A Q&A With Philadelphia’s “Hair Maven”

By Michael Hinkelman
Philadelphia Daily News.

CARLA CLARKSON, 35, of Strawberry Mansion, who styles herself the Hair Maven, owns a salon in North Philadelphia and is opening a second in Old City in March. Clarkson counts both celebrities and professional working women among her clients.

She was hired as a stylist for the movie “Creed” and was a Daily News sexy single in 2009.
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As one of the top women in small business, we have a few questions…

Q: How’d you get in the hair biz?

A: My grandmother and I both attended the [former Edward W.] Bok [Technical] High School in South Philadelphia. I watched her curling family members’ hair in the kitchen and basement. I picked up her curling irons and her old cosmetology textbook and started reading it when I was 12 and decided that’s what I wanted to do. I graduated from Bok in 1998 with a cosmetology license, worked in salons, and started Honey Hair Studio at 21.

Q: The start-up money?

A: I work with Finanta and I’ve gotten two microloans of $2,600 each. Mostly, I’ve bootstrapped the business.

Q: Your most popular services and products?

A: The Honey Blowout is a shampoo and blowout that starts at $40. Coloring starts at $65; hair extensions start at $100. I also make my own hair products, which are available from my website. Honey Blowout is my flagship treatment and keeps hair fortified and moisturized. It’s made with natural, organic honey and is $20 for 5 ounces.

Q: You style yourself “The Hair Maven.”

A: A client, the actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, gave me that. It means I’ve studied and honed my skills, which makes me a maven at what I do.

Q: What separates you from other stylists?

A: You have to give your client some home-care regimen, and I can offer them my own handmade products. The first thing we discuss before styling your hair is how we’ll treat your hair.

Q: Your customers?

A: Professional African American women, 30s to mid-40s. They like trendy hairstyles; like to wear extensions; and are into fashion, style, shopping, and entertainment.

Q: How’d you land that gig in Creed?

A: That came through Robin Warriner, who is a founder of Lakshmi Hair Studio and my mentor. A friend of hers told me an actress wanted somebody to do extensions for a movie. I was shown a photo, and it was Tessa Thompson, and then I’m standing next to Sly Stallone in the hair-and-makeup trailer for Creed. I said I wanted to be on set when she is shooting, and Ryan [Coogler, the director] said I could hang out behind the scenes, but I ended up getting a cameo.

Q: Biggest challenge?

A: Overcoming doubts about whether I could run a hair business. I’m an African American woman with a high school education.

Q: How big a biz?

A: Revenues range from $6,000 to $10,000 a month.

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