Meet Head Case Studio founder Kelley Swing. Growing up in a family with 5 kids, Kelley Swing’s father worked endless hours and often times two jobs in order for them to get by and as a teenager in order to spend time with her dad, Kelley would go to his work and observe him interacting with customers and employees.
“He has always been in a leadership position with a gift to see potential growth and the ability to make it happen.” Even though my dad never finished high school it never stopped him from being the best he could be, which has always inspired me and many people who know him. I believe Leadership is a calling and often times past down generations. Each new career path I made it a practice to always work hard and earn my way into a leadership position. I believe it is greater to lead and inspire then to direct and manage.”
After working in several different fields within large corporations Kelley realised the beauty industry was where she belonged. Since Kelley was not a cosmetologist, she grew my knowledge by attending every hair makeup, and skin care class and reading everything she managed to get her hands on. With over a decade of Management & District Management experience in the beauty industry, Kelley’s knowledge and experience with dozens of salon professional companies grew. After some time, Kelley started to notice the harmful effects of the chemicals not only on her, but her clients, salon professionals, & the environment. “Looking back I realised no one even spoke about the possibilities of harmful effects from harsh chemicals in the beauty products we were using and selling to consumers. Since the beauty industry is not currently regulated the way it needs to be, there isn’t much information available to salons and consumers on the harmful ingredients.”
While spending a year in Northern California Kelley found a salon advertising “Organic Color.” Just like so many of us, her first thought at the time was that it wasn’t going to work.
‘Since I have always believed in order to make an accurate judgement of anything, I better know everything about it first. Since I was so intrigued, I started my own research in understanding what harmful effects were in the products I was currently using and the possibility of cleaner beauty. What I found was astonishing and heartbreaking. Since I was struggling with my own health concerns, I then realized this could be a direct result of spending endless hours working in a salon continuously inhaling harmful fumes day in and day out. I also and without question, have put these harmful chemicals on my own skin, scalp, and hair. After a short time of using cleaner professional products, I started noticing my health improving and my hair became thicker and fuller.”
Returning to Texas, Kelley searched for salons who were practicing clean sustainable beauty and unfortunately, she was not very successful. Managing for another corporate company and disappointed with the politics, Kelley became worried about her future and knew she needed a change.
Kelley wanted to share with as many people as she could about sustainable beauty and searched for a way to impact on a larger scale. However, knowing in her heart that she needed to build a “green salon.” Kelley also had no idea how she was going to pull this off since she was a single mom who had struggled most of her life with no support and always seemed to just ‘get by’. Believing this was what Kelley was destined to do, many doors started opening for her and Kelley made a decision to walk through them. Inevitably, a few people had told her that a green salon in Texas would never be successful since most Texans do not care about being green.
Head Case is dedicated to partnering with companies that are cruelty-free, vegan, organic & natural ingredients, organic farming practices, harsh chemical & ammonia free, and dedicated to protecting the environment we live in. As a salon owner and realising the harmful effects of hundreds of thousands of pounds of waste that are dumped every day in our communities, Kelley and her team decided to become a certified green circle salon who are dedicated to recycling 95% of their waste. Whether it be hair, foil, plastic, leftover color, to paper, they all get recycled.
It was in her first year anniversary, that Kelley was introduced to NATULIQUE Certified Organic Beauty products, which she claims were an ultimate life changer for her and her future within the beauty industry.
“Again, most naysayers told me that I was crazy and asked why would I sell to another salon right next to mine when that would affect my salons. My answer is always my why, I wanted to help change the beauty industry and share with as many people as I can by showing them there is another way. My deep love for my team made me want to help as many salon professionals that I could since it was actually impacting them the most. Many stylists are suffering for years not realising how much it is affecting them and I needed to share this with them. Clients believe and trust their stylists more than any other avenue so I knew if they share it with them then we all win.”
“I also don’t want to forget that my four walls are just walls without my hair family the foundation of Head Case. I am dedicated to providing a healthy work environment where my employees/family are supported and encouraged to grow both personally and professionally. We do not want to forget our “head cases” who are a huge part of who we have become, I love each one who has supported and encouraged us to always be better. We strive to bring the safest & purest products to our “head cases” while providing the best possible experience every time.”
Hey Kelley, what is a day in the life of you like?
My day is usually filled with from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep and each day is never the same as the last. I am running two companies with 2 salons and 15 to 20 employees at a time. Thankfully I have my daughter managing my salons for me so I can focus on building up the businesses.
What was the start-up process and how did you launch Head Case Hair Studio?
Starting Head Case took a lot of faith, help from a friend, hard work, and determination. There are mixed notions that the government provides funding for single women and minorities. Starting a brick and mortar business takes so much more than most people understand. I always shop and eat at my local fellow business owners other than large retail and chains.
Some days I would wonder how we were going to get through the day or payroll for the following week. Thinking positive, being grateful for every win, and never giving up. What kept me going was the fact my daughter and my employees all depended on me. The thought of any one of them not being able to pay their bills or feed their kids would just kill me.
Can you tell us the benefits behind only using hair care products and colours that are organic, natural, and safe for both us as a client, and the also the environment by being ammonia and chemical-free?
The harmful effects of the harsh chemicals in hair colour and hair care products is detrimental to your health. Constant exposure, especially for stylists, can cause infertility, cancer, respiratory tract problems, organ toxicity, lung damage, asthma, gastritis, renal failure, tremors, vertigo, convulsions, and even coma’s to name a few. There are new findings every day, but none are being regulated by the government at this time.
How are you delivering a gentler alternative not found in other salons to your clients?
Our products are created and manufactured in Denmark, which is known as one of the cleanest countries in the world. Over 1400 harmful chemicals are outlawed in Denmark and less than 15 of these items are outlawed in the US. NATULIQUE uses ingredients that are organically farmed and naturally derived. They focus on every means possible to lighten their karmic footprint by using solar power and biomass fuel as a propellant for aerosol styling products.
Who does the team involve behind you at Head Case Hair Studio?
My team is a combination of prior employees who worked for me and others that worked for my daughter along with the new head case’s we recruited who share our vision. We hand select each employee after an extensive interview and testing process on every colour, makeup, styling, and haircut applications. We search for just the right fit with our current employees and clients.
We enjoy recruiting from different cities around the US because it brings diversity and fresh new ideas to share with the rest of the team. We invest in our people with continued education and continued growth opportunities.
As you continue to grow, what important factors did you consider when looking at the scalability of your business model?
Beauty is less affected no matter how the economy is and hair/skin/nail services are not available on Amazon. When times are tough it is our job to help women feel better, look better, and have more confidence. These among other factors will always keep our industry thriving.
Where can you see your self within the next 3-5 years?
I see myself as strong and expanding throughout the US. The company that is always focused on growing their people without ever forgetting her core values. I worked for a company who wanted to grow more than they held on to why they started.
Many companies expand and then it becomes more about the money, core people who helped them get to where they were are disposed of, they forget their way, and the foundation changes. I will continue to be the company people want a lifetime career with and are happy and fulfilled without the worry about their future.
Currently you are a full service, multi-concept, and Certified Green Circle hair salon, however, how are you planning to expand the services you offer?
We have already expanded our services and added a second salon with a spa. We now offer micro-blading, organic facials, nail services, and full body waxing. We stay up to date with new trends and services.
Can you tell us what areas you have struggled in professionally?
Where I have struggled the most, is the way the industry has pitched being a hair stylist in cosmetology school by selling a dream without giving them all the tools to succeed. A cosmetologist is told in school that they can become their own boss, make their own hours, and earn endless amounts of money working minimal hours.
What they don’t teach them is that it will take time to build up a clientele and you are going to need to get more education than your license provides along with a lot of practice on willing participants after you leave school. How to market themselves with the cost of advertising and endless hours working your own business by being available consistently until you build. You will not make enough money to survive by yourself for at least the first year and possibly several years. You will need to save money for continued education because it is expensive, and the trends are always changing, and you will need to stay up to date. Cosmetology is an art and not everyone is cut out to be a stylist just because they have a license.
Most hairstylists look for commission salons in order to build a clientele with the intention to leave and take these clients to rent their own booth. The problem for me as the salon owner, is I inhere the expense of advertising, bring in the clients, feed the stylist clients while they build, and they leave taking the clients to booth rent. This is frustrating and very costly for salons when we invest in the hair stylist, educate them, and provide them with the tools they need for success and then must start all over with a new stylist and new clients. I just don’t understand why some hairstylists think this ok and purely justified. I believe that the industry suffers because of this and it makes it harder and harder for salons to survive in this industry sometimes.
Have you ever had any other mentor? If so how has this benefitted you to grow?
My district manager when I first started in the beauty industry was a huge inspiration along with my peers at that position. I had the most passionate women that worked in my group with me who helped me grow as a manager, leader, businesswoman, and friend. Together we became a powerful team and I have always believed that 10 brains are better than 1 and that I do not have all the answers.
What outlets do use to market your Head Case Hair Studio?
Social media and I also partner with local business owners.
Which methods are you using to build your own support network?
I attend Chamber functions, women’s social media groups, women business owner support groups.
What do you believe are the common misconceptions about being an entrepreneur?
A few misconceptions are: it takes nearly 100% of your time for the first few years and possibly longer, you will need to put most of your money back into the company, it isn’t easy, and they’re isn’t a lot of financial help with many expenses that you might not have even considered. Think about how much revenue you will need to survive since a 5% back on your business is considered good.
What would you like to see changed for millennials in business?
I think that businesses need to learn how to work with and motivate millennials. I believe each person really wants to be the best they can be but may not have the confidence to get there so how do we change what we do to get a different outcome? Times change and in order for my business to be successful we need to stay up to date on new styles and trends, so why would we expect to manage the same way we always have with millennials? Life should always be growth and learning which always excites me.
What is the best piece of advice you have received to date?
One thing my mentor told me that I always strive to do is, “Always hire better than you because it only makes you stronger and more successful.”
What is the number 1 critical lesson you have learned in your career so far?
The only person in life you can control is you. The only thing you can control the outcome of is how well you do your job. When something is not going right the first things you should look at is what I am missing and what do I need to change in order to get a different outcome.
How do you create an evenly balanced work and personal life?
Right now, my life balance is leaning towards work more, but I always make sure to take out an hour or more at least 5 days a week for exercise. This keeps me sane. I also am dating a man who works like me so we both understand each other and respect when we have to work late and try to help each out whenever we can.
The highlight of your career so far?
A highlight of my career would be when clients come in and tell me this is their favourite place because they feel like a part of our family. When a mother cries when she walks into the salon because she can spend the afternoon with her daughter getting her hair done for the first time instead of having to wait in the car because salon fumes are too harmful and disruptive to her.
Another highlight is, one of my NATULIQUE clients who was told by her doctor that she needed to stop doing hair because she had chemically induced cancer 3 different times due to her 25-year career with harmful ingredients was able to keep her salon doors open due to our NATULIQUE Certified Organic Beauty products.
What gives you ultimate career satisfaction?
My ultimate career satisfaction is always growing my team. Watching my employees grow into leadership positions, accomplishing new things they never thought they would be able to do, and happy to be there and take pride in what they do, then I have done my job.
Which other leading entrepreneurs and pioneering game changers do you also admire and why?
Gary Vaynerchuk says it like it is with no filter or fear of failure. He motivates people with his strong personality which makes you not question or use excuses. Simon Sinek’s books and motivation speeches really hit home with me. He gives plenty of examples with back up to what he says. Gary keeps you going and Simon helps you remember why you are doing it and stay focused.
Louise Hay has been a huge inspiration to me for many years. She grew an empire of motivational speakers, authors, and radio talk show hosts. She looked at life in a way no one else did.
How would you say you are intending to use your voice to educate others in the hair industry?
I want to teach salon professionals that sustainable beauty is possible and their health is important. I want them to know that being exposed to the harsh chemicals they are currently using is not good for their health and understanding what the risks are. Educating the stylists so they can make informed decisions for themselves and their clients.
What is a good article or book you have read recently?
‘Start With Why’ by Simon Sinek.
How do you measure your own terms of success?
I hold myself to a higher standard than anyone would hold me to. I measure by the growth of my business, retention of clients and employees.
What does #BEYOUROWN mean to you?
A network celebrating women.
Lastly, what is next for you and Head Case Hair Studio?
Aspiring to change the way we do beauty one salon at a time.
Website link www.headcasehairstudio.com