Finding out that I was pregnant was one of the scariest things to hear as a hairstylist. So in the midst of all the uncertainty and fear, I decided to open a salon!
What makes it so scary? Being in an “untraditional” job means no paid maternity leave, rarely you have health insurance through your salon, and the issue of no guaranteed income once you come back from however much maternity leave you decide to take. Without going into too much detail, let me break down the pay structure of most salons. An hourly wage is almost non-existent in a salon setting, unless a stylist works for a large chain salon (Cost Cutters, Great Clips, etc). That leaves a commission based pay or booth rent. With commission, the stylist is paid a certain percentage of their overall service dollars. Booth rent, a stylist pays the owner a set dollar amount either monthly or weekly and the stylist keeps the rest. Both of those mean that a stylist only makes money if they have a client in their chair.
In any salon situation, the longer a stylist is not actively taking clients, the higher the risk of losing clients; be it to another stylist in the salon or another salon altogether. This poses a huge problem for a pregnant stylist. Any amount of time taken off for maternity leave is risking clients seeking services elsewhere. Some clients stay, some clients leave. It all depends on how much time a client is willing to wait for that particular stylist to return.
Another up and coming option for stylists is what’s known as a studio salon. Think of these as a bunch of mini salons (about 100 sq ft) all in one building. Studio salons are popping up all over the country and stylists are flocking to these still new concepts. These studios are much the same as booth rent salons with one key difference: the stylist is now the owner of their own salon! Studio salons take away a lot of the start up costs of opening a business, but there is definitely still some overhead. So why the hell would anyone start a business at 5 and a half months pregnant? The answer is simple: I didn’t want to.
I was working in a booth rent salon in an area of Denver overflowing with young people. It was a great salon, but I was making no money. I had another full-time job as an educator at a cosmetology school. An awesome job with benefits and pretty good hourly wage. So why wouldn’t I just stay there? I had a 45 minute commute each way and with a baby I would be making just enough money to pay for rent and daycare for my newborn. Plus, I was still working at the salon after I left the school at night and on Saturdays. I definitely wanted to keep my clients, but I didn’t want to spend so much time working that I would never see my baby or my partner. I decided shortly after finding out that I was pregnant, to leave the salon and look for other salon options. The owner was more than understanding, so I went on my way to find something else. After a month of searching I had two different salon with offers on the table. I decided to go for the smaller and less well-known salon because of the higher commission percentage. It was going to be a perfect set up. The owner and myself agreed on a four day schedule per week and I would be making enough money to leave the school! I was so excited. I felt like I had found the perfect place. The salon carried the line of products I wanted to work with and I was going to have the perfect schedule to raise a newborn.
However, it was now time to have the dreaded “I’m pregnant” talk. Legally you do not have to disclose a pregnancy to a prospective employer and rejecting an job applicant because they are pregnant can make for some pretty nasty lawsuits. With that being said, I didn’t want to start a job under false pretenses or wait to say something until after I started working and have any negative emotions towards me for not saying anything earlier. So, I let the owner know that I was pregnant a couple of days before my official first day. I showed up for my first day early and excited! My excitement was short lived because as soon as the owner came in she informed me that she decided not to fill the position. My throat tightened and all I could muster up was a simple “okay”. She kept talking and cited reasons in her personal life for deciding not to move forward. I tried to listen and be understanding towards her, but I was now tuning her out, tears were welling In my eyes and all I could think was, “What am I going to do? I already quit my job! You’re really fucking me over lady!” I smiled with my now visible tears and told her it was “fine” even though it was NOT fine and I wanted so badly to call ‘bullshit’ on her. I quickly started gathering my supplies that I had already set up the week before. I messaged my partner to “come get me NOW” and had to run to the bathroom to cry in peace since the salon was full by this point. Stylists are taught early on to avoid burning bridges at all cost, so I thanked her once again and left.
I was back to square one, except this time I didn’t have my full-time job. Luckily, I had a few days left at the school and the director was amazing enough to offer me a part-time job at another campus. At least now I had time! I quickly started to job hunt since I had clients scheduled and nowhere to do services for them. Shit! This is why early I said I didn’t want to start a salon studio, I HAD to. My choices were: give up doing hair, start the process of finding a new salon over with a good chance it will end the same way (with a job swiftly taken off the table), or grab life by the balls and go into business for myself. I decided to do what was best for my family and called the rep for the salon studios closest to my previous salons.
This experience has left me here, writing this blog on the eve of the opening day of my business. To say this: yes being pregnant is scary and being a pregnant hairstylist is scary for a whole different set of reasons. The hair industry can be a very cruel place to work sometimes. I’ve never been one to back down from a fight and building a successful career in the hair world is a fight every damn day. Did I want to give up when it felt like everything was falling apart with my career? Yes. Did I feel helpless? Hell yes! Do I know what’s going to happen when I come back from maternity leave and whether or not I’ll have any clients waiting at my door? Nope. But I’m going to be the mother of a beautiful baby girl soon. I no longer get to give up or be helpless because now I have someone else to fight for. With that, I give the world Fox & Crow Salon! Born from a mother’s desire and need to succeed. I need to succeed not only for myself, but for my growing family whom I love with all of my heart.
Fox & Crow Salon