What does a “typical” day look like for Kelly?
I wake up in either Richmond, Va where our new location is, or in Washington, DC. I spend the first couple of hours getting beat up by my toddler, returning emails, working on interior design, doing paperwork, and messing with Insta. Basically: with the exception of toddler fight club, it’s all behind the scenes grunt work. I then head to the salon and train the apprentice cutters for three to four hours. A couple hours after that are dedicated to strategy and daily operations. And fires! Putting out lots of fires!
What’s one thing you would have told yourself on the first day of cosmetology school knowing what you know now?
Not sure I can limit this to one thing. I started hair school at 17, and I knew nothing. I think I would have told myself never to own a salon. Just joking. Sort of. But to be serious, you can have a lot of financial success in our industry without the added responsibility of ownership. Being an owner was painted as a glamorous goal, but no one ever told me just how many clogged drains would be involved.
What do you think the biggest struggle stylists are experiencing in the industry today?
In general, I think the biggest challenge is to always remember that it’s not about us, it is about the guest. This is the hospitality industry, we’ve lost sight of that. Also, hairdressing is visual, blindly following guides and sections as though they will cut the hair for you is a recipe for disaster. In some ways, as the industry has become focused on repeatable cuts, the more we’ve lost our real-life eye, which is what makes us unique stylists.
When you decided to step away from behind the chair and focus on business / entrepreneurship, did you ever feel like to had to give one up for the other? Tell us about that process.
Hardest decision of my life. I loved doing hair, but it was just more important to train four people a year who could cut like me. I now own two large salons and four barbershops and the management of those just demand too much of my time. I believe the guest deserves all of you. It is nearly impossible to do your job as an owner of a large salon and simultaneously give your all to your guests. I had a really great 20 year career that I’m proud of. That is enough for me. Now ownership deserves that same dedication and attention to detail that I gave to my cutting for all of those years.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Not sure, I think five year plans are unhealthy for me.
You’ve had experience with both successful and “unsuccessful” business, in and out of the beauty industry. What dose being unsuccessful mean to you and how does that push you to keep going forward?
I hate losing. However, losing is a fact of business. If you have one business: don’t lose. If you have multiple businesses, take what you can from a loss. Don’t be embarrassed, just do it right the second time. No one gets to define your success. That is up to you. A number in your bank account isn’t going to make you feel successful. The legacy you build will.
Best business advice you’ve ever been given?
“Everyone has a plan ‘till they get punched in the mouth.” (Mike Tyson.) Most people wouldn’t quote Iron Mike here, but it is the smartest advice anyone could ever give about business, even though when he said it, he wasn’t talking about business. If you want to crush in our industry you will have to learn to adapt and pivot quickly when a policy fails. Having a plan is good; being able to change the plan quickly is better.
Something most people don’t know about you.
I had a phase in my twenties when I watched The Cutting Edge on a weekly basis. I can’t remember how long the phase was, but … too long. Just so we’re clear, that’s not a hairdressing movie.
What traumatic hairstyle have you been guilty of rocking?
We used to do this cut that we called the “mange”. We would cut each others hair to look like there were giant holes missing, kind of like if you were a resident of an insane asylum and you had at your own hair. Yes, it was as bad as it sounds.
I knew I was a Hair Nerd when…
I knew very early on that I loved the people and the never ending amount of knowledge that could be gained about hair. I also really appreciate that the industry is constantly moving and progressing.
Where can people stalk you?