We had the good fortune of connecting with Lisa Williams and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Lisa, what was your thought process behind starting your own business?
In my late 30s, I quit a high-paying government manager job because I was “just not cut out” for what I called cubicle work. I knew the work I did was valuable and helped my community. I realized, however, that the higher the management position I held, the less face-to-face contact I had with people; my employees or the public. After two years of trying new things, it was time to get serious about a career. I had a dilemma: I wanted lucrative, people-centered, creative & fulfilling work but I just could not go back to a job where someone else determined my schedule and would decide when my one week of vacation would occur. I needed a career that would be rewarding and prosperous but that would also allow me to participate in the off-hours activities that I found so rewarding. My career at a professional hairstylist gives my both. My time volunteering and working with kids in the backcountry feeds my soul and makes my work in the salon better and richer for everyone.
What should our readers know about your business?
When I decided to go back to college to begin a beauty career, I knew the challenges of being a sole-proprietor owner. I also knew I had the skills, although very little experience, to be successful. A beauty career includes client care, artistic design, financial management, marketing and sales, practical chemistry, social media acuity, and a lot of laundry and cleaning. I am the person who does all of these things for my business. It is not enough to do amazing cuts and color, the beauty professional is a full corporation unto themselves. When a beauty professional starts their business they know the least but are often called upon to do some of the most difficult work, aka, the walk-in business. To be honest, the first year I did hair, I had a stomach ache every day from anxiety. I also, had very few clients and lived on my savings for nearly two years until I was truly solvent. I was so very fortunate to work in a salon where the other stylists were generous with their knowledge, skills, and techniques. They were also very supportive and encouraging.
I overcame the challenges of the art of hair by the support of my fellow stylists. I overcame the financial challenges of beginning a career by austere savings and budgeting even when I was not yet solvent. I also had age on my side. I went to beauty college when I was 40 years old so I had a lifetime of real-life financial experience to draw on including working my way through University and graduating with no debt.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Chico, CA is the best place ever! A perfect week in Chico would include dinner and beer tasting at Sierra Nevada Brewery. Each day would include a hike or walk or swim in the city’s Bidwell Park. Bidwell park is over 3500 acres of woods, open grasslands, buttes and canyon with year-round Big Chico Creek flowing through it. We would also tour Chico State University and downtown Chico which hosts many farmer’s markets, street fairs, great restaurants and boutiques. Our week would also include a drive to see the magnificent Mt. Shasta which is breathtakingly beautiful at any time of the year. Chico and it’s environs have almost too many outdoor activities to mention: world-class mountain and road biking, gentle canoeing down the Sacramento River just 5 miles from town or world-renown whitewater kayaking on the Feather River. The trip should also include a tour of Bidwell Mansion built by the town’s founder, John Bidwell, the business partner of famed John Sutter of gold rush fame.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I am where I am at today because of the encouragement of many friends. But, one friend in particular, Piro Ishizaka, stands out. I was visiting her for her birthday, relaxing and enjoying our coffee and conversation. At one point, Piro looked at me and said, “You know, we are all sick of hearing you talk about how you ‘might’ go to Beauty College. You need to do it, or stop talking about it”. Somewhat shocked, I replied, “Who is we”? “Everyone. All your friends. All you talk about is Beauty College, but talk isn’t going to get you a job”.
Ouch. I started my usual litany of why-I-couldn’t and I-shoulds. Piro wouldn’t listen. Instead she asked what I was really afraid of and said the magic words that changed the course of my life:
“Girl, you can always back out, and it will be so FUN”!
Fun. In my angst about going back to school, creating debt and starting a new career when I already had a BA degree, I had forgot about the essential element of fun. Fun equals creativity and creativity fuels connection. She was right. Thank you, Piro!