The first few businesses I worked at after graduating from school taught me even more about the industry.
In 1995, Diorio’s salon gave me the opportunity to grow more as a stylist by giving me opportunities to work with more women clients doing blow outs and hair color. It was fast paced and a large operation and to this day, they have some of the people I started with still in their employ. The price point for services was lower than in other places but the loyalty of the clientele and the frequency of visits allowed everyone to make good money there.
In 1996 I moved on to an establishment called Lords and Ladies because the grass looked greener. It was a large, highly visible salon in what was deemed to be a high-end outlet mall. A large area for retail, and a price point for services that seemed great, as well as an hourly wage to support slow times behind the chair. Unfortunately, what started out as a great idea by the mall developers, the local area alone really couldn’t support the business model, so the mall would have shifts in crowds to certain stores and the rest of it was the employees of the mall taking advantage of the discounts allowed to us.
I built a clientele and friendships with the people who worked in the mall and they supported me as I grew. I also began to do photo shoots with a local photographer and began to build a portfolio.
That was my first journey into photography for beauty.
One day while in the mall, I bumped into a fellow barber who had opened up a shop called
Mo Betta Cuts. He had shaped the image around Spike Lee’s Mo Betta Blues movie, and had gotten some notoriety from cutting hair for
Boys 2 Men when they were in town for a concert.
We chatted for a bit and then he began to recruit me to work for him . He promised all types of things, but mostly I remember him saying
You need to come support a black business and stop giving your money to the white man.
And that directed guilt worked on me. I never thought of my career path along those lines. I was open to all races and genders in my chair.
My clientele was diverse and growing and I thought that maybe it would be a great community to continue to grow.
My time at Mo Betta was one of solidarity and prosperity. My colleagues and I were so alike in many ways. We barely had any serious disagreements, but plenty of cheerful debates about sports, music and culture. We would give each other tips on techniques and made sure that the atmosphere was always family oriented and friendly to everyone. On Fridays and Saturdays the shop would hum with the sounds of clippers and smooth R&B music that we all enjoyed and cut to the groove. And the money flowed with the groove as well.
There were some personal issues that a few of us had separately, but we all seemed to support each other with encouragement and sometimes some big brother teasing, but it was all love.
And then there was the owner.
I won't put his name here just in case he reads it one day and I can leave his name out, but like we say nowadays. IYKYK. Something definitely happened to him and we all had our time being in denial about it and wondering "what in the hell is wrong with S***".
He became absent from the shop only to come in on certain days and make demands upon everyone.
He would yell at the barbers, some customers and then try to make a joke out of it. One time he wanted everyone to wear a shirt and tie, like in the boys the men video, but it was the middle of summer and it was hot in the shop. We all tried to do the tie, but when big Kimp let it go we all let it go. This man had the actual dream team working for him, and I'm not saying that because I was there, but because of the respect and love I have for my fellow colleagues from that time. He made it so uncomfortable for everyone working for him that each one of us eventually left, not because we wanted to, but we had to, it was too much irrational pressure that switched every other day. Each one of us who worked at Mo Betta went on to own our own businesses and be profitable and employ other people. There were 7 of us in total.
I learned that you can have a great team, a wonderful environment, money flowing and everyone being prosperous, but 1 person with a bad attitude can ruin the whole operation, especially if they are the one in charge.