We had the good fortune of connecting with Aja Ottero and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Aja, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
My dream started with, well, the short answer is a strong desire to reinvent both parts of the salon. Starting with the Client experience and then the stylist experience as well. After working in salons in Denver and South Korea for 8 years, I constantly felt like something was missing. I wanted more, more responsibility over my career and the potential it had. The salons I worked for controlled most aspects of my business. When you’re a salon stylist you’re one of two things, a commissioned employee or renting a chair. Both with pros and cons. Hair designing is an art, and that should be the focus. I wanted to build a model that allows the stylist to fully own their business and create a what works for them, the freedom to be an independent artist without the weight of all that comes with being truly independent. We work as a cooperative team! Everyone takes on managerial responsibilities, marketing, and scheduling to keep the salon running smoothly rather than hiring those positions out. The stylists are SO valued in the business beyond taking client services.
The second part was reinventing the client experience. The salon has always been somewhere we go to recharge and refresh and feel beautiful. During the quarantine in 202o a client said to me “I miss coming into the salon more than I can explain, it’s so much more than *just* getting my hair done, Its the only time I get to completely check out, my husband knows I can’t answer the phone and I can actually disconnect” and it dawned on me, that for many of these folks, their main “self-care” practices often come back to the beauty industry, “LOOK better feel better”.
It was time to change that in my salon. Our clients needed self care tools for internal peace and beauty more than the external. I started to bring in those tools and start the conversations of something deeper from our core beings. We began, New/Full Moon Meditations, Cleansing Rituals, the use of plants, stones and minerals to balance energy in our homes and bodies. As things continue to open up we will expand our community events to hosting yoga, arts and craft classes, plant care, and more meditations.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
I have always been a go getter, people always ask HOW do you do so many things and make them all happen with ease?! and my answer is always, I just dream it and do it! I am so grateful for that drive in me. That part of me makes me feel so proud and I forget at times to step back and pat myself on the back for my accomplishments. “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” is such an accurate statement as a business owner.
Ive worked in awful salons and I’ve also worked in incredible salons, I’m grateful for both as I got to learn everything I never want to be and also learn things that work really well! The biggest take away for me was to support my stylists in being HUMAN. Help to navigate this journey while living a life they will never have regrets. Go travel, go learn, go experience the world. Take self care seriously, have boundaries with your job, charge what you are worth. So many things that took me years to be unapologetic about.
Through out my journey as stylist behind the chair I was fortunate to have many opportunities to try many different things. From editorial styling, to working as a Freelance Makeup artist with Aveda corporate, to New York fashion week, to Educating in Beauty School. At times I was stretched so many angles, but it really gave me an opportunity to try a little of everything and find where I settle as an artist. Multi-Dimensional color and extensions are my JAM, that’s where I find peace in my job and so much excitement to get to work and create!
My most favorite thing about our brand is the salon itself. Our Salon is truly an absolutely gorgeous space that feels cozy and homey and all of our clients come in to recharge and breath in a light, airy, judgment free zone. I spent more time curating the energy of the space than I did anything else in building the business. We home about 60 plants in our space, so the energy and oxygen is truly a treat! I cannot tell you how many times I’ve teared up while listening to clients compliment the space or how they feel while receiving a service. It will warm my heart for a life time.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
This is tough as Colorado Native, theres so much to do in this beautiful state! I would likely start out with a walk around Wash Park or Cheeseman, smoothie bowls at the Corner Beet, head to a farmers market to check out some local businesses and grab a loaded spud from the Easy Vegan, rent scooters and pass through a few awesome breweries/bars with patios. Finns manor, Honey Elixir Bar for some fun Vibes, UCHI is a must for dinner. Bar Standard/MILK for some night life. Start out early the next morning for some outdoor adventures hiking or paddle boarding, or tubing in Boulder or Golden! Grab some lunch at City o City or Watercourse and get ready to catch a show at Red Rocks.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
“I am a product of everyone I’ve ever encountered along my journey” I truly believe I have adapted so much of my strengths, beliefs, mantras and ethic from the many people I’ve been lucky enough connect with along my path. Friends, Family, Partners, Mentors and Therapist’s names all come to mind. Any one who has lifted me or held me In my self growth journey, definitely had a huge part in my landing with the sucess I’m able to celebrate today.
As far as pivotal literature Glennon Doyle, Brene Brown, Michelle Obama, Jay Shetty, Mia Birdsong and many more!
And a special shout out to my salon team Nicole and Baylie they are the absolute dream team and I am beyond grateful for them and their hard work and devotion to their craft and our very special salon space.
salon photos done by Sam Griego