Part of an ongoing series of women in business
Kelly Griffin knows of what she speaks. Owner of hair salon Studio 30 in Saranac Lake, Kelly’s current clients include some of her first, when she first became a stylist some 30 years ago. She smiles at the thought that those first hair cuts might not have been her best, but the customers kept coming back. She continues to juggle the challenges of professional and personal life as the years have sped by. But Kelly loves what she does, and that’s part of her message to young women who are making career decisions, the importance of loving what you do!
Ninth generation Saranac Lake, Kelly is the daughter of Philip “Bunk” and Paula Griffin. Her mother Paula was a nurse’s aid at Saranac Lake’s then General Hospital where her father “Bunk” was head cook. Paula was an inspiration to Kelly in many ways, but particularly because of her compassion to others. It was Kelly’s plan to become a nurse, and to work as a hair stylist while she attended nursing school. She began a cosmetology program at the Adirondack Education Center ( https://www.fehb.org/ ) while still in high school. After she took her State Boards, she was thrilled at her new profession as she felt pride in applying her caring and creative skills to make her clients feel better about themselves. Thoughts of nursing took a back burner,
The biggest challenge came with the pandemic. First there was the mandatory closure from March-May 2020, a very “scary” time. For Kelly, who is self-employed, the closure meant no income, and the terrible uncertainty of how long the pandemic would last. Then came the reopening with lengthy and detailed regulations to protect everyone that included distancing, wearing of face shields, and more intense cleaning protocols. Her clients were generally desperate to get back to a routine, but with the cleaning regime between clients, she could take fewer clients each day. Of course, everyone was thrilled when eventually the regulations were no longer needed.
Fortunately, Kelly has learned one of the keys to a successful business, and that has to do with her understanding of the needs of her clients. She tells me that it’s “90% personality and 10% talent.” She appreciates that during the time they spend in the salon chair or soaking their feet in the pedicure tub, clients need to feel like they are in a safe space. This includes maintaining private the chatter and sharing that takes place in a salon. It’s also about being kind to clients, and helping them feel good about themselves. The “need” for her services became very clear during the pandemic, when many clients were unsettled by not being able to have their hair cut or styled.
Kelly said that she has also learned these past 30 years what she is good at and what she is not. Her first jobs were with Hair Affair in Saranac Lake and then managing the Saranac Lake’s Salon Mirage for 10 years. For a short time, she became a partner in a beauty salon business in Lake Placid. It was soon after in 2009, her daughter was born, and Kelly realized that she did not want to miss out on spending time with baby Karley. She transformed the basement in her home on 30 Petrova Street and welcomed clients there. It was nearly ideal, but it was still a relatively small space for all the services she offered. When she learned that a friend was selling her home and hair salon at 165 Margaret Street, the next move and creative opportunity arose.
Being a salon owner involves a number of different skills, and requires a commitment to organization and dependability. This includes being knowledgeable about the business and government regulation aspect of the beauty salon business. She does remember a very helpful advisor at the Small Business Administration in Plattsburgh years ago, who gave her straightforward advice about how important it is to be vigilant about finances. Kelly believes having a good accountant is fundamental to operating a business.
The work is also physically demanding, —-washing, massaging, etc —— which might not seem that monumental until you consider that Kelly is working on her feet nearly 8 hours a day. She now uses an online scheduling program that helps eliminate extra phone calls. But there are still the challenges of being a one person operation and what happens if an emergency surfaces. With clients she has known for 30 years, it’s inspiring that Kelly still loves people and what she does. She wants newcomers to know that you have to love this work to do it!
Photo at top: Kelly with customer Elizabeth O’Brian of Clayton, New York