business, Health, life lessons

THIS IS NOT A STAYCATION

Five weeks ago, while I was lounging comfortably on the white sands of Siesta Key visiting my beloved grandfather, my manager was sending me what seemed like moment to moment text messages about what was unfolding in her home country of France. I didn’t quite roll my eyes, but in full transparency, I thought she was being a bit dramatic and I am confident I said this to her. 

 This was the last week of February. 

Twelve days later, two of my favorite yoga studios close by voluntarily closing their businesses. My initial knee jerk thought was, are they overreacting? I didn’t say this aloud, but I thought it. It was the week of March 11th . My team was looking for me to make a decision. After much discussion, we decided to take on the role of a respite from the outside mayhem. 

We would sanitize, keep clients at reasonable distance, and clean clean clean. Clients needed us. They needed our business to wind down, to relieve stress from the outside world. We would be of service.  Just like we always were in times of grief and sadness of what was going on out there.

Meanwhile, my dear friend from Madrid, began giving me her daily updates. News of Italy dominated the news. We marched forth. After all, if it were really that bad, wouldn’t the leadership of our country or our state be giving more clear and concise direction? One week later, as my 55th birthday fast approached, three weeks ago today, I went out with my girlfriends to day drink to drink our woes away. The news in Europe was dismal. California and Washington State was showing signs of demise. So we did what we do, soothed our worries with some local faire. That night, I went out to dinner with some clients, then out again for some dancing and more drinking. After all it was my birthday weekend. 

On Saturday, I woke up with a terrible feeling that was more than too much wine. Information had changed overnight. It was March 14th. I reached out to my former breast surgeon who is also a great friend and asked her opinion. She forwarded me a letter written by a Boston doctor and I immediately did a 360 degree flip in my thinking. 

We needed to close. But it shoud have been in hind site.

This was not mandated by anyone. This was the decision of collective leadership. Searching for more information, listening to my team, and taking action with the most difficult business choice of my life. It is not easy to close your business not just because of the loss, but of the economics of each woman I employ. Heart wrenching. 

At the time, and it seems like a billion years ago now, we had decided to close for just two weeks. March 16th-March 28th. I don’t know whether to laugh or to cry at the naivety of this with the now unfortunate wisdom of retrospect. I did a self imposed two week quarantine because of my Friday night shenanigans. I had already taken my son shopping for a two week supply of food, more because I wanted to spend time with him for my birthday weekend and since discussion of toilet paper shortages was starting to seep into our brainwaves, I did what most mothers I know would do- stock up. 

Little did I know that just three weeks later, we would be living in what seems like Armageddon. I have watched my business and every other business in my community close, but as I reflect back on the week we closed, when I started my personal mission to tell every beauty business I knew in the country to #stayhome, I am happy that I was ahead of the curve. I am even happier that I got my team of twenty out of harms way. I am glad we didn’t expose our thousands of clients and vice versa. We did our part as responsible business owners. 

Business ownership, when I first started, felt a bit like playing store. But with more and more experience, I realized the depth of seriousness business owning is. Money and economics are certainly a major part of owning your own business. This isn’t a hobby, but it has never been my personal driver.  If I really cared about this as my main priority, I would be a better money manager. I have just never been directed by this. But the fact of the matter is, in order for your business to work, you must have cash. Closing ceases this unless you can come up with something creative fast. 

 I saw the challenges we faced as a country in our struggles with the need for economics. I saw people in the service industry not make the decision because of money and because they chose a different business model that would offer no protection to their “employees” or independent contractors, their decision to stay open was misguided. This has come back to hurt our economy more than we ever thought possible. At least in my situation, my team can collect unemployment because I have paid into it for over twenty years barely using it. This is responsible business ownership, yes expensive, but now as a country we can see the ramifications of under the table and 1099 business models. More on that later.

Information during this unusual time is free for the taking. Yes, it can be confusing, but if you read the paper, and watch the news even in the smallest snippets, you are informed. As business leaders, it is imperative that we stay informed and do not solely rely on our government to make business decisions for us. In this case we all had the information to make informed decisions the first week of March at a minimum. Yet here we are, with certain states seeming to just get the memo (Georgia, Florida, Alabama to name three, instantly) missing a window of opportunity to stave off this horrible disaster. 

In my need to get fresh air, I have seen troves of people at parks and out and about not adhering to the recommendations causing our state Governor, powerhouse ball of Italian fire, Gina Raimondo to have to tell us like we are kindergartners to KNOCK IT OFF as she has tried to give her state residents the benefit of acting like grownups and adhering to the advice. 

We have missed the window. We should have started self imposed quarantines the first week of March at least. We didn’t. Those extra two weeks are going to set us back for months if not quarters. I have spoken to the plethora of women I am privileged to know who continue to tell me that their kids are getting invited to gatherings while school is now virtual. These families are smart and educated proving that a college degree doesn’t always equal common sense. 

I had a meeting with my team, as I have been trying to keep this all as communicative as possible, to begin getting them to wrap their head around at least a three month closure. The fact is, though, that with half the population not following the advice of our heath care organizations, we will be lucky to get back to our work in three months. 

This is beyond staying home now. It is a stark realization that we have a country filled with people who are so distracted, that the thought of being “stuck” inside their homes for two weeks is worse than taking the risk and risking the lives of everyone they come in contact with. Ou health care workers, our police and firefighters, our prison guards, our food bank volunteers and first responders need us to STAY THE FUCK HOME. This is not about an individual’s tolerance level of home confinement. This is chump change compared to the amount of people who will be forced to die at home, alone. 

This shit is real and it is about time we come together as a country and make a decision collectively to STAYHOME. We are individual states with each of their own chiefs and cheiftresses, but for this global health and economic disaster we need to take charge of our own humanity, put on our grownup pants and not wait for anyone to make another decision for us. We are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. Lets take our call to action by the name of our country verbatim. Let’s unite and do the right thing. It is not forever, but it could be if we do not act UNITED. You have enough toilet paper by now. 

#Stayhome.

business, life lessons

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED AS OF DAY 5

I sat at my computer yesterday looking at my payroll expense account knowing that this would be the last payroll for some time. I took a deep breath and pressed the send button. This was the final major part of my business activity I would be doing since no money is coming in now and this was the last big expense. The action was saying, finally after 5 days of mayhem, holy shit, this is real.

I am a fixer. Chaos and I get along just fine. When things are going right, I get bored easily. I like to solve problems and help people solve problems. This is why I am so active with writing and on social media right now. I am in all hands on deck mode. How can I help? How can I serve? This has always been my driving force of small business owning. I never stop because of my love for small business and its ability to take action on so many levels beyonf the day to day operations. For my little business, I have a big payroll. This one is on the smaller size because to conserve money, I chose to not pay myself. I include the amount so any non business owners out there can see the impact of what just one business closing will be haivng. This is real.

The only thing that is keeping me going is that we are all going through this together.

Continuing on with my day to day of the shut downs, thinking that this would be helpful. Take what you need and leave the rest.

There are lots of “little,” seemingly insignificant charges, we small business owners, who wear every hat imaginable, incur on the day to day month to month operations of our companies.

A two week shut down is a stark difference to a two month shut down, but I was raised as a pragmatist, so I err on the longer shut down of my business then a shorter one. The realist in me says that as much as people may WANT a spa service when we come out on the other side of this, my business may not be their first call. Hair color, Waxing, Haircut, facial, lash extensions maybe not so much, in that order. I am guessing this all, but I am a planner and I am basing my thinking on human nature. I hope I am wrong.

DAY 5

Here is what has happened and my additions to the check list. I am capitalizing the first few since they are of utmost importance.

GET YOURSELF A NOTEBOOK AND BEGIN DOCUMENTING EVERY CALL EVERY DATE, EVERY TIME AND WHO YOU SPOKE TO. Keep the name of the company and the phone number in one place according to the date. You will need good records, this will save you a lot of time later.

CREATE A FILE IN YOUR EMAIL TO MOVE EVERY EMAIL EXCHANGE BETWEEN INSURANCE UNEMPLOYMENT, INTERACTIONS, REFUNDS, CREDITS ETC and as the emails come in just move them to the file to find easily later. When later comes. And later will come.

THIS IS NEW FOR EVERYONE. STAY KIND AND PATIENT. OFFER SUGGESTIONS TO SOME OF THESE COMPANIES WHO ARE NOT ON THE FRONT LINE OF THE BRICK AND MORTAR BUSINESS MODELS LIKE WE ARE. They are open to suggestions. This may surprise you, but this is only week one for them too. My suggestion was to create a checklist for their accounts and send them out to stay ahead of the panic. Don’t freak out- we are all in the same boat. 

THIS IS THE BEST TIME TO ORGANIZE ALL OF YOUR PASSWORDS, ACCOUNT NUMBERS, LOGINS IN ONE PLACE. You will be needing them and the more orderly you can keep everything, the calmer you will be the longer this goes on.

CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: If you are trying to cancel those pesky monthly charges that happen with or without business have your MERCHANT ID and your BUSINESS TAX ID handy. Keep it handy because you will be asked for this over and over.

They are on the receiving end of our panicked calls. We are chump change compared to the restaurant businesses that have alcohol instead of haircuts or candles to sell. I called mine and after one hour this is what I learned to ask for. 

Salon Software told me to call Gateway company- in my case it was Salon Biz + PaySimple. I called Paysimple they told me to call the credit card company, WORLD PAY. World Pay told me I needed to call Paysimple. YOU CAN SEE WHERE THIS WAS HEADED. Here is what I learned. You can ask for a cancelation or a temporary suspension or a seasonal suspension. In PaySimple’s case, it was a cancelation. I will have 6 months from the date I canceled to reactivate or I will need to close and then reopen the account. I chose this as my option. The fees aren’t a lot but with no money coming in, 15.95 per month per location adds up over time. Right along with Pandora, Apple Music etc. Pick and choose your battles. I am being fiscally ultra conservative so that I have a business when we do reopen. 

This process start to finish took from 9:30am-10:38 am, over an hour. I ope this will save you some time. Many of us small business owners don’t even know how much extra we pay PER MONTH in addition to the fees PER TRANSACTION. Time to rise and shine, my beautiful small business owners!

If you have a separate credit card account for ECOMMERCE like I do, I didn’t cancel this. Just double check what you have and make decisions accordingly. 

SBA DISASTER RELIEF LOAN: Yes, taking out loans sucks. But I still say, fill out the paperwork anyway. Don’t do it on your phone. Sit down with your tax returns from last year or this year and have your debts, company names of mortgages and any other outstanding debt information at your side. It will take some time to fill out the form. You can save it and return to it later if it boots you out like it did me 3 times yesterday. I just turned it off, and am headed back to it today. Here is the website: spa.disasterloan.gov

My thinking is to get in the system so if I need it, I have the paperwork done. I hope I don’t need it. I hope none of us do. 

BUSINESS PHONE+INTERNET+SOFTWARE etc. I am in wait and see mode here. I reached out to them to see what their thoughts are and they are not ready to make decisions yet so I will revisit this next week. 

TEAM: Check in with your team. See if they need anything. Check to see if they received the unemployment confirmation. Send them a checklist that you have found helpful in your personal life. Set up a company zoom meeting so you can stay in touch. Not now, but keep this in mind as this situation progresses. Especially single moms, or moms home with their kids 24/7 for the first time. Work outside the home can be a very important outlet and identity for moms, this is a big shift for them.  A call, an email, a group text, letting them know you care during this craziness. You need them and they need you. The bonding between leaders and their employees shine the brightest in times of turmoil.

LEADERSHIP: Owning a business is easy when everything is going great. When the shit hits the fan like it is globally right now, we must take action. Make difficult decisions. This is not a popularity contest. Leadership is what you do when the going gets tough. It is the hardest job and this is a test of our ability under pressure. Not everyone is going to like your decisions, but this is a great thing too because it separates the people who you want as part of your continued tribe when and if you do reopen. This is a traumatic event. Ration your news feed. Put some music on. Light a candle. Call a neighbor and set the example by staying home. Encourage your team to stay home. Encourage your friend’s kids to stay home. Be a big voice in your business community. This is how we help.

SOCIAL MEDIA: I am in a lot of Business Facebook groups because I enjoy helping people. If the information you are reading is helpful then by all means share it, if it is causing you more worry and fear, then turn off your notifications and take a long bath, or a shower or make brownies with your kids. Don’t get sucked into the vortex. We need to keep our immunity up and strong during this time and health is priority number 1- physical and mental, spiritual too.

EXERCISE AND MENTAL HEALTH: Health is of utmost importance. If you are a gym person, and you don’t have access to it, you already know there is a plethora of videos and apps to keep moving even if you can’t get to the gym. For those of you who have been meaning to get to the gym and find yourselves hanging out on the couch more than ever- start small. 1 jumping jack, 1 ten second plank,  1 sit up,  1 deep breath. The next day try to add one more and keep adding until the end of the month. It is amazing how quickly these small additions can become easier and more important keep you sane. We have the time now. Take lots of deep breaths, write, draw, jump up and down, use your stairs, write letters to people instead of texts and emails. Keep moving. You need your health and you need your mind. 

TO BE CONTINUED, my friends. Stay safe. #Stayhome. #wewillgethroughthis.

business

WHAT I HAVE LEARNED IN THE LAST TWO DAYS (AND I HOPE IT HELPS YOU)

So much as happened since Saturday when I decided to close my doors. We are all in shock that we have found ourselves in this situation. 

But here we are so we, as the bad ass leaders we are, will march forth and make the best of an unprecedented global situation.

The following list in no apparent order is what I have learned and hope it saves your some time in your spinning minds. Some may apply to your business, some may not, most of these tips are in relation to a service/ appointment business, but I am sure that many reading this will get something out of it even if this is not your business model.

My business is in Rhode Island. Some things may not apply in your states, but I am guessing most will. 

Good luck and I hope this is helpful as it intends.

  • Once you say finito, your team will be in panic mode. As much as you are freaking out, they are freaking out more. Help them with unemployment. If you are a w2 business who pays their staff the way employers of real businesses do, filing for unemployment is easy and should be the first step. When they file, make sure you have their starting dates before they go online to fill out the paperwork, it will time out so having everything they need on hand makes the process less stressful. When asked the question, “Will you be returning to work or do you have a date?” Have them answer no. Don’t worry about it now. Just get them in the system.
  • If you have been paying yourself the correct way in a check, you will likely be eligible as well. Don’t hesitate. Fill out the paperwork. As a matter of fact, if you do it at the same time they do, you can be helpful to the process. Not that you need to be humbled, but it is a good dose of humility.
  • Unless you have boatloads of cash reserve and many businesses do not, I would not suggest paying them right now for the time. Get them in the unemployment system. You will need your cash. I also asked my team not to drain the PTO/ sick or vacation time since that would also drain my cash reserves and they were fine with this. 
  • I removed any of the extra deductions for this last check, IRAS, Health insurance etc, just for them to maximize their final check. They were appreciative.
  • If you are a 1099/ Independent contractor/ booth renter, traditional unemployment will not work for you. The Federal government is actively working on activating something called Unemployment Disaster Relief or something to that effect. I spoke with someone on the state level today from the Department of Labor and they were very helpful and this is what they told me. This will be a wait and see relief. 
  • If you have a linen service, trash service, cleaning service, call them and tell them the date(s) to stop. You are not going to be open, so you don’t need the services right now.
  • Call your banks and deactivate your debit cards. This will help you gain control rapidly over all of the auto debits. Don’t forget Apple, PayPal, Google, Pandora or any other peripheral account that withdraws automatically. 
  • Prioritize the absolute musts of your bills. For example, business insurance, car insurance. Yes it totally sucks to be late on any bills, I am never late, but in this case, you need to reserve cash so pay what you must, but don’t overpay.
  • Business loss insurance at this moment does not cover this loss. This is a pandemic, call your state congresspeople and ask them to pressure insurance companies to create a window of exemption. It will take a lot of us calling to even make this a possibility, but I definitely think it is worth the time.
  • Credit cards for your business- call and ask them to reduce the rate and to temporarily stop the monthly fees they charge. There may not be any business coming in, why should you pay a fee for this?
  • Clients- What we did was keep every single client on our schedule. We called them and told them we were postponing their appointments until we reopened and then we would call them and prioritize their rescheduling when we had an exact date of reopening. This will help you keep track of the clients and also how much potential business you are losing should insurance companies rally. (Thanks to my dear friend and salon owner, Claudia, for that last idea).
  • We sent out emails announcing the closing then another email to tell them they didn’t have to call and cancel any appointments. We would leave them where they were so we would know to call them when we reopened. 
  • Remember to turn off confirmation emails if they are automated. We forgot and it was confusing. 
  • We also turned off online booking so that we didn’t have to block out the times for the next few weeks in case someone did happen to schedule online. It also saved us time for the future so we wouldn’t reschedule everyone, just to have to call them again and do it a second time. Clients were so nice and understanding.
  • If you have any marketing or social media automated, please turn it off. There is nothing worse in a crisis situation then getting something irrelevant. 
  • If you are using a company like mind body, mail chimp or something like this, you may consider pausing it or asking for a temporary deactivation to save some money. I did this with Mailchimp. I tried it with my software company and just kept asking for a supervisor so I could get the word out that if they paused our monthly fees for even one month it would speak volumes in good business and kindness creating more loyalty than ever. Don’t hesitate to ask for this. THE MORE THEY HEAR FROM US….
  • Check in with your team. I do have a cash reserve so I offered to loan anyone any money if it gets dire. No one has taken me up on this, but I know they feel better knowing it is there if they need it. Also especially check in with team members who are solo, living on their own, just to make sure they have what they need. Many of my team have partners income they rely on, many do not.
  • Remind your clients that purchasing a gift card if it speaks to them is a great way to support local businesses. Though I don’t want to be selling a lot of them for the unknown that lies ahead, it sure does make some clients feel like they are helping a business they have loved to do business with.
  • Remember the food pantry’s in this situation or if that is too big, remember to check in with the neighbors across the street and next door. Just a phone call makes a big difference in depression, and isolation.
  • This could be a fun time to have zoom meetings, zoom dance parties, face time dinner parties with your friends and clients and your team. Wacky miraculous forms of entertainment are coming out of this disaster.
  • Use this time to clean closets, work on that book you have been meaning to write or read, art projects with your kids, get fresh air, do jumping jacks and planks, call people. Try to use this unique global pause to disconnect from the media and stay connected with the people you love, family, friends and your team. 
  • This is badass leadership and you are a badass leader. If you don’t think you were, you are now. 
  • Good luck, stay safe. Any questions or comments email me alayne@alaynewhite.com I am two full days into this new paradigm and two days is a lot of time in this business is closed world we are in. 
  • One more thing- if you want to get inspired, read OR watch anything about Winston Churchill. He was one of the baddest ass leaders around. Especially his quotes. Try to keep off the 24/7 news. Watch a little, turn it off. Turn on some calming music, open your windows or your curtains if it is too cold, light a candle.
  • We will get through this. JUST KEEP SAYING IT. 

“Sure I am of this, that you  have only to endure to conquer.” Winston Churchill

business, Health, life lessons

THE NEXT TWO WEEKS

March 14th will go down in history as one of the most tumultuous days in my already busy brain. In the morning, I was comfortable with my decision to keep my business open, mistakenly thinking that I was providing a “respite” from the outside world. After all we in the beauty business of touch are not large gathering crowds. 

But as the day went on and I spoke directly with a dear doctor friend who is soon to be on the front lines of this pandemic, I learned much more. I read a detailed and very concise letter written by an esteemed professional doctor and that changed my mind. 

I closed my business voluntarily yesterday at 5:00pm after painful and deep consideration.What I have seen and heard is the next two weeks is the most critical. I didn’t realize this as I made my way out with the masses on Friday to party before my birthday weekend. I didn’t think about the seriousness of the next two weeks. Like the masses of people who decided to head out to the bars in Newport and Boston yesterday to celebrate the no parade St. Patrick’s Day, I was foolish. 

I am no longer foolish.

Our leadership, federal and state, doesn’t seem to want to say. CLOSE YOUR BUSINESS. Why would anyone want to say this? It is economic suicide not just for business, but for the people we employ. The Federal level has taken action to make it more streamlined for emergency money to help compensate the people we have to layoff for fourteen days. But no one is talking about the impact that my type of business has in the country. Spas, hair salons, nail salons, gyms, yoga studios, wellness- we are all touching people in the most intimate areas every day. We are then going home to our families, to the market, to restaurants. 

In my opinion, now that I know what I know, I would rather voluntarily close for two weeks and ask my team to self quarantine for that time, to help prevent what is happening in Italy and the rest of Europe. This is not a two week vacation. This is a time to self quarantine because the likelihood of exposure is the highest right now. We in the beauty and wellness businesses have likely already been exposed. I am not one to freak out. I usually weigh with much consideration the pros and cons when it comes to making these difficult decisions.

Europe is our countries Ghost of Christmas Future right now. I hope I am wrong and that my colleagues can laugh and point a finger at my for being “overreactive” a month from now. I am willing to take the laugh. Closing my business yesterday was the hardest decision I have ever had to make as a leader in my company and in my community. I am still in shock. My team is in shock. This is no joke.

But at this point, I do feel that it is each of everyone of our civic responsibility to voluntarily make these hard decisions. Hands down- our state leaders should be speaking about the beauty business, one of touch, and finally stop ignoring what a major part of the economy beauty and wellness provides for the citizens of our country.

For my colleagues out there, please voluntarily close. Self quarantine for two weeks and ask your team members to do the same. We are all in this together and if we set the tone for what the right thing to do is, we will be better as a community a month from now. 

Running a business is a day to day tricky business. We must make rough and tough decisions and in this case, we must not be making them from our pocketbooks. I know it is scary to think that income will cease for two weeks or more, but these are all great lessons in our lives to re think what we have, what we need and how we operate when we do get to open again. 

My friend said that he is hoping for a V upturn. Quick dip, quick return. Imagine when we all come out of our homes after this madness, the way the trees and the light will seem. The first delicious meal at our favorite restaurant will taste, the first workout at your gym or that glorious facial at your favorite spa. In the darkness when it seems like light is absent, that little spark of brightness means so much more. I am confident that we will see a business boom like we have never experienced when we get through this. This is not forever. 

For those of you out there who think some of this maybe hype, or politicization, I for one thought this a bit too last week, but when we see France close its restaurants and bars, when airports are closing and borders are closing, I would rather err on the side of caution. The glory of our free country is that we get to make our own decisions, but this is unprecedented and as a community, we have an opportunity to speak up and do our civic duty.

Please voluntarily close your business. Our communities are in prevention mode. Two weeks now could prevent three months later and we have the capability to take action now. I hope we can come together and support each other during this time and I thank you for considering this. And I am sorry to freak you out. I have attached the letter below so you can make an informed decision too.

https://www.alaynewhite.com/closing-update.html

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.








<!– /* Font Definitions */ @font-face {font-family:”MS Mincho”; panose-1:2 2 6 9 4 2 5 8 3 4; mso-font-alt:”MS 明朝”; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:modern; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 134217746 0 131231 0;} @font-face {font-family:”Cambria Math”; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:3 0 0 0 1 0;} @font-face {font-family:Cambria; panose-1:2 4 5 3 5 4 6 3 2 4; mso-font-charset:0; mso-generic-font-family:roman; mso-font-pitch:variable; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1073743103 0 0 415 0;} @font-face {font-family:”\@MS Mincho”; panose-1:2 2 6 9 4 2 5 8 3 4; mso-font-charset:128; mso-generic-font-family:modern; mso-font-pitch:fixed; mso-font-signature:-536870145 1791491579 134217746 0 131231 0;} /* Style Definitions */ p.MsoNormal, li.MsoNormal, div.MsoNormal {mso-style-unhide:no; mso-style-qformat:yes; mso-style-parent:””; margin:0in; margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:12.0pt; font-family:”Cambria”,serif; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:”MS Mincho”; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} .MsoChpDefault {mso-style-type:export-only; mso-default-props:yes; font-family:”Cambria”,serif; mso-ascii-font-family:Cambria; mso-ascii-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-fareast-font-family:”MS Mincho”; mso-fareast-theme-font:minor-fareast; mso-hansi-font-family:Cambria; mso-hansi-theme-font:minor-latin; mso-bidi-font-family:”Times New Roman”; mso-bidi-theme-font:minor-bidi;} @page WordSection1 {size:8.5in 11.0in; margin:1.0in 1.0in 1.0in 1.0in; mso-header-margin:.5in; mso-footer-margin:.5in; mso-paper-source:0;} div.WordSection1 {page:WordSection1;} –>


“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.