business, life lessons

A FRESH PERSPECTIVE


I walked into my first training with an extra bounce in my step. I was excited to start my new alternate career path of becoming a certified business coach for a company I had been born and raised with called Strategies. Because I have been a recipient of their wisdom, business strategies and philosophy since I opened my business over seventeen years ago, I considered myself already a member of the team. This is the luxury of knowing a company’s culture before your first day on the job, believing in it so much that the training in its culture is almost redundant.

some of the newbies I had the privilege of training with

This business company, the first of its kind in the beauty industry, strives to change the archaic model of pay and team found in its most often female centric businesses and was about to become part of my life. For the first time in over twenty years, I was about to become a sort of ‘employee,’ not in the sense of a real employee, but someone who would be working more as a per diem so that I could still run my own company.

The beauty industry, salons especially, are notorious for wacky compensation. I don’t know if it is because when we take a look at their history in the world, they were often wonderful entrepreneurial opportunities for women to have their own careers with less than one year of schooling and still manage to be there for their children. Business training wasn’t much more than how to ring out a client and order business cards. I am guessing that these single operating salons evolved for many over time into successful operations with no basic understanding of business and payroll. Like so many of us who have had the starry eyed notion of opening our own businesses on a scrap piece of paper, we are often technically savvy, but lack the business acumen to operate and grow it successfully. We wing it. A lot.

What fascinates me is how we succeed with barely a math course in our tool belts, but we chicks are resilient and as many men who have found their way into the beauty industry, we all need help in the way we run our companies. In fact, most small businesses could use more than a consultation with an SBA Score volunteer. Just like we had to learn our craft, whether, hairdressing, facials, nails or other industry like pizza making, donut making, gift shop running, law practicing, personal training, we learn quickly that this is only one component of running a successful operation. This is what I have learned in my business life and this is what I am excited to teach others because without the important skill of business I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What has given me the most thrill in this experience thus far in addition to the intense learning and presenting, has been the birds’ eye view of a fresh perspective on another person’s company. This has led me to consider how valuable new employees are to my own company if I can manage to get them to feel safe enough to share their first impressions. For me, this is easy because I believe in this company like it is my own and I know the owner and the president well. This translates into feeling safe enough to offer my insights into my first impressions and know I will be listened to and considered, genuinely. This is not something I take for granted and it speaks volumes of their leadership style.

When I consider sharing my voice, it is with the layer of interest and care for this company’s success. I know my intent and if I don’t share it, I am leaving valuable information in the closet that surely serves no one. It is risky opening your mouth and giving an opinion on someone else’s story, but as Strategies teaches, there are a lot of brains to be accessed in the employees who show up to work every day. We just have to access them.

As single operating business owners, it is common to leave new employee thoughts and ideas out because we get so wrapped up in our own day to day. We forget to simply ask, or even encourage their valuable opinions. My way or the highway serves no one and it surely does not make for a happy team and a strong growing culture that someone can believe in. Here are some of my thoughts and observations that I have brought back to my own company.
When someone walks into a company for the first time, they see everything with fresh eyes. How does the company clean their space, how do people participate, where do they eat, do they eat together or apart? Is the environment encouraging and supportive using simple and sincere language like, Thank you and Great Job on a regular basis? Do they ask for help and are they open to yours?

New employees watch for how hierarchy demonstrates itself. Does the leadership team show up and act as if they will roll up their sleeves to assist or do they stay away? Is the leadership team gender centric or is it diverse enough where a new employee feels like they not only could be a part of the tribe but want to be? How does leadership communicate with the new employees? Do they say hello with a cheery smile and do they make it a point to say good bye first when they are leaving the building? Or do they lack consciousness? Are systems in place for leadership development right out of the gate, does this seem possible or is it not mentioned anywhere and one can only rise up by happenstance? Is the top tier of the company a part of the bottom rung; do they have a true open door policy or is that just jargon?

Then there is the dynamic that is like a vapor. How does everyone communicate with each other, with customers, how do they discuss each other when that very each other is not in the room? All of these play an integral part in the binoculars of a new employee and it is all happening with barely a conscious thought. The vapor is both subtle, and tremendously powerful because this is the time when these belief systems are formed. Then there is the mirroring that goes on. Do the behaviors of the team and the essence of the company mirror what the new employee just learned in the employee manual on the company’s culture and philosophy?

some of the leadership team and coaches enjoying dinner together after a long day of presenting

The most revealing aspect of watching the dynamics of a company from this perspective is how much I learned about my own company and the way its very personality shows up not only to new employees, but the veterans as well. Is there a clear path that encourages movement and change for their own careers and do they feel like they have options within the company’s future? Is it career development or just a job? If a new employee is asked or made to feel welcomed in sharing their perceptions, magic can happen.

I came back to my business after my final training with a book load of actual information and also an entire new outlook on the way I welcome and honor my own team every day. I am proud to say that in this company I am about to embark on as one of these coaches, most of the observations matched their philosophy. This affirms my choice to be part of the party because as much as they said YES, Alayne, you passed the training and we welcome you to our family, I too was able to answer with a clear yes that I want to continue with them as much as they want me. This is an important lesson here. How often have we worked for companies that don’t match our own visions or that the companies don’’t even have their own vision for one to match?

Leadership in a company has a huge responsibility out of the gate. They need a deep consciousness on their welcome committee. What they say, how they say it, their tones, their assistance, the way they answer questions all speak. This is where the new person on the job forms feelings good and bad. I paid close attention to what came up for me in my training. Was the best brought out in me or did I feel dismissed and diminished by my questions? All of these feelings are so important to grow new people and as important as new clients are to our own businesses, new employees and employee retention is even more so. Employees are the messengers of our culture. They are the reason clients come to a business or don’t. Where do we compromise? Are we aware of these times and do we make corrections promptly?

Owning and operating a successful company is more than numbers. The numbers are the end result of the behaviors we encourage- the good ones and the bad ones. This new journey of mine is opening up the floodgates of possibilities. Like a great movie or a interesting eye opening book that I want to tell everyone about, this chance to teach business owners the business of their business is something I am super excited about. All because a man named Neil decided that he wanted to hire people like me. #Luckyindeed. #Becarefulwhatyouwishfor.

my new fearless leader, neil and me celebrating after completing phase 1 of the training.

business

WHAT IS YOUR WHY?

There is a distinct momentum to running your own company with no partners, solo. Ups, downs, left, right, circles, squares, triangles, zany emotional rides. Dealing with employees, clients, work life balance, (whatever that is supposed to mean) all make you hyper aware of your strengths and your flaws. After all we are humans, and as much as I try to demonstrate excellence in my business to my team, I have floundered over the years as much as I have excelled. This is human nature and the nature of the beast I get to call running my own show.

How to stay motivated, how to keep a team motivated, how to keep clients wanting to come back to your established brand over and over again. The large companies have the same struggles as the small ones and like a puzzle that is all one color, sometimes it feels like the work will never be completed. There is no such thing as Set it and Forget it in running my own company. It is challenging and exhilarating in the same breath and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I often wonder if Apple had not ever invented the Iphone and the Ipad, would the Apple stores be full of curious people every day you walk by one. Mondays, Thursdays, I have never seen an empty Apple store, but as long as they keep innovating and shifting the way they approach their technology, our quest for new and exciting will keep us swiping our credit cards.

What keeps me excited is attending classes, developing leadership and service. Service has always been my personal driving force. To serve. Being in a service business makes it easy to sprinkle magic fairy dust on our clients and team. I feel privileged to serve. Every day I get to put my feet on the floor on the right side of the grass, I choose service. This is my why.

What is service anyway? And more important why? My why is the glory of establishing rapport with humanity by random acts of kindness. Sending a typewritten thank you note or a note at a most unexpected time, a phone call to check in with someone who doesn’t expect one, a simple thank you to a team member. Little specks of kind language that inspires and delights to get someone to smile because I smiled first. This is my why. And I ask Why Not? Kindness and service is such a simple contribution to a day otherwise encumbered with too much screen time and distractions further and further away from human interaction.

As I embark on yet another business adventure, getting certified as a business coach to help other businesses be successful, I am struck by the challenge to see what it feels like to be on the employee side of the coin and I am struck by the emotional zing it is giving me. Even though I am not officially an employee in the traditional sense, goodness knows I don’t need a second “job.” I still have to show up to meetings, trainings, classes with the serious dedication to someone else’s why. What I do understand wholeheartedly is that to truly be part of someone else’s team, you must buy into their why, otherwise it feels fraudulent. I am too grown up to work in any environment that is not in line with my own purpose and intention. Actually, I am fortunate to say that I have never worked in any place that I don’t agree with their core belief.

For the last twenty years though, I have only answered to the beat of my own vision and brand. Sure, I have a team I have had to be accountable to, but ultimately it is me and only me. This can be a lonely endeavor and twenty years later, I have surprised myself with the excitement I feel in having to show up and be present to someone else’s dream. This past two weeks of training and learning has awakened a part of me I didn’t know was sleeping. The interaction with like-minded business owners who decided they too needed an alternative way to lead and inspire has been a welcome guest in my otherwise party for one I have lived in as an independent business owner. The immediate camaraderie I have felt from this group of seasoned business owners who too needed a little wake up and interaction has inspired me in a way I hadn’t realized I missed. The idea of having to be quiet and learn someone else’s mission and vision and gingerly and patiently observe where and when to speak up, but not be a bull in a china closet is in itself the most challenging. I am used to doing my own thing, leading my own party and now to be on the receiving end is unique and most startling to this sassy entrepreneur. Add to this mix a leadership team of mostly men and the party changes significantly.

I have worked with twenty women for over twenty years. All of a sudden, I am thrust into a leadership tribe of five strong men and I am not exaggerating when I say that my female essence has had a bit of a shakeup. But a good one because I get to sprinkle some much needed female fairy dust in their world too (and they need it, trust me).

As I wake up each day sandwiching my excitement between morning full throttle to passing out at about 8:30 pm every night after a well-deserved bowl of Newport Creamery Peppermint Stick ice cream, I know my why. I know my company’s why and I know this new endeavor’s why. There is nothing more satisfying then purpose and intention in work. What is your why and do you know it like the air you breathe? If not, today is as good of a day as any to take a closer look. You may surprise yourself.

self improvement, work

NOT THIS WEEK

Though I have been writing for almost my entire life, for the past three years, I have been writing almost daily and putting it out for the world to see. The world I speak of consists of a few followers who kindly take the time to read my writings and others because they see the post from someone who forwards it to them. I am lucky because I get to write continually and people seem to enjoy what I write. The beauty of this exchange is that there is no monetary connector. I am not writing for livelihood and people do not have to take out their wallets to pay to read what I write. It takes the pressure off for sure.

This all started when my beautiful partner said, “Alayne have you seen this site?” He was referring to Medium and it was the first site that showed up in my radar where all of these writings could actually land in a home somewhere rather than a folder marked Alayne’s writings hidden in a closet for my son to find after I was long gone. I remember the first time I hit PUBLISH. It was exhilarating and since then I have published on Medium over 300 essays or as the world calls them now, blogs. I like the word, essays. It feels more elegant and literary, like something Sylvia Plath or E.B. White would have written. Blogs seem to cheapen the process, but I try to stay current and if this is the way people care to refer what I write, so be it. I’ll take what I can get as I am just so happy to wake up in the morning and open my laptop to begin my daily ritual of taking what woke me up and placing it somewhere instead of the drawer in my office.

I noticed as I was posting on Medium a box I could check that allowed my writings to be part of a collection that could actually earn money as people read them. I clicked the box, what the hell, no pressure, if I made a little money because someone clicked on a piece or organically liked what they read, then that would be pretty cool.  So each time I now post on Medium, I click the box and off it goes into cyber space where algorithms take over to determine if my writing is worthy of whatever measurement they deem as such. I am thankful that I don’t have to rely on writing as a means of income; I am not sure I would be a great writer if I did.

I received an email from Medium the other day letting me know that a payment would be getting transferred to the bank account I had connected with my account. No exaggeration here, my heart skipped a beat when I saw this email. I have no idea what they were paying me for, but the fact that some random algorithm in outer space deemed worthy a blog that I posted made my heart sing. Alright so it wasn’t a million dollars, in fact it was $1.88, but that $1.88 was seriously the most rewarding $1.88 that I had ever earned. I jumped up and down and felt such pride that all of this writing I have been doing was actually noticed somehow somewhere by someone. How fun.

Now for those of you writers out there who think I may be settling for meager scraps, I am not. I write because it feels good. When I don’t write, I don’t feel good. Writing is like exercising for me, I must do it or my health suffers and my mind gets all staticky. Exercise is not about muscle and tight abs, that is the gravy. Exercise is mind clarity. Writing is the same. The money is the gravy and the $1.88 may as well have been $1000 because I just felt so happy when I saw it, but not enough to have that be the reason. Just like tight abs, they don’t motivate me to go to the gym, but a clearer less crazy brain sure does.

This week was the first week in a long while I didn’t write. Not one sentence. Not because I needed a writing break because sometimes I do, but because I was at a business training that consumed every waking minute. I am not kidding. Up at five, review until 6, out by 6:45, prep from 7-8. Training from 8-5, then business dinner until 8, then homework until I couldn’t keep my eyes open for another minute, then repeat. For five days straight. This training was a business coaching certification so I can get certified to coach other businesses in a strategic way based on this company’s philosophy and best business practices. I have been working as the recipient of their knowledge since I opened in 2002 so their culture and belief system is what shaped mine. The easy part of this training was that I am a believer in their business culture like it is my own because it kind of is. That was the only easy part. I already drink their Koolaid, but being a student in a business setting was mind blowing. Here’s the thing though, I AM NOT FRIED. I should be, but I woke up at 3:30 am on my own ready to rock. My brain reverberating with ideas and tasks filled with the possibilities of excitement and a new path towards helping other businesses have success and happiness like I do.

So not this week of writing, but of learning and remembering what it feels like to be an employee, on the other side of the coin for a change. This was the part I enjoyed the most, having to impress an employer, thinking about how I show up, how I look, what I do when I get there knowing that they are watching everything I do because as much as I think I am a good fit, they too have to believe this. Since I will be representing their company and their values, they have to be sure they want to date me too. Of all the incredible learning I did, this was one of my favorite points. To feel what it feels like to be an employee. That everything matters in a new job. The first date is the easy part. I have watched employees shine and get shinier and they are the ones who succeed. I have also watched the shiny ones get duller by the day and their ability to succeed falters quickly. I was happily reminded of how easy it is to be an employee when you give it your all. Effort. Showing up. Being present and all in. Every day. Every time. This is success. So not writing this week was fine by me because what I just accomplished was worth every waking minute. I can’t wait for this next chapter in my life. I am never bored. Life is too short to be bored; it is a thrilling ride and I keep getting on that roller coaster rather than sitting on the sidelines where it is a safe bet.








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“Success is waking up in the morning and bounding out of bed because there’s something out there that you love to do, that you believe in, that you’re good at – something that’s bigger than you are, and you can hardly wait to get at it again.”
-Whit Hobbs

Uncategorized

RIDING A BIKE

RIDING A BIKE

“It’s probably a lot like riding a bike,” my partner said to me when he heard the news. One of my employees was out sick during this school vacation week and we were booked solid at my business with appointments. Appointments that would be near impossible to reschedule as many were teachers and students who had the time off and on their precious vacation week, they chose to use some of that time getting a treatment from my business. I decided to jump back in and do the treatments myself and was both excited and tentative; after all, I couldn’t remember the last time I was in the treatment room elbow deep in oil, skin creams and facial potions. Besides the actual treatment portion of the day, would I be able to perform at the level I expect each of my team members to rise to every single day? I liked the feeling; the paradigm shift, the slight discomfort and I was looking forward to the day ahead kicking me out of my regular role of line leader into the front lines of where the warriors showed up every day.

This of course is tongue and cheek, after all we are not talking about life changing surgeries or battles, I am not talking about teachers going into their classrooms that are now battlefields. I am speaking about a room filled with meditation music and aromas of lavender and citrus speckled with the sounds of light rain from the sound machine. I am talking about a warm and cozy heated bed, feet propped with a feather pillow and the softest made in America (Fall River, Mass to be exact) blanket covers. I am referring to the deepest of breathing and calmness literally manufactured from what I have created that is my business of beauty and skin and deep care of the human spirit in one of the last great businesses on the planet I get to call my own, the business of touch.

At our daily morning employee gathering as we discussed the plan for the day my team looked as humbled as I felt at the notion of their usually fearless leader jumping into the room. I decided to share a word for the day for us to contemplate.

Humility. One of my employees didn’t know what the word meant, the others jumped in with examples, “the opposite of pride,” one said. “Letting go of ego, being vulnerable,” were some other examples. As I listened and spoke about the unassuming nature of being humble, I was reminded again about how lucky how I am that I get to be an entrepreneur. Yes I am a tough boss, yes I have super high expectations, but I am also fair, I speak the truth so there are always learning opportunities and I will do the work right alongside of my team. As much as I like to teach, I equally cherish the learning curve too and yesterday was that for me. A chance to get back in the room and get my hands coated with essential oils and creams. More importantly it was a chance to see if all I have created as an expectation of my team of superchicks was reasonable and realistic. Besides this piece, it was also a chance to get into the room and be with some of our wonderful clients and have the conversations one on one, with the unique mix of both business and intimacy. All good. The only thing that could go wrong was if I sucked, if I couldn’t actually remember how to ride the bike. Unlikely, but nonetheless, a thought that crossed my mind and I am sure may have crossed the minds of my kind of uncertain team. Vulnerability at its best- Brene Brown would have been proud.

Here was what I was worried about- not being able to find products easily and bumping into things making the peace of the treatment lose its juju. Forgetting to do a step, not living up to an expectation that the client may have had of me doing their service (ego 101- sorry Brene,) breathing too loud, stomach growling (yes this happened) Running late, (I did, but not bad for first run out of gate) not doing all of the steps I ask of my team at the end of all of the services, (nope, did this with bells on). As a matter of fact, I had a great day. It did all come back as I made my way through the day and I was grateful for the opportunity to serve. Really this is what I love most about owning my own business, serving. My business is way beyond facials and beauty- it is the ability to serve and nurture and not a day goes by when I am not a grateful human.

I got lost in the shuffle of my parents tumultuous and traumatic divorce as did my brother and as a result of this, college bound became a bit of an afterthought. I was not prepared emotionally; I weaved in and out of classes following in my parents footsteps of not completing a four year college plan. I was clear on one decision though, I needed to get a skill set while I figured out if college was ultimately to be my path. My grandfather was a definite influence in this thinking so it was a natural step for me to head to esthetics school. I had a love of skin and makeup and beauty since my first days getting my haircut as a little girl. The problem was that I did not grow up in a family where the expectation was for their first born granddaughter to go to “beauty” school so it was a hard sell and not one that was considered credible.

I don’t think my family really understood how traumatized my brother and I were so in actuality the notion that I wanted to even go to any type of school should have been appreciated rather than looked down upon. I made my way though and I can’t say enough how happy I am to have landed on my feet in the business of beauty. The return on investment for a six month vocational program was worth it all as this license gave me a set of skills that made me immediately marketable. I never regret my choice, I will finish college at some point just for the intellectual satisfaction though, but I am always struck by the automatic assumption for all of our kids to go from high school to college with seldom all of the alternatives in between. This is really all ego if you ask me; the vocational businesses are viable options for kids who aren’t sure or want choices rather than mandates. One business that tends to not often be effected by slower economies is the service business, hair, makeup, plumbing, electricians, computer techs the list goes on and I love meeting young people who had the guts to go forward with their dreams of shorter schooling because it is what they always wanted to do.

As I made my way through my day yesterday one client at a time with my own two hands that built a company employing and influencing women for over 16 years, I reveled in my early life decision. I was reminded of the choice I made way back in 1986 to follow an instinct rather than what every adult was telling me I was supposed to do with my life. Here I am and there I was; no wonder I had such a great day.


hanging out with my dear friend Sten who we sadly lost to ALS who helped me get my bike from Denmark TO Rhode Island teaching me that you can always get on a bike wherever you are and wherever you land.
Uncategorized

THE BEAUTY PARLOR

THE BEAUTY PARLOR

This is what my mother always called the place that we would go to get our hair cut. The connection I feel when I grace the entrance of a hair salon still excites and surprises me. I have been exposed to the world of beauty salons since I was five years old getting my hair cut on Newbury St. in Boston, Mass where my mother used to take me for hip pixie cuts in 1970. 1970 was when the movement of the shampoo blow dry invention took root (pun intended) in mainstream America and women’s relationships to their hair and hairdresser changed forever.

Vidal Sassoon changed hair with the creation of the shampoo blowdry; before this it was the weekly shampoo sets or wigs. Women got their hair ‘coiffed’ and it was expected to last for a week until their next appointment, usually on a Friday after the weekly household chores were complete and they could finally take a rest. All of this was unbeknownst to a little girl of five who grew up thinking that everyone drove an hour to Boston to get their hair cut and then go to dinner at Duberrys where she would sneak and eat the pats of butter put out on the otherwise elegant table. This was all going on as the Vietnam war was still in full swing and the irony of this two worlds apart does not now go unnoticed.

Fast forward to 1976 and local towns were at last catching up to the trend. Pockets of hair salons started to sprout in the neighborhoods making it easier to get a good haircut without the drive to Boston. My mother continued the tradition of taking me to the best places for haircuts and also adding manicures and facials to my list of mandated beauty services. I can say many things about our relationship, but I can never say I wasn’t provided for materially. She exposed me to great restaurants, great food, love of kitchen toys, clothing shopping and hair salons and for this I am grateful. We may not share a close relationship, but we do share these feminine connectors and when I walk into a hair salon like I did this past week, I immediately feel happy. It is no accident that this would end up being my own business in retrospect and I love every single element of the beauty business I am sure because of this young exposure.

As I got older, I still went to Newbury St. because this is where ‘real’ hair salons still were- the best and most current unless you wanted to drive to New York. Great hair dressers morphed into great hair stylists as they started to be called who knew the latest trends and had the best salons around. Hair salons have a pulse. As more women began getting their hair cut, their visits changed from weekly to monthly and additional services began being added like manicures, facials and waxing services. This helped get these women back in the salon more frequently or gave opportunities for them to get additional services while they were getting their hair colored or permed. I don’t think we realize how significant the history of beauty salons are in women’s lives. Hair dressing and beauty have been fast tracks for any woman to become entrepreneurs and many great careers and empires were started by women who saw opportunity. Estee Lauder, Mary Kay, Helena Rubenstein, Elizabeth Arden, Bobbi Brown all started with their two hands and an idea. Let’s face it, most every woman has an interest in some element in beauty.

I was watching an interview this past week with Dr. Laurie Glimcher, who is the CEO of the Dana Farber Institute. As I listened to her brilliance, I also noticed her lovely hair color and style, her makeup and how everyone across all levels is part of the tribe of women who get hair services, buy makeup and skin care. The industry is massive and not a day goes by when I am not grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it. We are a feel good industry and these types of businesses become more iconic as less and less people are physically connecting.

When my cousin decided to move on to do her own thing, I realized that for the first time in sixteen years, I would have to figure out an alternate plan for my regular pedicures. I knew that it would be difficult to get an appointment with her as it surely was when she worked for me so I had to find back up. I found that right around the corner at a colleague’s salon and sold my pedicure beds to her, pronto. This is where I have been landing for my pedicures and it has been fun being a client for a change for a beauty service. I have had the luxury of getting beauty services whenever I want because of my business, but now I could be a client. So when I went in to get my monthly pedicure, I asked if there was time for a manicure, too. Check. Yes. So I sat myself down at the manicure station old school across from the manicurist and as she filed and buffed and polished, I was twelve again sitting at Rams Head Salon in Brick Market in Newport, RI. I forgot how much I love being in a hair salon. While I waited for my nails to dry, I thought, what else could I get done? “How about a blowout?” Nicole asked. “YES!” I exclaimed with a jubilance that even surprised me. I felt old fashioned. I felt like I was in the 1939 movie THE WOMEN with Joan Crawford and Rosalind Russell. I made the trek back upstairs to wait for my nails to dry because as I said to Nicole, “it is too quiet in the nail area, I want to watch the hair salon action.” From my female perspective, the buzz of a hair salon is like nothing else and it has been a part of me for almost fifty years.

I have worked in beauty since my first foray at a beauty supply store in Framingham, Mass then as the only white employee as a receptionist at a primarily black hair salon in the same town when I was 21. Working in beauty seemed like my destiny after all of my exposure as a young client and it is no wonder I ended up going to esthetics school. I have worked at Cherry and Webb at the Estee Lauder counter when I was twenty three after school, apprenticed a very hip woman in Newport for about six months out of school where I really learned about the skin business. I worked at the very hair salon I started at, Rams Head as my first skin care job and then went on to Judy’s where I landed for almost eight years and learned the business of skin and hair from a woman who built one from the ground up. I worked for Aveda Corporation learning from a man who built a business and learned more about running a company as I found my way in my twenties and early thirties being exposed to an element of business I could have never learned at business school.

Owning a beauty business and being a client at one is a dive into female psyche. It is a place of comfort and camaraderie. It is a place to take a deep female breath. When I worked for Judy, Fridays were my favorite. Fridays were the day of standing appointments for women who back then were likely in their late sixties and seventies who hadn’t given up their weekly shampoo set for the easier shampoo blowdry. I often thought it was because they enjoyed the connection they had with the other women who they had built unlikely relationships with on those Friday jaunts in rain, sleet or snowstorms as they shared their lives over a cup of coffee waiting for their appointments. Nowadays as these generations of women lessen, our connectors as the younger generation have become yoga and exercise classes. We always find ways to connect and if my business gives that excuse for real human interaction I am in the right business. From the time I got my first pixie cut in 1970 to what I have built with my own two hands. From my first facial in a tiny treatment room in a tiny salon in 1987 to a full blown company employing twenty women; there is nothing like a beauty parlor.






some pixie cuts from yesteryear along with some great pictures of my mother from 1970 and finally a hilarious picture from the eighties of me.
recipes

WHITE CAKE

WHITE CAKE

Dearest Michael,

Along with frozen chocolate chip cookies, your uncle Michael loved white cake with CHOCOLATE ICING. WHITE CAKE, not yellow cake, that came in a box so no recipe here because the box is pretty straight forward. The CHOCOLATE ICING, though was a family staple back when we used to make cakes as a regular occurrence. I was never much of a cake making mom. I tended to make brownies, pies and cookies more than cakes, but as I write this to you, I am reminiscing about cake. I too used to love white cake and at the last birthday celebration of Uncle Michael’s, I made him one to celebrate his final birthday, his 25th. I actually have a picture of me with a birthday hat on, and him in his hospital bed in his apartment chemo and cancer dying skinny, blowing out the candles. It is too sad to include here, but I will show it to you sometime.

The word white has been coming up a lot as of late in this wacky political climate and in writing about WHITE CAKE I wanted to share with you the odd experience I have had at my Providence location this past year. As you know my second location was opened over ten years ago on the beautiful East Side of Providence. When we first opened, the name of our business was ‘alayne white spa + body boutique.’ After a few years, the name became too cumbersome and we shortened it to ‘alayne white spa.’ As time went on, a few changes started to occur both inside and outside the walls. Inside we decided to eliminate some of our peripheral services like massage and pedicures and really focus on skin. Outside though strange events were happening that included the word “spa” and they weren’t pretty. Prostitution rings behind the word, illegal sex trafficking with minors- offering “massage” when clearly massage was a misaligned name otherwise know as child abuse.

I no longer wanted to associate my name with the word spa. So as our business model changed, I decided that the word ‘skin’ would better describe the services we were offering. My name is alayne white, we offer skin services and so I loved the idea of ‘alayne white skin.’ It looked so hip and polished on our $1500 brand new turquoise awning. This new title gave us a new outlook and we got to shake things up with a different direction. After all, why would I want to continue associating my brand with a now sordid word like spa when all of this bad illegal and abusive behavior was happening with underage girls in dark and windowless back rooms of buildings all over Rhode Island.

Within a few months of our new and beautiful awning, some local women who lived in the community walked in and used some language with my team implying that my choice of wording of ‘alayne white skin’ and the small letters I was using for my name was deliberately tongue and cheek and that it was offensive. Someone actually said that they felt like they were living back in the segregated 1950s.

Yes. Seriously.

I laughed it off. Alayne White is my name. Give me a break, I thought. My answer was to tell them to take their energy and use it in places that need that energy, like with the problems of human sex trafficking taking place in our very state on the easy and accessible 95 corridor for example. But then someone else came in. Alayne White is my name, I kept repeating to my frustrated team who had to deal with these comments. I was never there to hear the comments, I told my team to give them my number and have them call me directly. No one ever called me directly.

I donate over 10k a year to a variety of charities in both of my locations. The last intention I would ever have would be to be tongue and cheek in a way that could be misinterpreted as racist for Christ’s sake. It was seriously some of the most ridiculous commentary I had ever even considered. Talk about looking for shit to create unnecessary energy around. But then it happened again. Someone else came by, then a few students came by and took some pictures and I started considering that this could become “a thing.” I saw myself on Channel 10 being interviewed in front of the ‘illicit’ awning by Alison Bologna defending my right to use my name on my awning for my business. I saw my business as the topic of social injustice classes on local college campuses. It was starting to take up space in my brain that I wanted to allocate to other more joyful topics. I considered the possibilites if I still had my maiden name and was using this as my business name, it would be a non issue. ‘alayne horowitz skin,’ doesn’t have the same ring, does it and IT IS NOT MY NAME. Alayne White is my name. Or what if I used my mother’s maiden name, ‘alayne black skin,’ perhaps this would be more acceptable? As I write this I am thinking, is this where our world is at now? Are we looking for problems to create out of problems that don’t exist rather than problems to solve?

I don’t know, I started asking my friends and family their opinions and every single person I asked would roll their eyes in complete disbelief that this was even a topic. Then another person came in and said something else. Every single person that came in was a white person. I started to tire of having to defend my own damn name, I grew tired of my poor team having to answer for this as well. It was a quickly ripening issue I was getting sick of spending my time addressing. Michael, you know me, I am one of the biggest bleeding heart liberals you know. The thought that anyone would think that I would deliberately use my name and your name for that matter to offend anyone was appalling. I am a charitable giving business woman who has a strong reputation in our state for running a beautiful business. I like to give and as a matter of fact I give to everyone who asks. Everytime.

Today was a sad day for your mother. I made the decision to take down the awning and think about my wording so as not to offend. This was a painful decision for me and my team because we never did anything wrong or ill-intentioned and taking down the awning felt like we were admitting defeat. We weren’t. I just don’t want to make my business a political voice. I actually consciously stay out of politics in my business. Rule # 1.

My business is about peace and joy and great skin. Ask anyone who knows me and knows my heart and they will tell you this. When I put my head on my pillow every night, this is the measure of my personal truth serum. I have never questioned my integrity or my moral compass regarding this issue in particular. I want to put this topic to rest and the best way to do this is to spend the five hundred dollars it will cost to change the awning so it is more pleasing for the few people who have mistakenly found offense in something that is so non offensive. I hope the same people won’t mind me saying no when they ask for the donation they need for their local charity because the five hundred dollars I would have otherwise given is now sponsoring my less offensive awning. So now my donation to Mount Hope Farm in beautiful Bristol, RI to sponsor a goat can only afford one and not two goats. Yes for real. That sounds a little passive aggressive, doesn’t it? (Now that was deliberate.)

I am not sure what the lesson here is my son, sometimes life comes at you in ways you least expect. Me getting cancer twice and a my recent double mastectomy, you never knowing your Uncle Michael because he died so young of cancer likely because of the BRCA2 gene, you and I both waiting for the results of your own BRCA2 test. The joyful trip we are about to take to celebrate your great grandfather’s 100th birthday. There are so many bigger important life coming at us events and I guess my answer to the lesson is that sometimes the high road is the best road. Sometimes you just have to say fuck it and eat the cake with the icing and then eat some more and enjoy the little life we have as the specks on the planet we are. Sometimes if small stuff is getting to be big stuff, you just have to let E-GO and change your course.

The one thing I know for sure is that I love you and I know you know me and when I am no longer around to challenge your thinking, I hope this story is one you will look back on and smile.

Love Mom.

WHITE CAKE and CHOCOLATE ICING

Box of white cake

Follow directions.

Except for Michael’s last birthday when I made this cake round and layered, I always made this cake in a rectangular pan with the frosting on top. We would cut it in squares and usually eat it with vanilla ice cream.

CHOCOLATE ICING (AKA FROSTING)

This isn’t one of those frostings that is super creamy but more like a syrupy texture, but very easy and delicious and most importantly homemade, the only way to do frosting if you ask me.

1 square of unsweetened chocolate

1 T. butter

Melt together in a double boiler, (this is a pan within a pan of hot water, hopefully you are using the one that I had in my kitchen that I have hopefully given to you by the time you are making this) Don’t fill up the pan with too much water because it will boil over and into the chocolate mixture. You will only do this once and that will be your cooking lesson on how to not use a double boiler for the rest of time.

Once melted remove from heat and add:

1 cup of sifted confectionary sugar (don’t skip the sifting step)

and

2 T boiling water.

Beat until smooth and not stiff. (Use an electric beater for this)

Let cool slightly along with the slightly cooled cake and spread messily over the cake. Make sure it is messy because life is messy and the mess is where you find the depths, the beauty and the lessons.

I LOVE YOU.

MY STUNNING WORLD WAR 2 VETERAN GRANDFATHER, SOON TO BE 100! He taught me my moral compass.
the last day of the awning. thank you Philip Kinder for your kind words during this last few months.
Uncategorized

THE MORNING BREATH

THE MORNING BREATH

“Do you have any honeysuckle?’ I asked the woman working in the perennial section at my local garden center.

“NO.” she stated with a pungent tone. “We try to get rid of honeysuckle, frankly.” Meaning that it was one of those pesky plants this particular garden center found to be a nuisance in a garden.

“Hmmfff. Go fuck yourself.”

That’s what I wanted to say. That was the bubble over my head, but I didn’t of course. I strutted out of there vowing for the millionth time to boycott yet another place on the planet with bad service. (and like all of my self imposed rules and regs, I broke the rule and went back and got way better service, second chances are kind, I am kind, right?)

This was two gardening seasons ago and as I left there with her snotty attitude towards my quest for a honeysuckle plant in hand, I thought about her nerve and of course her inability to be a great saleswoman. Afterall, she had no idea why I would be asking to buy a honeysuckle plant and her tone was insulting off the bat. Does anyone selling plants really know the behind the scenes reason for specific inquiries?

Fast forward to this early am. I am sitting on my back deck with my coffee cup after waking brightly at 4:15am ready to start the day with the cardinal voices outside my window. Reliable, my cardinal friends, they are there every morning for me and my friend, Dottie who I live next door to. Notice I did not say, ‘She lives next door to me,’ because Miss Dot has lived in the house next door to me for over seventy years and is the matriarch of the street for sure. We became fast friends the moment I met her over six years ago and we are huge cardinal fans (the birds not the team, please Red Sox forever for us) and being in our yard fans.

It is super bright and sunny back here at this early morning light of 7:14am. I have already done a boatload of things around my house, folded and put away laundry, straightened up a few things, talked to my aunt and my partner for my daily morning chat and now just basking in the glory of my garden feeling grateful and content in the moment.

Then out of the blue as I took that delicious deep breath, you know the one that reminds you of the power of the present right here right now, the pale yellow fragrant sweetness wafted right into my inhalation. Perfumey, bright, and soft, the honeysuckle plant I managed to find at a much cooler garden center two years ago has finally grown flowers and decided that I was worthy of the release of their sacred smell. Just when I was remembering to take that deep diaphragmatic breath, just when I was remembering in my busy brain of to do lists for my day to shut it the hell off and appreciate the here and now. Like the sweet chirp of the morning cardinal reminding me that yes, everything is going to be alright, the honeysuckle fragrance is the sound, the reminder in my olfactory system to be here. NOW.

I looked at its viney potential as it is working its way up my side railing to meet the wisteria on the other side and I smiled. I smiled because honeysuckle is not about a plant at a garden center two years ago. Honeysuckle is about Jamestown, RI in the summer with my brother in 1976. It is about the happiest time in our young lives when our parents still seemed happily married and we led a relatively normal life. It is about being outside until dark every summer night being surrounded by its nighttime fragrance. It is about the morning walking to school and seeing it growing wildly and learning to bite the end off to suck out the nectar. It is about teaching my son and the neighborhood children to do the same.

Honeysuckle is so much more than walking into a garden center to buy a plant, it is a childhood connection that is sweet and viney and messy and hard to control. It is about good enough, and imperfect. Honeysuckle is about not expecting the smell and then smelling it. It is about waiting for the flowers for two years and then like the magic that nature is, they appear just in time to remind a busy brain to rest and feel the love.

Death of a loved one especially such a young one is a traumatic experience. The thing I love about honeysuckle and all it represents to me is that I can call the memory of my brother back in a nanosecond just by seeing a honeysuckle plant or smelling one. I sit here this morning with my coffee feeling his warmth and his sweet smile, listening to the birds, seeing them fly around my garden knowing that at some point I will be sitting here and I will see a hummingbird at this nuisance of a plant that a bratty garden gal didn’t want to sell me. As I look up every few minutes from my writing today and look at the plant, I am so happy I kept looking for this plant two years ago. Even sweeter is knowing that I planted it after my first surgery and it is blooming after my second one. Blessed and grateful again for nature’s timing and its humble gifts when I look up and breathe. Imperfectly perfect.





Some garden moments this beautiful June 15th of a morning.

Uncategorized

BEING IN BUSINESS

BEING IN BUSINESS

A beginners guide to starting your female owned business (and yes female business owning is different.)

INTRODUCTION

I was destined to be an entrepreneur. My grandfather along with his brother started a successful textile business shortly after WW2 that sold boys and men’s suits for almost 40 years. My father worked in the business for most of his life until the end of the textile era happened when China took over. Dad went on to open many small businesses throughout his remaining life before he passed away too young at 68 from cancer.

His final business was purchasing a 100-acre campground in the Great Woods of Northern New Hampshire. Everyone thought he was crazy for doing this, after all what is a nice Jewish upper middle class white boy doing buying a campground in gun carrying ATV riding New Hampshire? But that is exactly why, because creating business is about risks and stepping way outside the proverbial box. Opposite thinking. This is the legacy my father gave to me. Doing the opposite of things not just because it is opposite, but because it is part of your gut so deeply that you can’t imagine doing anything but this.

There is a trendy buzzword today for this type of thinking, called disruptive thinking. Who knew that my father’s out of the box thinking of having his employees go roller-skating during break time in the 70s would today be a type of disruptive trendy?

My father was the black sheep of the family. Ironically, in his quest to veer away from all things traditional and all things his father did, he ended up marrying by eloping with my mother when he was 20 and sent a telegram to his very surprised parents to let them know. As it turned out I came around 11 months later so now he was hooked into the life he had really thought he had escaped from when he impulsively married,

He worked at the factory for and with my grandfather for as long as I remembered and I understand it wasn’t something he enjoyed. What I learned from him is never do something for work you don’t enjoy.

I never did.

When he finally broke free from his marriage and from the factory, he went on to do numerous start up companies, but the one that gave him the most joy was when he finally bought the campground and sold his share of the factory building to his longtime partner. That campground was his joy and as much as everyone in the white collar family thought he was off his rocker, he didn’t care. He was happy.

Every job I had I loved and if I didn’t I learned why and didn’t repeat it. Being in business means that I am a conscious activist in my business. My business model is shaped by my own objective and the choices I make as to how I want my business outcome. What defines a successful business is not always monetary success as the main outcome. What defines success is different for every single person with their business dream tucked away on a napkin in their coat pocket when its in its just a spark of a thought.

1. Establish Your Objective

My first question to everyone with the dream of owning her own business is first and foremost “what is your objective?” This is a really important question because owning your own business is hard. It will give you as much excitement and thrill as it does sleepless nights. Without a clear objective from the very beginning, you will get thrown from your path when the times are not all joyous and happy. AND THERE WILL BE THOSE TIMES. You will never know what and when they will hit, but trust me they will. And when they do, your clear objective (the one that is tucked away in your pocket on that napkin) will come out and give you a big sigh because you will know that the rocky stretch is just an opportunity to remind you that you are indeed a female entrepreneur and this is all part of the thrill.

Yes I said thrill. You are an entrepreneur right? The thrill is about knowing how to tame the chaos when it comes at you, to organize it, to go through it and be able to sleep at night knowing that you are the mistress of outcome because of that beautiful objective. And guess what, your objective can change over time. Remember, it is your business so you get to sculpt and mold and play with the dough however you want.

Establishing your objective is the why of the equation. Why do you want to do this? Sure money may be the first answer, but think about where that answer is coming from. When I first started my business I had to release all of the preconceived notions that were implanted in my brain by my grandfather’s definition of success. Once I released this, and it took me awhile, my own definition became clear as a bell.

For me it was to have my business run efficiently without my physical presence. This meant that I had freedom, time with my young son and a business that was positioned to have value without me. This way if and when I wanted to sell it, I wouldn’t be such a major part of the equation that I wouldn’t be able to get its true value if I didn’t come with the package.

This used to drive my grandfather crazy. He worked like 80 hours a week, so did my father. He couldn’t imagine that a business could run like this. But his objective was to make money, lots of money. He had to be in on every single moment to control outcome. My objective was more about time. Yes of course I wanted to make money, but that wasn’t my main driver. Mine was time for my son and my family and as my son grew and became less needy, I would change my work focus to accommodate and the money would come. Maybe not as much as if I was there 80 hours a week, but then I wouldn’t have enjoyed my business or my time as a mother. This is often where the fork in the road of male and female business ownership divides. I don’t know what it is to be a male business owner, my only experience was watching my grandfather and my father.

What I did witness was this, though: my grandfather had his wife taking care of the house and the kids and his life. Female entrepreneurs may have their partners support. Their partners may even stay home with the kids and the house as role reversals are so much more common these days. But most women I know are hard wired differently and life outside of work, kids, house, partners, family, usually occupy at least a part of their brains while they are working. I don’t know if this is as true for our male business owning counterparts. Women who own and run their own business and have families as well take on much more mental responsibility because of the guilt factor we bring on ourselves.

Are we missing our kid’s first steps, or his school play, t ball or dance recital? These thoughts are always around mom brain, at least they were for me and every single woman I know whether they were employees or employers. I see it with my team of 23 young women and all of their peers. Maybe it is a broad generalization but feminism and women’s liberation has only really influenced women in the workplace for the last 40 years, if that, and we still have a lot of work to do to get our cellular makeup to change if ever.

The way I see it is that someone needs to be thinking about all of the things that need to get done with our lives, our partners, our spaces we live in, or our children and if you have a partner at home that is doing this, awesome. I am willing to bet, though that even if you do, there are likely not too many moments where just a little guilt blasts into your radar a few times a day. So for the purpose of this guide, I am going to make some assumptions and give some scenarios about where you find yourself in your life right now. Every one of these needs a clear objective so take some time and brainstorm yours before you start writing your comprehensive business plan, before you look for financing. This seemingly little exercise will pay off big for all of your next steps.

POSSIBLE SCENARIOS: (I have probably not covered every single scenario, so if I have missed one, feel free to send a comment back to me and I will add it, pronto.)

  • You are a single woman who relies solely on your own income.
  • You are getting ready to graduate from college and you never wanted to be in the major you just completed, but your parents wanted that for you so you obliged.
  • You don’t have children, but are going to want them at some point and you are thinking about starting your own business, establish your objective around the timing of this major decision.
  • You have been diagnosed with something with your health giving you some time contemplate your remaining time on this planet.
  • You are getting ready to get married or move in with someone.
  • You never want children or a live in partner.
  • You have a child and want more.
  • You have children and are done.
  • Your children are all grown and you are in your empty nest phase.
  • You are ready for a second or third career. (being a stay at home mom counts as a career)
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities with someone and not working but want to start your own business.
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working but are not the primary breadwinner.
  • You are married or sharing life responsibilities and are working and are the primary breadwinner.
  • You are getting ready to get divorced or are in the process of a divorce.
  • You have been in a career that you want to get out of and have a supportive partner.
  • You have been in a career that want to get out of and don’t have a supportive partner.
  • You have unlimited amounts of support, money and time.
  • You have unlimited amounts of support, but not much money.

Etcetera… fill in here if none of these apply.

You may want to start up a business but need to go back to school or get additional training, this part of the business start up process will follow in the next steps, but before you move on to anything else, you must begin with WHY so onward to the light my superchick entrepreneur.

WHAT IS YOUR OBJECTIVE?

WHY DO YOU WANT TO TAKE THIS LEAP FROM EMPLOYEE TO EMPLOYER (and yes, when you own your own business you will have employees: accountants, lawyers, vendors, for starters and YOU.)