Take That Risk!

Just as every book has a beginning and an end, there are chapters in between, and those chapters are essential to understanding the entire story. What I am saying is that I didn't open my private studio overnight. It took hard work and most importantly, it took risks — and my story is nowhere near an end.

When you know what you want out of life, you have to go full throttle, and you have to take chances! When I moved out of my parents’ house and dropped out of my college classes, I enrolled in beauty school in Pomona, CA. Since my parents didn’t support me financially, I took night classes for seventeen months while working as a waitress. I honestly didn't learn any cut or color techniques during beauty school; they only taught me how to pass state boards. Since beauty school didn’t educate me the way I had hoped, I knew I would have to teach myself based on my own inspirations.

When I graduated beauty school and obtained my cosmetology license, I didn’t work at a salon for a year because I ultimately knew that I wanted to work for myself. However, at the very beginning of my career, that was not as realistic, and I realized that I needed more education and experience. When I started at a corporate salon, I didn’t realize that it was a six-month assisting program and that after I completed the program, I was required to sign a two-year contract that only paid minimum wage. I expressed that I did not want to settle, and my boss gave me an ultimatum: sign the contract that day or get fired. I chose neither option and quit because I didn’t want to be stagnant at a place that clearly wasn't for me! (I know that many of you can relate... Trust me when I say that you need to push yourself outside of your comfort zone if you want to achieve your dreams!)

So, without any “real experience” I made the decision to move to Los Angeles and apply amidst the best of the best in Beverly Hills. Now, let me emphasize that this part of my journey was truly a blessing and an exception to the norm because I was hired immediately. I worked to improve my skills at this particular salon for a year, but it attracted an older clientele that was accustomed to traditional hairstyles. I wanted to work in an edgier environment, so I quit without taking any clients with me, and I started afresh in Melrose. Although the Melrose salon was more creative and hip, there wasn’t any room for growth, so I only stayed there for a couple of months to refine my technique. I had to go with my gut desire and pave a path that allowed me to work for myself.

My Risk-Taking Journey!

Now picture this: My first “studio” was an enclosed balcony attached to my tiny two-bedroom apartment in LA. I took a cabinet, a mirror, a chair and voilá: I had my first makeshift studio! I even washed my clients hair out in my kitchen sink! Even though it wasn’t ideal, they never complained. Can you imagine that? Once I began working for myself, I gathered a younger clientele. I took a risk because (at most) I only had two to three clients a week! I seriously had no idea how I was going to pay rent. 

My first "studio" that I created in my enclosed balcony that was attached to my apartment in  LA.

After about eight months, I took the largest risk, trusted God, and transitioned into a private studio in Studio City. This move enabled me to grow my clientele tremendously. It was honestly the best decision for me and my career because it gave me the confidence and reassurance that I needed to continue moving forward. While it was a good starting point, I wasn’t able to design the studio how I wanted, and I took two more back-to-back risks: I branched out to a better studio in Encino (for what I wanted to be long term, but was only two months).

I put SO much time and energy into customizing the space, but the building owner made empty promises, and nothing was completed within the timeline promised to me. I had to reschedule weeks of appointments because I had no space to do hair...it was a disaster! So once again, I packed up my stuff and left because I learned that a limited number of brand new studios were available at the Ubungalows in Encino. It was a blessing in disguise! That is when I decided to move into my private studio, which I absolutely loved because it represented my style. What a difference! 

In 2017, I opened my namesake salon in Studio City, California. It features my ambient decorating touches such as natural wood finishes and fresh plants so my clients can have a relaxing experience while they undergo their hair transformations. Now, I get to inspire my assistants, focus on education, develop new techniques and giving my all to my clients.

I’m so excited for this next chapter. 

See how important it is to take risks? If I settled or gave up early on in my career, I would not have made it to where I am today. Don’t be discouraged if the first salon you work at isn’t the right fit. Just know not to settle and that it’s okay to move forward until you are truly happy. 

Sometimes you just have to have faith in your own ideas. If you don’t someone else will. Why should it be them and not you? The only difference is who is willing to take a chance.

— Jennifer Ritchie Payette
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