Our first year of business: Separate journeys, same path

It was the middle of November 2010. I had just come back from a trip around the globe. I had one hundred dollars to my name, my passion to kick-start my life and my trade. I was living back with mum and dad at the time, getting looked after, paying no rent because I had no money, getting my washing done and having my dinner ready for me every night. I owed them around five thousand dollars at the time. They had lent it to me while I was away. I had run out of money on my trip and didn’t work at all besides doing haircuts for random people on my Contiki tour and for families I had lived with. So safe to say I was broke as a joke. I knew I needed to get a job and quick. I had my house repayments for our investment property I had purchased with my parents and sister when I was 19. These came our weekly and I didn’t want to fall behind with the repayments.

A friend who I use to work with back where I did my apprenticeship had contacted me. She was an area manager at a salon close to home. She had asked me to come in for an interview as they were looking for someone to manage one of the salons her boss had owned. I remember asking my sister Alicia to make me look good, do my hair and make me feel fresh for the interview. So she worked her magic! I rocked up to the interview and got asked a series of questions, because she knew me the questions were quite casual and I felt really comfortable. She told me in the interview that they were looking for another manager to manage one of the other stores; I jumped at the idea and continued to tell her about my sister Alicia. Our whole lives I don’t think Alicia has ever interviewed for a job or found herself a job, the opportunity always came to her through my pursuit of finding my way.

So we started our new jobs 3 days later! Our boss was amazing, she was funky, cool and had this zest for life and that was so inspiring. I remember thinking it was a weird feeling, why is she treating us so well? I was almost unsure as to wheather it was real after where I’d come from and what I had experience, it felt too good to be true. She had sat my sister and I down and asked us where we wanted to be in five years time. We had already spoken about it and dreamed of owning our own salon one day. We were open with her and told her where we wanted to head in the future. I remember her saying, “I will teach you everything you need to know about owning a business.” Alicia worked intimately with our boss at the time and she showed her the ropes, let her make business decision about the team and guided her on how to run a salon. She loved it, she had a mentor that was helping her grow and learn.

Meanwhile I was working closely with my friend at the time. Her intentions seemed pure when I first started, but as time went by she took advantage of my trusting nature and my vulnerability. I would be counting up the till at the end of the day and she would say to me, “It’s fifty dollars out, where is the money?” It was always fifty dollars out. I had no idea where the money was? I was young and naive and I never saw the situation for what it was. She knew the POS system inside out, knew everything there was to know about it. So then she would go along and delete out a sale to make it balance. Looking back now, my gosh it was obvious what was happening but being twenty two, having no experience and trusting someone who you thought was your friend, it just didn’t click.

Another year had passed. I was starting to really dislike where I was working because of her. She use to tell me to make decisions and then turn around belittle me and tell me off for making the wrong choice. I felt like I was constantly doing something wrong and I lost all faith in my abilities to make decisions and run a team. Me being me, I felt like running away. I knew that if I ran from the problem it would eventually catch up with me but I didn’t care. I went home one night that week and said to my sister “I’m done, I can’t work with her anymore.” Our parents were always so supportive. Whatever we did in our lives they were always there, whatever decisions we made they always had our back. They truly taught me the real meaning of unconditional love and care and the importance of family and acceptance.

So we started looking-well dad started looking at a salon we could buy. We had found this beautiful little salon at Henley Beach on the corner and it seemed perfect! We had called the owners and had asked to go through figures and what the salon had to offer. We were so young and had absolutely no idea about business or numbers we just had no idea. All I can say is thank god for parents. Shortly after meeting with the owners that day we met with the landlord at a café. He was mid 40s and had a really dominant demeanour that I was intimidated by. As we sat at the café all around a table, mum, dad me and my sister he said to us, “I mean you are 23 years old, what do you know about running a business? You probably won’t even to be able to pay rent each week.” I was offended and I took it to heart. My eyes saw red and I remember thinking what an asshole. Mum, dad, Alicia and myself had then gone to dinner at a local pub in the area to discuss what our next move was. My dad’s nose suddenly started to bleed and we all looked at each other and being sceptical thought “this isn’t a good idea.” So safe to say we kept looking.

Eventually we found a salon on Unley road. It was small, six chairs, cute and when you walked into it you got this warm feeling that indicated that this was it. We met with the owners. They were an older couple. She worked the floor on her own while her husband was retired and use to help her sweep the floors, clean the towels and make her lunch. You could tell they were genuine and they were extremely transparent with their numbers. I remember saying to her, still upset about what the last landlord had said to us “before you think we are too young to run a business, know that failure isn’t an option for us.” She looked at me and nodded her head. She was small, very skinny and had a short blonde pixie cut. She said to us “we will get back to you soon.” I remember thinking, shit, did I just blow this for the both of us?

A few days passed and we waited anxiously for a response. It was around Easter time, I remember and we had finally heard back. She had said to us that she liked us the most out of all the people she met with to take over her business. She offered to work with us for a full month to introduce us to her clients and show us how everyone had their hair done. She told us all the money she makes in this month will go to us, she doesn’t want it all she wants is to know her clients will be looked after. So we got to work, we had a meeting with our boss at the time and she was unbelievably supportive. She helped us find suppliers and gave us all their numbers and was even helping us find names to call our salon.

We worked all day and all night, we put our hearts and souls into our business. We had a plan, we had a vision and there was no stopping us. Our friends and family were so supportive and cheered us on every step of the way. We eventually got to the point where we were too busy, we wanted to change our hours to working a normal working week but we needed a team to make that happen.

Our younger sister was working for us at the time while she was at University studying to be a teacher. She was a natural and we kept thinking, if only she wanted to do this with us. Her passion for education and her certainty of knowing what she wanted to do and where she wanted to be was too strong to steer her. So we started to build our team. We eventually hired two girls to work with us and the salon became too small to fit us all in. We were coming up to Christmas and booking clients in the computer wondering how we were going to find more chairs to fit everyone in. It was time to make a move. Alicia went out and started to look for a new location. She found a beautiful spot on one of the most prestigious streets in Adelaide. Things just fell into place. She called me and said “Meliss, I’ve found it, you have to come and see!” So I drove down and we were showed around the premises. We got the same feeling we felt when we found the salon we were in at the time and that’s when we knew. We had 3 weeks before the Christmas rush and we needed to get the show on the road. One by one, it all fell into place and we made it happen.

We had big plans. We always had big plans, but we didn’t know how we were going to make it all happen, we needed help. One day we spoke a client who had a business coach. She loved it and she highly recommended it. We liked the idea but at the same time we had no idea about anything like that, who would we get, how do we source one and are they actually going to be any good? I remember a lady walked into the salon and was asking all sorts of questions, I thought to myself, wow why is she asking me so many questions? Later that week we received an email from a lady named Janet. She mentioned she had come into the salon and she believed she could help us. We absolutely loved that she had taken the initiative to do that and email us. So we heard her out and made a day to meet.

Our first meeting with J was awesome. I loved her instantly, her vibe, her confidence, her authenticity and the way she listened to us. I felt instantly connected. She took us through a journey of discovering who we were, our purpose as a business and gave us clarity on our mission and direction for the future. We had had a few meetings with her and I remember saying “I feel like I’m not really that necessary for the success of the business, I feel like Alicia doesn’t need me at all.” I remember crying and my self worth of what I bought to the table wasn’t valid. I was lost all over again. I went from being a party girl, going out every weekend, having the time of my life to all of a sudden changing who I was and trying to live up to the life of a business owner. I went on a journey to discover myself and find my place in what we were doing and where we were heading. I always knew I wanted to help people I just didn’t know how to do it at that scale.

Eight years went by and it brought us to this moment right now. A pandemic so big that it has changed and altered the direction of the world and peoples lives. I remember waking up each day before it all happened and asking to just have a break. A break to pause, to think, to reassess and to figure out where I wanted my life to head for the next five to ten years. It has given me the opportunity to quiet my mind away from the daily tasks that we get so consumed by in our day-to-day lives. That’s when I found my voice and finally saw value in what I was doing and how I could help people. I’ve had the opportunity to create an entire program to teach you about healthy hair, having a healthy lifestyle and the role it plays in the way it makes you feel and look at yourself. Big things are coming, stay tuned.