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Spinning Plates

Updated: Oct 1, 2023

The expansion of the shop went well very quickly. Before I knew it I had a total of 7 stylists, 2 receptionist, a massage therapist and my assistant. I took some courses in makeup and eyelash applications and created an area where I did makeup and photography. And still had space that I was contemplating putting clothing and accessories.

I was wearing many hats and letting myself be as creative as I could imagine and putting it into action. My mentors were keeping me as grounded as much as they could by reminding me of cost versus profit, but a lot of their words became muffled under the sounds of my goals being manifested. The euphoria of imagining a goal and watching it come to life took precedence over any risk, to the point I never saw risk. I only saw manifestation.

I had clients from when I worked at Reggie's Salon that were driving up to Gardner from Lancaster that planted the seed of me opening a location near the college in Lancaster. It made a lot of sense. Atlantic Union College was a Seventh Day Adventist college that had a nursing program with predominantly black students. These students were travelling all over the state to get their hair services, and I saw an opportunity to bring it to them.

So I set out on another expansion, with my current expansion being close to six months old. I was getting a lot of inquiries from stylist and barbers looking for work, and some of them lived near Lancaster. I set my sights on Lancaster and found a location right next door to a popular pizza shop.

I inquired with the landlord and everything went smoothly for renting the space. Through proper negotiations, I had a set of keys and 60 days to set up the location, once I handed the landlord my deposit.

I began to split my time between Gardner and Lancaster as I started to do renovations. I started to be able to visualize what the location would look like and the satisfaction I would receive from developing it. I didn't know it at the time, but I was obsessed with developing vacant spaces. It got so bad, at one time I couldn't walk past an open storefront without visualizing what type of business could go in it, and what it would look like.

The great thing about a small town like Lancaster is that the bureaucracy of the town government was not complex. All the permits and business licenses that I needed I received the same day I applied I for them.

For this renovation, I chose the path of delegation. I could afford to pay someone to do the work, and I knew some people who were skilled in the areas that I needed. The work seemed like it would be simple. A simple paint job and sink installation. After a good assessment, the sink would have to be in a central location, which I felt would give some uniqueness to the decor.

I wanted the shop to appeal to younger clients with modern design and colors. I began shopping for the things I would need for the shop and enlisted some people for the work needed. My travel time on the highway between locations was close to thirty minutes, which seemed very reasonable for the future back and forth trips between locations. I made arrangements for my painter and plumber to get access to the space and begin work, the excitement was starting to build.

The environment at the original location was still growing and popular, which made me very confident going forward with all the plans.

I started having trouble with one of my receptionist. Her work attire was becoming more and more unprofessional, and her attitude started being negative and distressing. It only takes someone in a key position to turn negative before it starts to spread to other employees. She was likable by most, and had a wonderful life story, but her unhappiness with her personal economic situation started to be my problem.

"I need more hours and more pay!" This isn't the right pay for what you're asking me to do".

I was asking her to do normal receptionist duties. Answer phones, book appointments, handle point of sale for me and the other stylist while helping with lite cleaning and retail sales. I still had a cleaner who did the main cleaning of the shop. It was clear she just wasn't happy.

After trying to explain to her about the finances of the business and how she got paid, the situation fell apart and she quit. There really wasn't time to go through a lot of drama, so when she demanded her full week's pay even though it was mid-week, I gave it to her. I wanted the negativity to go away as soon as possible. I was focused on growing my business and at the same time I was growing creatively as well.

My mind kept coming up with ways to grow business and do what I enjoyed. I ran into some troubles with the renovations at the second location. At this point in my career, I almost expected things to go wrong.

The paint job was like a drunk teenager did it, and the plumber pulled out of the job because he didn't like the way the town was dictating the work. One of the pitfalls of hiring friends for work is, if the work is wrong, the friendship usually goes down the tubes.

I had a week of stress and sleepless nights, but in the end it got done, and the shop was ready to open on schedule. I had been taking applications and running ads in the area about the shop opening, and getting good responses.

One of the stylist that was already working on Gardner agreed to split her time In Lancaster, being that she lived in Fitchburg, which was in between both cites. I was met by several clients on opening day, which was a first for me, and very comforting. I knew at that moment it was the right choice. I had two stylists there with me who got a client each, which meant there was going to be a lot of growth for that shop. It was one of my happiest moment as an entrepreneur, and I felt the wind at my back for a change.

I started to be creative with makeup and photography and was having a great experience learning about it and putting what I learned into practice. I had clients that let me do their hair makeup and take photos of them, which was a lot of fun to create. I thought of offering it as a service to clients and started to plan how that would work, I didn't want to turn into a "Glamour Shots".

My stylist were getting in on it as well, they would do photos and makeup for some of their clients, or they would be a model for me.

Up and down the highway I went from shop to shop, building a clientele and mentoring some stylist that were willing. It seemed like it was unfolding with ease, and then I started getting phone calls.

When I was in Gardner I would get calls from the Lancaster salon, complaining that it was slow, and they wanted to leave, or it was a call that someone is looking for me, and can I speak to them. I would try to encourage the stylist to engage with the community, go out and pass out flyers, and book appointments if someone came asking for me. I also explained that anyone could be Corey, since a lot of people didn't know me personally, but that didn't seem to work.

When I was in Lancaster, there was always someone walking into the salon, which I quickly figured out that the stylist weren't welcoming to people, and they would just walk away. I tried to coach them on how to engage with new people, but I believe their own personal biases were getting in the way.

Then I would have clients in Lancaster, and get phone calls from Garner, either complaints from customers, or stylist calling to ask about appointments or the odd random question. At first, it was frustration, and then comical.

When they called, I would say,

"You guys just miss me, you don't talk to me this much when I'm there, and laughed",

the phone calls slowed down a lot after that, but didn't stop. I did have to switch a few stylists around, and let a couple go from Lancaster, who were having a problem with the young women from the college, I had forgotten about certain personality traits because I was just trying to put bodies in the shop.

Later that month I was approached by a young woman who was told that I could give her a job as a braid stylist. Her demeanor was pleasant, and she was also local to the area. We set a time to sit for an interview and then later I had her bring in someone to work on. She ended up being a good stylist and friend for years to come.

After the adjustments, I began to develop a rhythm with my work schedule and progress started to develop in the growth of both businesses. I also become skilledwith the camera and was enjoying projects that I was creating with that.

That summer I attended 4 separate weddings, and I couldn't help but notice the sub par performance of each DJ that was working. One guy literally was playing the music from his iPod shuffle and a pair of speakers. What started off as a funny observation and discussion with friends in attendance led me to learn what the fees were for a wedding DJ.

I was astonished at the fact that people paid so much for so little passion. I understood that most of it had to do with pleasing the wedding party, but I think the bar has been put so low, expectations breed the results.

My music background spurred an investigation into what was the latest way to bring great music to a venue. I also talked with some of my friends who were DJ's and came to the conclusion that I would take on the title DJ with the rest of the hats I was wearing at the time.

love music, and it was my original career choice before getting into the hair industry, so for me, it was a no-brainer and technological advances made it easy for me to get into the game.

I decided I would offer packages for weddings, that included hair, makeup and DJ, as well as work some local events and parties with the sober community I was involved with.

It all sounds great, right?

Initially it was wonderful, hair stylist and business owner during the day and DJing on the weekends at parties, events and weddings. The role of the wedding DJ is one that's not quite like other DJ gigs. You usually have a set list requested by the bride and groom and other of the wedding party. You have to announce people, and sometimes you're just sitting around.

And when the reception started, people usually have the same twenty or so songs that they want to hear, primarily because it's a wedding. There is a small amount of the population that are driving around in their car listening to village people on a daily, but every wedding reception has to have it played.

The music is not the thing that became a problem for me, it was the time that I spent with certain families. I would start associating with a wedding party months beforehand. From planning hair and makeup, dress selections for photographs, and music selection as well. Then the day of I would be with them from seven a.m up to three a.m.

That's a lot of time to see all the issues that a family might be having. I felt as though I was behind the family curtain with them, and it would drain all of my mental energy. Don't get me wrong, a lot of it was beautiful, and I was honored to bring that service to each person that trusted me with the arrangement. But I know it would be difficult to maintain this as a business once it started to really take off.

During this time, I was also training with Paul Mitchell to become a national educator. I had videos I had to make and practice presentation skills in front of my peers. I was lucky that I had a social life in A.A. that included speaking in front of large groups of people, so I didn't have as much a challenge as most of my peers. It was a big challenge, and also it was developing into something I really enjoyed doing, and there was some prestige that came along with being an educator for a name brand like Paul Mitchell, business wise and creatively.

My big break with Paul Mitchell came when I was asked to participate at the local distributor's hair show. I was asked to be in Rhode Island at 7am on a Sunday to help set up.

And I had a big wedding on Saturday.

I told myself it wasn't going to be a problem. The reception was in Fitchburg and I would have all of my hair equipment packed and ready at the shop, load up my gear after the reception, race to the shop to unload and load, to head home to get some sleep. I planned on being home by one a.m. the latest.

The problem came when the family was hesitating to fulfill the remainder of the payment of services. They had paid for all hair and photography services and fifty percent of the DJ fees.

They also liked to party.

So the reception that should have ended at 12 rolled onto 1:30 as I was constantly trying to run down the bride and bridesmaid in between songs. Nevertheless, I got paid, but by the time I got home it was three a.m.

As my head hit the pillow, I felt secure, knowing I had three alarms set, and I am a light sleeper. I would be running on two and half hours sleep, but I knew I could do it.

And for the first time in my sober life, I slept through three alarms. I jumped up at seven forty-five with my heart racing and pulling on clothes while debating if I should shave and brush my teeth. Of course, I brushed my teeth, I was going to be speaking to people

I made a scary phone call in a panic and the education manager spoke to me with the kindest voice and said "Don't worry, we are just setting up, the show doors don't open until nine, just be careful driving, and get here as soon as you can." I had a huge sigh of relief, but I did not relent on my pace. I hit the Dunkin' Donuts and got the biggest ice coffee they had and sped down the highway bound for Rhode Island. A trip that should have taken an hour plus, got shaved down to 40 minutes.

I definitely had wings.

I arrived, and the show was open. Customers were buzzing all the way from the convention center parking lot, to the main show floor. Walking my fastest in my church style shoes, and the signature all black attire, I built up a sweat as I maneuvered through the crowds making my way to the Hairlines booth. As I walked up, there was a mannequin head on a tripod in the middle of the booth. I was greeted by the manager of Hairlines and he said

" You made it!" with a huge grin on his face," Don't worry, we are going to have you cut hair here in the booth and talk to customers. We are just getting started."

That day I cut four mannequin heads, greeted and talked to customers about the products and the company. I was buzzing so hard off of caffeine and no sleep that when we went out to dinner that night, I didn't remember anyone's name the next day. I did remember the stories that people shared of their first show and the mistakes that were made, they made me feel at home. At that moment, I knew that some things were going to be sacrificed if I was going to continue on the path of education.

DJing weddings was the lowest hanging fruit.

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