Recently I received an old photo album from a dear friend of mine that captured eight years of my life. It was a wonderful time. After looking through it, I started thinking of all the changes in my life and how I truly do love change. Back in 2000, I was in need of a job, not because I wanted one; in order to go on a girls’ vacation, I had to come up with the money. So I bopped into a new little gift store in town and asked the owner if she was hiring. I got a flat-out nope. Standing there feeling embarrassed, I told the owner a short story about wanting to go on a girls’ vacation and how summer was coming and the kids would be out of school and I just needed a change.
Well, that story hit a chord with the owner, and before I left the store I was hired. Bonnie, the owner of La Bella Vita at the time, became a cherished friend–turned– business partner. Bonnie and I had a friendship that worked—and worked really well. Working side by side at the shop, we quickly grew close. We rocked together! I remember to this day, Bonnie and her husband, Greg, took me and my husband, Dan, to dinner. Midway through our beautiful meal, Bonnie asked me to become a partner in her business—no strings attached, just continue to be the person that I was.
Wow—what an honor. And what self-inflicted pressure. But I persevered and survived and found myself with the title of “business partner.” For the longest time, I introduced myself as lead sales clerk/office manager/buyer. One day, Bonnie took me by the shoulders and said, “Look, Shirley, you are my business partner. You own a stake in this company. You need to own up to it. Embrace it.” From that moment on, I did embrace it. I am Shirley, co-owner of La Bella Vita in Brighton, Michigan. I stood taller, sold better, and started buying for the store like it was more than my job. I was never so proud of myself, and my confidence showed it. Sales reps would call to make appointments and ask if I would be there because they liked my style of buying.
Fast-forward eight years: we closed the store due to Bonnie’s terminal illness. It was a very sad time for me. Eight fabulous years, an outstanding friendship, and both came to an end. For years after that, I dabbled in other jobs and was having a happy life until I realized, hell’s bells, it’s April, I’m at a show buying Christmas merchandise for December sales, and I don’t want to do this anymore. I quit!
I didn’t know what I was going to do. My daughter Jackie, a very talented stylist at Brown & DeLine, told me about an opening at the salon. She had started working there while in high school and attending cosmetology school at the age of 17. She started as a front desk receptionist, then a hair assistant, until she finally worked her way to her own chair, where she is one of the top-paid stylists—all within a few years. Now, 10 years later, Jackie is a powerhouse! I have loved watching her grow in all aspects of her life. As a child, she was fearless, always exploring new things, playing all the sports, and participating in different activities. She is always focused and never afraid to try anything.
Jackie has always had her eye on the prize, whether it was a championship high school volleyball game or her first real estate investment at the age of 24. I know I can take some huge credit for her achievements, but Cathy, owner of Brown & DeLine, has played a large role in it as well. She has yearly one-on-one meetings with all her employees. Beforehand, they have to fill out a questionnaire regarding goals and commitments, both personal and professional. Cathy really holds you to your goals and has helped many stylists reach them. So why wouldn’t I want to work at such a progressive salon?
At Brown & DeLine, I would hostess in the nail department, greet clients, clean tubs, and assist nail technicians. Yes! Yes! Yes! I jumped on it. After all, through Jackie’s years at Brown & DeLine, I was very aware of the award-winning stylists and the award-winning salon. The open book management program, the teamwork, the whole package! What an unbelievable place to work. I could still be working with the public; after all, I had the gift of gab. To work in a new environment, what a great change!
The first day came. Brittany, an outstanding nail tech, was teaching me the ropes when Cathy came into the pedicure room to welcome me to Brown & DeLine. Cathy told me something that I tell every client who asks me how I became a nail technician. She said, “Shirley, I don’t see you as a hostess for the salon. How would you like to become a nail technician? We have an apprenticeship we will put you through. We’ll get the paperwork started tomorrow.”
I jumped at it, hard and fast, not knowing anything about what I was getting into. But once again, it was a chance for a change. I am very grateful for it. Just like the chance I was given to work at the little gift store. I am embracing the opportunity to work at Brown & DeLine. This is why I do what I do. This is how I keep it G.
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