attended a career fair during her senior year of college. She quickly narrowed her options to two companies. One of them was Target Corporation in Minnesota, which recruited her for its leadership development program in the financial services area. Melissa decided to jump into corporate life and relocated from Atlanta to Minneapolis. While she was grateful for the opportunity to work for a Fortune 500 company, after three years of the daily grind she longed for something more. That’s when she started doing hair for weddings on Fridays and Saturdays.
Melissa quickly realized she was making more money working two days a week as a hairstylist than she was in two weeks at her day job. And she was having a lot more fun. As she began to consider working as a stylist full time, she realized there was no better time than the present. She was still new enough to the area that she could immerse herself in a completely different career without distractions or fear of missing out on activities with friends or family. She rented a chair on a trial basis, doing hair at a bridal salon. She loved it. So much so that she ended up leaving Target. And when the woman who owned the salon announced she was selling it, Melissa decided to take a leap of faith and took over the lease. In 2011, the salon now known as Beauty Lounge Minneapolis was born.
Owning a salon was harder than Melissa anticipated. Some stylists left when the original owner left and Melissa upped chair rental slightly. That meant she needed to spend a lot of time networking and finding new stylists to ensure she was covering all of her business expenses. She knew getting the right people was also key to building the business. As a black woman, it was important to Melissa that everyone felt like they belonged there. She wanted all of the stylists to be highly skilled in working with all hair types—she’d seen untrained stylists fail all too often when attempting to work with African American hair textures.
Melissa also spent a considerable amount of time on operations, giving her less time to do hair, which was what she thought she wanted to be doing. But as she found the right people, and found her groove, Beauty Lounge began to make a name for itself. She evolved her role from practitioner to CEO. She started to become known for her commitment to changing the beauty industry and advocating for the importance of training stylists on all hair textures. And after discovering YouTube channels featuring well-intentioned but untrained individuals instructing parents of biracial children on how to do their hair, Melissa launched the Texture Academy and started offering classes taught by professionals at the salon.
Today, Melissa describes her salon this way: “We’re not a black salon, we’re not a white hair salon, we’re not a curly hair salon, we’re not a natural hair salon. We’re a salon for people who value diversity. We are challenging the norms in our industry hoping to create a shift.” Melissa is on a mission to show little girls with dark skin and textured hair that they are beautiful exactly as they are and that they don’t have to change the way they look to measure up to anyone else’s standards of beauty.
To learn more about Melissa’s business, visit MplsBeautyLounge.com.
Photo: Beauty Lounge Minneapolis
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