Welcome to our Local Yokel blog! Each month, we will be highlighting a local New York business that we know you will find inspirational. You’ll learn tidbits such as how they support the local community and economy, their advice and reflections on being business owners, tips on work-life balance, and even what some of their favorite products are. We hope you will enjoy getting to know them as much as we have!
This month, we are excited to highlight Karolyn Massey and Beehives & Buzzcuts
Tell us a little about your company’s background (your background, your job, how you/your company got started, what makes you tick or anything else you think our Mommybites moms will find interesting).
Where do I start?! I always loved hair – I always kept my hair long, I would braid and style my sisters’ hair, I would perm and color my mother’s hair, etc. – but in school and with everything else, I was very analytical – I excelled at math and stunk at art! So, when the time came to choose a college, I veered toward schools that were strong in business and math, even though my pipe dream was to do hair!
I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from SUNY Albany in 1994 and began my career in the business world soon thereafter. I started in the magazine publishing industry, then transferred to advertising before landing in real estate. My last corporate job was as Vice President and Director of Finance at The Corcoran Group, one of the largest residential real estate brokerage companies in the world.
I worked at Corcoran for six years and gained a tremendous amount of knowledge and confidence. But six years is a long time and I’d had enough of the bureaucratic ways of the business world and amicably left the company in September 2010. My plan was to travel for about six months through the cold NYC winter, then regroup, refocus and get another high-paying, secure job like the one I’d had at Corcoran.
That didn’t happen. My first trip on my “world tour” was to Kenya and Tanzania in East Africa. I went on a 10-day safari through the two countries, then trekked to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free standing mountain. I don’t know what I was thinking taking that on! About half-way up the colossal mountain, I started suspecting something was up… could I be pregnant??? I somehow made it to the top of Mt. Kili, scaled down, took a 10-hour bus ride from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya, boarded a flight to Istanbul, Turkey, transferred to a JFK-bound flight and returned home on Halloween. I took a home pregnancy test on 11/1 and confirmed that I was, in fact, pregnant! I told the dad, who wanted NO part of a baby, so he took off.
So I had just voluntarily left a high-paying, stable job in the business world, did not have another job to go to, had a baby on the way and was doing it all alone. I think I can blame the pregnancy hormones when I decided to take a GIGANTIC leap of faith and decided that it was a good time to open a salon! The whole time I was pregnant, I was busy planning – I did a comprehensive business plan, met with advisors, scoured the NYC streets for the perfect locale for my business, came up with a catchy name and signed a lease on 6/1.
My sweet, precious baby girl, Annaleigh Grace, made her debut on 6/23 – just in time for the gut renovation to begin on my space. Perfect timing – I could relish in my new love while my contractor was fancying up my new store. The project was a complete gut renovation, which was not completed until late October 2011. At that time I began stocking the shelves, hiring the staff and preparing for our grand opening, which took place on 11/21. The timing of our opening was not ideal – we missed back-to-school, school pictures and got lost in the craziness of the holiday season. We’ve been growing since our opening – slowly, but surely.
My niece lives one block away from my store and five blocks away from where I live, so I spend lots of time with her. Because of my love of hair, my sister would let me take Corinne for her haircuts. Corinne cried throughout her first haircut. My fun-loving, sweet-as-can-be niece cried the whole time because the un-child-friendly stylists simply didn’t want to deal with kids and their squirmy ways.
I brought Corinne to another child’s salon in the city and she had a blast – watching movies in the fun chair with toys all around her! This salon was quite a ways away. I began noticing that, not only were there no hair cutters in the area for kids, but there were no kids’ stores in general in the neighborhood. That’s how my idea for this kids salon began.
How does your company impact or affect NYC’s local economy? What things does your company do to integrate itself into and support the local community?
My store is directly across the street from a very charming housing development, Peter Cooper Village/Stuyvesant Town, that is home to lots of families (and senior citizens!). There are winding paths and community centers in this development, so it has a lot of personality. However, outside the development did not have that cute, community feel that I hoped my store would bring.
We opened in Winter 2011, so all the local schools’ Spring auctions were coming up. We donated lots of fun, cool services to all the local schools to help them with their programs and offerings to the children. I mentioned the large senior citizen population in the neighborhood – we recently announced that we would offer discounted services to the senior citizens in the neighborhood during the school day when the kids were not around. Because NYC is a town where there is lots of walking, some of these senior citizens had to go quite far to get a haircut. We wanted to offer them something that was close by and affordable. It’s very nice having the young kids interact with the seniors!
What is your best piece of advice for other local business/companies?
Reaction time is key! Be ready to abandon your plans and adjust your approach to business, marketing, promotion, etc. and go with what’s working!
We were experiencing a lull in the middle of the day because of (1) nap schedules and (2) school for the bigger kids. That’s when I decided to offer services to the senior citizen crowd. I certainly didn’t factor senior citizen haircuts into my business plan for my kids’ salon, but a couple walked in and asked if we’d cut their hair and that’s what led to us offering them mid-day discounts!
We announced this new senior citizen program in early September and our number of senior haircuts went from one per month to twelve! We are now looking at the possibility of adding single process color treatments for the seniors!
Also, listen to your current customers! You want to attract new customers, so listen to the ideas and advice of your current customers. If they suggest handing out flyers, hand out flyers. If they suggest advertising in certain publications, research those publications.
Lastly, ask for help. Your recurring customers like you or they would not keep coming to you, so ask them for suggestions. They’re who you want to please and keep interested in your business!
What is the hardest and/or best part about owning your own business?
The stress is the hardest part -by far! Wondering what the future holds; keeping the customers interested and coming back; reaching new customers; the threat of competitors; the uncertainty of the political arena and the economy and the effect it will have on me; the unpredictability of my income. Those are the things that keep me up at night. The best part is being able to bring my daughter to work with me, being my own boss and hearing kids say things like, “I LOVE it here!” Seeing kids having a blast in my store reminds me why I did this in the first place.
If you are sole owner of the business, do you wish you had a partner?
YES! A partner would bear the burden alongside me. I’d have a sounding-board! Lots of people want to make suggestions and offer assistance, but it’s up to me to make a final decision and it’s a lot of pressure!
For anyone looking for a partner, my advice would be to find someone who complements you and is not a second-you. If you’re artsy, bring someone on board who is analytical and vice-versa.
Any tips on balancing life and work?
No, but I’ll take suggestions! My business is good in that it allows me to bring my baby with me. There are lots of kids here all the time for her to play with, the stylists are great with her and on weekdays she can even crash a class in our event space! I think when you’re a small business owner and you’re in the beginning stages of your business, your business has to be a huge part of your life because it is the critical time. It’s when you have to trouble-shoot problems, get the word out, react to things that pop up that you never even though of.
What are some of your favorite products?
Humphries, Oragel, A&D cream all come in handy during this oh-so-difficult teething phase!
If you are looking for moms to help you with your business, either full or part-time, how can they get in touch with you?
Email me at [email protected]
Are there any other questions you wish we asked? If so, what and how would you answer?
Knowing what you now know, would you do this again?
I would like to say most definitely yes, but what I wouldn’t give to have known then what I know now – things would have been far less stressful and much smoother!
For further information or to reach out to this month’s “Local Yokel”:
Beehives & Buzzcuts
Beehives & Buzzcuts on Facebook
Twitter Handle: @BeesAndBuzz
“While small businesses may not generate as much money as large corporations, they are a critical component of and major contributor to the strength of local economies. Small businesses present new employment opportunities and serve as the building blocks of the United States’ largest corporations” 1