Why Hair? In fact…..why work?
About 6 months after starting Halo, I realized I had picked the loneliest job in the world. Leader. When you are the Leader (President, Bossypants, CEO, Chief of Household), unless you have other Leaders to talk to, I’m convinced one of two things happen;
a) you go stark raving mad
b) you shrivel up into a….dried little shriveled ball
So I was well on my way to both of these alternatives when I found a group of BoFs (birds of a feather) called Savor the Success. StS is a group of women entrepreneurs who agree that, in general, women get things done differently and that we all benefit when we are not crazy or shriveled into a ball, but rather sharing our experiences, our triumphs, our failures and learning together how to build strong, amazing companies by agreeing to best practices. The founder, Angela Jia Kim did, in fact, change my life — but it wasn’t without a fair amount of screaming and kicking on my part. (yes, becoming an entrepreneur is not always pretty).
The most important thing I have learned in my 3 years as a member of StS is this question: Why am I in business? I mean, I don’t come from the hair business and neither do any of my family members. I was an accidental success in the Technology Industry which graciously agreed to pay me for my ideas about Marketing and PR for 20+ years. But most of that knowledge did not apply to my new project – Halo Blow Dry Bars. And by now, I have come to realize there are many, many, many easier ways to have a job than to start your own company — (not to mention many other more financially lucrative ways)!
In my first round of a process Angela calls the Raison d’etre, we explored why we do something as crazy as start a business. The first time around it was clear that my passion was for women’s issues, and the enormous need we have in this country for jobs that provide an entry into the workforce; for young women who will ultimately need to support a family. The root of what I discovered? I am a feminist! I am FOR women!
In the second round of the same process, I am finding something deeper. Something that is probably closer to my soul…I need to give back.
In 1979 I was a young girl without a future. There was no plan by my parents for me to accomplish anything other than survival. No particular incentive to achieve anything or drive myself toward any goal whatsoever. But I was rescued by the Tech Industry! In a completely accidental intersection of dropping out of college and taking a job as a receptionist at a new tech company (I was employee #13), I was swept up into a world where I was rewarded for my work ethic, for my enthusiasm and, quite frankly, for my bossiness! That industry took everything it could take from me and gave me a life in return.
But what would have happened to me if I hadn’t showed up for that receptionist interview in the summer of 1980? I have no idea — but whatever that “road not traveled” was, I am positive it would not have taken me around the world, introduced me to the industry leaders that would define our world for generations to come, and provide a context for a life in which I could be successful!
After having my son, I really didn’t ever plan to return to the work force. But the longer I stayed away, the more it didn’t feel right. I am intensely political and I wanted an outlet for my feelings of helplessness during the Recession. When I went into a Blow Dry Bar up in SF that definitely was NOT my cup of tea in terms of atmosphere, something clicked (other than a business plan that seemed to make sense) – here was a business in which young women could launch their career in hair, work their way up through an organization, spread their wings and fly away to other careers, and best of all I could define what that workplace experience would be like! The fact that I didn’t know a single thing about the Hair industry seemed a small hurdle….at the time!
The journey continues. We have just opened our 4th location and have 77 wonderful employees (bummer, only one of them reports to me!) and the sky’s the limit. But the Tech industry also taught me to dream big….and I think I will.
So, Why a Blow Dry Bar? Why work at all? To give back. To try to provide that platform from which young women can begin to develop a life for themselves. In essence, to return the gift.