Originally born and raised as an only child in Indiana, Ebony grew up with a “Do it Yourself” mentality. She told me, “It’s easy for me to revert to doing things on my own because I’ve always had to. I remember when I was younger I was that one kid with the lemonade stand.” Ebony graduated high school in Connecticut in 2005. In 2009, Ebony added a Business Degree in Marketing and a minor in Accounting to her foundation. Ebony is now the owner of an entire two-story salon. Newly renovated and redecorated (Sneak Peak HERE). She’s hired staff and has undoubtedly been able to put her degree to use. Combining a business background with her hair skill and knowledge, it is no surprise that Ebony is one of the most highly regarded hair stylist on the east coast.
Ebony and I met up at Hairista Studio in Hampton, Va. She was in the middle of doing hair, so I got her to multi-task. Ebony has skillfully networked and branded herself in the Virginia market. Sitting in Ebony’s chair has become a rite of passage for Hamptonian women over the last five years.And with the way Hampton girls spend money on hair, that equation just sounds profitable. Ebony’s home base is Virginia and she also travels to NYC frequently to work with Rihanna’s hairstylist Ursula Stephen. Ebony’s network has also allowed her to work with model Tahiry Jose. At the time of the interview, the studio was still under renovation, but I could see her vision. Ebony has a love for music of all genres and it exuded through faint audio in the surround sound speakers. There were great vibes in this studio! Ebony is under 30 and makes operating a business look effortless. I think we all could learn a thing or two from this week’s #ShineHard conversation.
What is your passion? When did you know?
Ebony: Business is my passion. Initially, I wanted to go into something like finance or accounting. I was in the 5-year MBA program. I was like, “Ya know, this is great, but I’m not about to be in a suit everyday. This is just a little too stuffy for me.” It’s funny because I didn’t even know how to do hair before I came to Hampton. I didn’t even know how to wash my own hair let alone do somebody else’s. It all happened kinda fast, once I started learning how to do I hair I started a business. I was approached by a friend of mine, Jazette Porter, to build a company called Parallel in 2008. It was junior year going into senior year. Jazette and I did Hampton’s very first hair show. We also did fashion shows at Norfolk State and ODU. So that’s when I really was like, “Ok maybe hair is something I would like to do. It seems like something I’m good at.” My passion has not always been in hair, but now I really do love running a hair business and different things in the beauty industry.
How did your own personal hair care affect your decision to do hair?
Ebony: I had went home second semester of freshman year and my hair had broken off really bad. I went to my hair stylist and she was like, “Listen, I need you to figure out what to do while you’re away at college.” So she taught me the basics of how to keep my hair up myself. So I came back to school sophomore year and started doing peoples hair here and there. I was doing it for free. By the end of sophomore year, going into junior year, I started to research and notice how lucrative the industry was. I found out this is a $37 billion dollar industry and said, “Oh I’m getting me a piece of that!” I went to hair school after I graduated and never looked back.
Who did you look up to as a kid? Who inspires you most these days?
Ebony: The women in my family were definitely great role models, you know? They all had ambitions when they were younger. They all went off to college. Started doing different things. And I mean, this is going to sound odd, I’ve always liked Lucille Ball. People think I’m crazy when I say that. But um, “I Love Lucy” is like my favorite show of all time. *laughs* I know every single episode. I just always loved her fashion. I loved that she waswitty. I love that she was a lover. Just on the personal side of things, I gravitated towards Lucille Ball.
On the styling side,Kim Kimble. She is probably like my favorite celebrity hair stylist. I feel like she’s one of those women that are uplifting, you know? This industry is hard because you don’t really have people that are willing to support you and be there to get guidance from. You’re in the same industry and it’s competitive. So when you find stylists that are willing to share their experience to empower you to be better. That’s motivating!I would say Kim is on the top of that list, and so is Ursula who I work for in Brooklynn. Ursela is Rihianna’s hair stylist. For her to be someone who has so much success, she’s totally willing to help out any way she can. Give you ideas that can take you to the next level.
How were you able to earn the position with Ursula in Brooklyn?
Ebony: My best friend was her personal assistant. Ursela had just opened up her new hair salon last May. She was in the process of looking for new stylists. My friend gave me a heads up. They called me up to NYC for an interview and a demo. They called me back two weeks later and offered the job to me. It just shows you how God works. I actually was planning to move there at the time.
Tell me about Hairista Studios and your hair philosophies?
Ebony: I definitely try to promote healthy hair care. Healthy hair with an ATTITUDE. We really try to customize things. A lot of times the technique is the same, but we get to know the client individually. What their style is, what damages their hair and what makes it grow. Teaching people that what you put into your hair is what you will get out. And now with the whole craze of weaves. People’s edges break off because they aren’t taking care of it. The goal is to promote healthy hair and to look great at the same time. Another thing I’d like to incorporate into the business is Hair Care Seminars. To educate my staff, as well as the clients. I would love to form an official internship program with Hampton. Planning to work with Buckman and Scripts (Business Schools), so that students can work here and get real business experience in exchange for intern credits.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career thus far?
Ebony: My biggest career challenge was stepping out on a leap of faith! Before attending Hampton, I didn’t know anything about the hair industry. And later tapping into a talent I didn’t know I had, I was extremely nervous about pursuing a career based off of a “new found passion.” Can I make a comfortable living? Will my life be fulfilled doing hair? Will people think I’m any good? I feel blessed that I just went for it! During the journey it was a struggle with my parents. They were like, “We did not send you off to Hampton to do hair.” I didn’t talk to them for a while. It was horrible. Then of course you start second guessing yourself, “Maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to be doing.” But now they’re totally supportive. Of course, over the years seeing the progress. They have no reason to doubt me.
What type of things motivate you to succeed?
Ebony: My biggest motivator is being surrounded by like-minded people. My energy feeds off other positive energies. I love to network and collaborate with others. Good music is also a key to success for me. Lyrics that relate to my life really inspire me; It’s a comforting feeling to know other people go through the same challenges, & can testify by sharing what they’ve learned.
What in today’s culture frustrate you most?
Ebony: Professionalism. Or I should say the lack of professionalism. Sometimes in this industry things can get a little relaxed. Have to remember at the end of the day, it’s business. Some people are used to business in an unprofessional way and they deal the same way all across the board. That shouldn’t be the case. I’ve tried to support different business and the people running them are my age or older, but sadly some just aren’t ran properly. It’s frustrating. I just believe in doing business the right way.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Ebony: I would say this right here (The Business). I’m a “saver” when it comes to money, so I thought a lot about the financial side of things. Using that as my foundation, it just feels great to know that I’m able to do this, on my own. Within work, I really enjoy different occasions like people’s birthdays or weddings. It’s great to see the look on their face when the hair is the highlight of their day. Just seeing women happy or people in general. I’m a woman too. And I’m sure you can relate as a man. When you look good you feel good. When you feel good you perform well. So yeah that’s a highlight.
What is the #1 factor behind your success?
Ebony: I’m an eager student. I guess, something I’m always working on. I honestly feel that I’m a work in progress. I’m learning new things every single day; good and bad. My parents always instilled in me to never make the same mistake twice. I’m always trying to think ahead; I already have solutions to the mistakes I made last week. When you know better, you do better.
What advice do you have for the future business owners out there?
Ebony: When you start something, finish it! Even if you’re unsure how to make your dreams into reality. It’s so important to complete anything you put your mind to. Also, network and find a mentor. My biggest goal in life is to never have any regrets. At age 27, I look back on “College Ebony” and I thank her for following her heart. If I never started that on campus business out of the Harbors (campus apartments), or did those hair shows or networked with veteran hair stylists, I may not have been introduced to the fulfilling life I’m living now. Stay faithful. God has a plan and he will guide you every step of the way.
Johnny: I do believe if you do things God’s way you will get God’s results. Keep the faith! And keep shining Eb. Glad to have you in the #ShineHardFamily.