Melody Washington is no stranger to hard work. The 34-year-old hair salon owner took a risk and left the banking industry and the military to follow her dreams of opening her very own business.
Washington attended Jackson State University and majored in Biology. She took a job in the banking industry to pay her bills, however, Washington was not happy at her 9 to 5. She knew she was not following her passion and decided to leave her job and to start over; a daring task for a single mother at the time.
Years of hard work and times of adversity helped to shape her into the business woman she is today.
My name is Annette Peagler and I met Melody Washington three years ago, when I moved to Jackson as a news reporter. A couple of months before, I received a relaxer that damaged my scalp tremendously. Washington not revitalized my hair to its healthy state, but since going to her, my hair has grown more than 5 inches!
It’s not only Washington’s hair skills that puts her in a league of her own, but her commitment to her community as well. I sat down with Washington and asked what inspired her to open Natural U Salon. If it’s one thing Washington is not afraid of, it is change. Read below for the full interview.
1. Melody, at what point in your life did you decide to become a business owner and go into natural hair care?
I was 25 and was in my Junior year at Jackson State. I was a part time student and full time worker at a bank. At that time, I failed my third Chemistry class. After failing Chemistry for the third time, it caused me to look at my life in a different direction and make other decisions and that’s when I decided to become a business owner.
2. When you were a little girl, did you like doing hair and did that inspire you to become a salon owner?
I began styling hair at age ten, so there was a love for hair at a young age. In my Sophomore year of College, my hair completely fell out. At the time, I didn’t know what the cause was so that’s when I began researching hair chemicals. My initial goal was to become a doctor. During my biology studies, I became interested in the chemical effect of relaxers. I learned that chemical hair treatments were not only unhealthy for hair, but for the body as well when used long-term.
3. What road blocks did you encounter while starting your salon and how did you get over them?
Oh wow. I encountered a lot of road blocks. When I started my salon, I stepped out on a leap of faith. I only had $400 dollars to my name and I quit my job in the banking industry knowing that I had bills, car note, etc.
One thing that I knew was I had a skill of hair styling. Because I had clients before, I knew how to gain clients. My children gave me a larger drive to succeed and not fail. Every day, I sought out new clients and it slowly began to build into the salon I have today.
4. What is the best thing about owning your own salon? What makes you tick every day?
I would say interacting with my customers, meeting their needs, teaching my employees to grow and climbing the ladder of success for myself as a business owner. My goal is to have million-dollar franchise and so that’s what keeps me going daily.
5. Any women you look up to and why?
Madam C.J. Walker, because she was the first black millionaire in hair care.
Debbie Allen, because as a child I was intrigued by her drive and work ethic to make her mark in the entertainment industry. She faced so many challenges. They didn’t expect her to excel in dancing and she proved all the naysayers wrong. Her work ethic caught my attention and encourages me daily.
6. I know you worked in the banking industry for years and you have a great deal of customer service experience. What does customer service mean to you in the salon?
Customer service is like gold, because it’s precious and it’s valuable. Your customers are just as valuable as gold. Without customer service, there would not be a business. It’s dire, you can’t have one without the other.
7. Have you thought about opening a chain of Natural U Salons?
I have. I would like to broaden my brand across the nation, promoting healthy hair care.
8. What advice do you give young women hoping to become a salon owner?
First thing, make sure this is what you want to do. Be prepared to put in long hours and be prepared to wear many hats. Find a mentor and invest in continue in education. Don’t be afraid to fail the first time. Get back up and win!
Natural U Salon is located at 5440 Executive Place in Jackson, MS. You can follow Natural U Salon on Instagram and Twitter.
Annette Peagler is the author of this article and interview. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.