Monday, December 11, 2023

Step by step: How she built a small business

By Mark Frost, Chronicle Editor

Lindsey Meade, 29, is a Chestertown native and mother of a 3-month-old who opened Looks by Lindsey & Co. Hair Studio on Main Street on Oct. 4. Photo by Olivia Nittman, liv.images+media

When Lindsey Meade graduated from North Warren Central School in 2011, the one thing her mom Sharon Meade urged her not to become was a hair stylist.

“She’s been in the business” for more than 40 years, while doing other work as well. “So she wanted something different for me, something that included benefits, something that included time off.

“You know, being a hairdresser is a lot of hard work. You’re on your feet all the time — you have to just have really strong boundaries to have a work-life balance, because it’s very easy if you’re a people pleaser like me and my mom, to lose yourself as you try to figure out how to have your business.”

So Lindsey, who likes to sing, went to SUNY Adirondack to study music. That lasted scarcely a semester.

“I ended up saying to my mom, like, this just isn’t what I want to do. I think my mom knew that hair was something I really enjoyed doing.

“I love to make people feel good about themselves. I used to do my friends’ hair in high school, like just for fun and, you know, cut their bangs and do all that.

“I grew up in my mom’s salon. So I watched it my whole life. I would do her clients’ nails when I was younger just for fun. So I definitely knew it was something I was interested in. Then once I went to college, and I was doing music, I just kept thinking about going to hair school.”

Lindsey enrolled in beauty school in Ballston Spa. “Technically it’s a nine-month program,” she says. “And then 1,000 hours of practice.”

Did she enjoy school? “Yeah, I did. It was scary because, like, you’re putting chemicals on somebody’s head — I mean, you can easily second guess yourself. This field is all about experience and practice.

“You’re learning how to formulate color, you’re learning what makes up that redhead. It’s not just putting red on their hair, you have to actually make it, you learn how to safely lighten somebody’s brown hair to blonde.

Looks By Lindsey & Co, staff — From left, standing, Britta Stone, owner Lindsey Meade, Sharon Meade, Lindsey’s mom. Seated, stylist Robin Beecher, barber Emily May Hickok. Photo by Olivia Nittman, liv.images+media

“Believe it or not you actually have to learn anatomy of the human body just to know, like if the ammonia touched their scalp, what would happen.”

Lindsey took her first job close to home, in Brant Lake at Off The Top Family Hair Care. “I was there as a commission hairdresser. And I learned so much from Cookie, Nicole, Julie. I was not as busy; I was building a clientele. I just sat and watched them and learned and asked questions. So that’s really how I got started.

“I was there for, oh boy, for five years. During that time, I also worked part-time at the Sagamore in Bolton at the Salon and Spa, and I did weddings. I did bridal hair and makeup, I learned a lot about makeup there.

“And they have a very specific clientele. So I feel that’s one of the reasons I do really well running the business that I have now is because I learned all different people, and how to handle them, because, you know, Sagamore, it was a certain clientele that you had to make sure felt happy and comfortable and good about themselves. I worked both of those jobs for about five years.

“And then I decided when I met my husband (Justin Persons), he was a contractor. So he didn’t have benefits or anything. We were kind of just looking for something as we wanted to grow our family and get married. What could we do to make sure we had insurance and all that once I got older?

“So then my mom actually used to manage JCPenney salon in Queensbury years and years ago, so she knew that JCPenney was a very good company, they offered so many benefits to hairstylists — that’s not really normal for hairstylists.”

Lindsey continues: “So I was there for three years before I decided that I was ready. The thing is, I grew my clientele up here in Brant Lake when I started, I was in Bolton. So then I grew a clientele there.

 “It’s just keep rebooking people, you create relationships with them and they stick with you, just like a doctor.”

At JCPenney, Lindsey says, “I started really promoting myself down that way. Instagram, Facebook, I would use the hashtags like blonde hair. I even had people in Vermont who would just Google like blonde hair, and my page would come up. And then they would be like, ‘Hey, I saw your picture that you posted. Do you have any openings?’ So social media built my personal business like no one can believe.

“So luckily, with me being at two different, or I guess three different places and the 10-11 years that I’ve been doing hair, I actually have built a nice clientele that ranges from a 30 mile radius.

“Pretty much most of them all followed me to Warrensburg,” where Lindsey took the plunge and opened a shop of her own,

“I randomly one day was in Warrensburg. I believe everything kind of lines up and happens for a reason. And I see this sign that says for lease and another number to call.

“So I just called — this was also two months before my wedding, mind you. So I talked to the owner. And I mean, it was like a done deal. Right? Then it was affordable. I just jumped.

“And I said, You know what, if this is meant to be, then I’m going to make it work. I have a loyal clientele. I know, I’m a hard worker. And that’s all there is to it. So I did it. And it turned out to be so busy that I couldn’t do it by myself.

“We opened, I opened by myself in Warrensburg. On basically December 2019.

“Then March, three months later to the day, we had to be shut down because of COVID. I was at that point on my own.

“I went to reopen June of 2020 after being out of work. And I begged my mom to quit her jobs, because at that time she did insurance and then also did hair on the side at home — my mom was working nine to five,but then also doing hair at her house in her salon until nine o’clock at night. I’m like, this is ridiculous, just come work with me. I know that it’ll be busy.

“So then my mom comes and works in May, June of 2020. Robin [Beecher] gives me a call and says, even after COVID you’re rockin’ — I want to come work with you. Emily [May Hickok], our barber, she did the same.”

Then came the biggest moves of all.

“We ended up getting pregnant last year, October,” says Lindsey. “And I knew, okay, I want to be close to school. It’s always been my dream to own a business in my hometown. I just wasn’t exactly sure what it was going to be.”

Lindsey says, “When I grew up, I remember my mom. I’m telling you, she did not miss one thing, my mom or my dad, but my mom specifically was at everything that I had at school, lived five minutes away, never missed a game.

“That is the childhood that I want for my child. Warrensburg wasn’t far, but the fact that she’s going to be able to leave school and walk or ride her bike to my salon a mile away with her friends is going to be so special, and I can run out quick and be like, oh my gosh, she has something at school and I’ll be right back. I’m very excited to have that.”

“This Chestertown building came up a few months before I was having the baby. And then it all just worked out. That seems to happen for me for some reason. I’m not gonna lie. I don’t really think many things through. I kind of just think, you know what, it’s all gonna work out.

“So I knew my lease is up this November in Warrensburg. We just completely outgrew the place. So this building came available. The owners were extremely helpful, cordial. And they were offering to allow us to get in there when I was on maternity leave over the summer to get it ready. And it kind of happened fast.

“So my husband, like I said, he’s a contractor. He and my father (Kent Meade], who wears many hats, the two of them were there for eight weeks straight — and that’s when I was having a newborn at home — just to get this place ready for me.”

On Oct. 4, the shop opened. And it’s been busy from the get-go. So is the family. Maci Persons, Justin and Lindsey’s daughter, is three months old.

“It’s been a lot to learn how to be a mother, plus a business owner at the same time,” says Lindsey. “But I just have such a great clientele. And they’ve all been so good about my boundaries and (my) just saying ‘nope, I’m gonna be home tonight for dinner with my kids.’ Because before this, I used to work 12 hour days just to get my business going.

“So just boundaries is all I can say. I’m trying really hard to figure out my work life balance.

“The cool thing about our business is, if I can’t get my clients in, they can see someone there that’s under me.

“And you know, my mom and Robin, they completely took care of all my clients when I was on maternity leave. So that was awesome. And then the new grad Britta (Stone), she’s so helpful, because she also is there to take new clients and to help me if I can’t take my clients. I’m showing her how I do that.

“So she’s, one, getting experience; two, we’re getting the client in, and they’re still getting the same experience. I want them all to have the same color and experience even if they’re not with me.

“And a lot of salons aren’t like that. It’s more, why would you take my client? For us, it’s more like the client needs to get in. Here’s my formula. Can you help me? And I think that’s what has helped us have a lot of success because we share and we make a joke all the time that when you come to our salon, you have four hairdressers, not one.”

Lindsey says there were some doubters about moving her business, people asking, “Are you sure you’re gonna be busy in Chestertown?”

Lindsey says she told them, “It’s not just about hair. People come in, they visit and they’ll have a cup of coffee and not even get their hair done because they just like to, they feel welcomed. And I just thought that was really special for Chestertown to have something like that.”

Mark Frost: How this story came about

On October 3, an email arrived in The Chronicle general mailbox. It said;

“Good Evening,

“I would love to speak to someone about doing a write up on the young girl who just bought my building on Main Street in Chestertown.

“She’s moving her business to her hometown of Chestertown and the community is very excited for her as her family have deep roots in Chestertown.

“I hope to speak with someone so I can share her contact information.

“Thank you,

“Deborah Buttino”

Mark Frost writes: On a subsequent Saturday afternoon, my wife Sandy and I were driving through Chestertown, I saw the shop was open and I dropped in.

The shop, in a former pizza shop, was handsomely redone.

Lindsey Meade was working on a client’s hair as I peppered her with questions. I was struck by the seeming step by step progression she’d made in realizing her dream of opening her own shop.

I decided it would be a perfect story for our Women in Business issue.

Debi Buttino, who is selling the building to Lindsey — the closing hasn’t happened yet — subsequently filled me in on more detail.

“The building is on Main Street in Chestertown. We ran it as an Italian Bistro and it housed a pizza business for the past 30 years. Originally a church.

“The new owner Lindsey who is in her 20’s and is from Chestertown, has brought her hair salon to the location. She had opened a shop in Warrensburg a few years ago, but when our place became available her dream of owning and being in her hometown came true.”

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