For Kacie Morales, owner and founder of Luxe Salon, the decision to open her own salon, while challenging and full of unexpected and expected obstacles, was one that made a lot of sense at the time. Morales shared her journey from restaurant employee to salon owner, along with an unfortunate school closure that nearly derailed everything.
"I'm originally from up-state New York, but moved to Michigan when I was young" she said. "After graduating from high school, I moved back to New York for college and then eventually back to Michigan. The only family I had in Michigan, my mom and siblings, decided to move to Florida. Not long after they moved, I decided that I wanted to move to be closer to them. I started in the Naples area, but when one of my girlfriends decided to move to Orlando, I went with her. That was around 2002. I met my husband a few years later."
Up until 2004, Morales primarily worked in the restaurant industry. Her last position, before getting into the hair industry, was key employee and trainer for Outback Steakhouse. Even though hair was always a passion of hers, it wasn't something she ever seriously considered as a profession.
"I loved hair, even at a very young age," she said. "However, I, and a lot of other people, have this false misconception with the industry that if you go to beauty school, it means you couldn't get into or succeed in college. I had it in my mind that I needed to go to college for a couple years before pursuing hair. While working for Outback is when I decided to start going to beauty school. It felt like the right time to do something I enjoyed. I completed nearly 1,000 of the required 1,200 hours of training when the school I was going to unexpectedly closed down. I literally showed up one day and the school was closed. I was devastated. I didn't know what to do. I thought, "Is this God's way of telling me that I should be doing something else?'.
Morales had no choice but to put her hair aspirations on hold. She went back to college, where she switched majors to Hospitality and Restaurant Management, and continued working for Outback. Things were moving along pretty smoothly, but Morales knew deep down that working in a hair salon was still in her heart.
"My husband told me, 'I know this isn't what you want to be doing'," she said. "He and his family owned a daycare center. One of the mom's, a hair stylist, that brought her kid there, found out about my situation with the beauty school and how I still wanted to get back into hair. My husband got me a gift card to her salon. When I went in to get my hair done, I told her all about my story. She felt horrible and offered to help me contact other beauty schools to explain that the previous school closed and that I was left with no official proof of what I had already completed. I was given a chance to explain my situation at a local school and, after two 8 hour days of testing, they accepted over 900 hours. I finished my last couple hundred hours while working for Outback and also started assisting with the stylist that helped me out. Not long after I acquired my license, she moved away and passed a lot of her clients to me. I owe a lot to her. She's the one that really got me started. She was like a mentor to me."
Morales spent the next nine years working at a salon in Lake Mary. She loved it there, but in the spring of 2013 she was faced with yet another business that decided to shut its doors. Fortunately for Morales, the stylists she employs and her many satisfied clients, this closure proved to be one of the best things that could have possibly happened.
"When they decided to shut their doors, I had a moment of clarity," she said. "I thought to myself, 'Do I want to look for another salon or take a leap of faith and start my own?'. I was happy where I was at, but the closing of the salon and my husband's continuous encouragement was the push I needed. The timing, with having to quickly find a place to work, was good because I didn't have time to overthink things. I'm not one to just jump into something, but I didn't have much of a choice. I’m also a believer that when things fall into place, they’re meant to be. That's pretty much what happened."
Morales immediately went to work searching for the perfect location. Even though what she found was nowhere near resembling a salon, she could envision it and signed the paperwork a week later. She reached out to some of the girls she worked with at the previous salon about coming to work for her. Nearly 90% were on-board. After a five-week delay in the re-model of the space, that prompted Morales to reach out to other salons and find places for her girls to work in the meantime, the doors to Luxe Salon opened in June of 2013.
Morales shared some of the challenges she experienced as a new business owner. "As a new business owner, everything was a challenge," she said. "I had experience managing people, but I had to figure out how to run a business. I was confident with my customer service skills and experience, but learning the financials, taxes, equipment needs and other things that come with running a business was all new to me. I made some mistakes along the way, including purchasing poor quality chairs that I had to replace after five years, but, after a couple years, I got into a flow. I did know and trust the girls I brought on, so that definitely helped. It would have been much harder if I had to hire everyone from scratch."
Morales shared that what she enjoys most about owning her own business is seeing her staff grow and succeed. She's proud to provide them with a place where they can start their business and build their own clientele. Watching them succeed is the thing she values most and lets her know she's doing something right.
Looking ahead, Morales is hopeful that the business continues to grow, but admits that specific goals are something she questions weekly. She's thought about opening a second location, but also loves being a mom and spending quality time with her family. For now, Morales is happy with the status quo.
What advice does Morales have for aspiring entrepreneurs? "Make sure the business you decided to start is something your whole heart is into," she said. "If it truly is your passion and you’re fully educated on it, you can go into it with confidence and increase the likelihood of succeeding. In general, I think it’s good to take risks. A lot of people get too comfortable. Comfort is not always going to bring you happiness. Take a chance on something you fully believe in. Do it and don't look back. Also, don't wait for the perfect moment. It may never come."