If I was to tell my 17y/o self where I was going to end up, I would have never believed me. The highlight of my otherwise dismal high school career was my enrolment in the Canadian Environmental Literacy Program, or C.E.L.P. It was an off-site, alternative learning program that celebrated and respected the planet and community. During that time, I developed a passion for protecting the environment, but honestly I had no idea how much that was going to shape my future. Spending my teenage years in a small-ass town in southern Ontario, getting up-to-no-good on the regular, I felt like I was doomed to be a lowlife forever. BUT, it all changed on my first day at The Festival School of Hairstyling in Stratford. The joy that was created by helping someone look and feel their best was life changing! Who knew something as simple as a haircut and having someone to talk to could bring so much joy to others?
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture or to make significant changes in an existing business? How did the idea for your business come about?
After graduating hair school, I was working in a conventional salon setting, learning a lot, but feeling uncomfortable. How could this career that I loved so much be so abusive to the Earth? Knowing that something had to change, I started researching alternative options for hair colour and other beauty products. In that search I discovered Organic Colour Systems and used my family and friends as test subjects. Could this plant based, ammonia free hair colour really perform as well as the conventional colour lines I was used to? The answer was YES! It was amazing! the shine and the condition of the hair was like nothing I had experienced before. The idea of combining my passion for hairstyling and my love for planet Earth seemed like an obvious decision. One that would allow me to confidently continue my career a hairstylist.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
In the beginning, I didn’t have the confidence to open The Green Hair Spa on my own. I felt like I needed a business partner, someone to share the responsibilities with. In 2009 I opened The Green Hair Spa with a business partner, which fell apart after 2 years. I had a vision of what I wanted GHS to be but that wasn’t the same vision my partner had, and she wanted out. Recovering from the dissolve of that partnership was tough but the separation was necessary for The Green Hair Spa to reach its full potential. I moved the salon twice after that, and began to shift the branding into what I knew GHS was truly meant to be, an environmentally conscious hair salon that believes in inner beauty, building community and respecting nature.
What books are you currently reading? And your recommendation for entrepreneurs to read?
I currently read books on mindfulness and meditation. Right now, I am reading “The Art of Living” by Thich Nhat Hanh. I’m also studying Vipassana Meditation techniques and it has been the most empowering shift in my professional and personal life. I would encourage anyone, entrepreneur or otherwise, to take the time to find stillness and learn to hold pleasantness and unpleasantness equally within the body and mind. Meditation and mindfulness practice teaches us so many things, all of them beneficial to our personal and professional lives.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
There was definitely a push back from some of my family and at 26 years old their support was super important to me. Even though in the beginning not everyone was on board, I knew this was exactly what I was meant to do. I made my decision to move forward and I haven’t regretted any of it.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Mission Statement. In the beginning I was told that having a mission statement was an important piece to a successful business. I didn’t believe it. It wasn’t until after the my business partner left that I took that to heart. It was then that the “GREEN” in The Green Hair spa became so much more than an environmental consciousness clue. It became the core belief system, where I continue to look to whenever I'm faced with a decision. G - Give Back, R - Respect the planet, E - Equality for all, E - Earn a living, N - Now lets get creative.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
BE CONFIDENT! I felt very insecure and nervous around other business owners in the beginning. I felt like they were all part of some kind of secret club, and I would never be given the password. Being recognized in my community in 2015 with a Chamber of Commerce, Business Excellence Award changed all that. Those people I was so afraid of believed in what I was doing, so what the heck was I so nervous about? Jump in with both feet!
What advice would you give to an upcoming entrepreneur locally and internationally?
Stay True To Your Vision! First, get really clear on what that is. Take the time to construct a mission statement, whatever that looks like for you. Maybe it starts as a vision board, or a mind mapping exercise, or an acrostic poem like mine? As a business owner, you become a leader in your community (big or small) Where do you want to lead people?