By Frank Witsil
Detroit Free Press.
Nikki Maybeethe the owner of Salon Simply Beautiful in Berkely — grew up in the hair business.
At 13, she started working for her mother, Eddie Sue Williams, a hairstylist to Motown stars, by sweeping up floors. She earned a cosmetology license while attending Redford High School in Detroit, graduated and became a stylist.
Then, she went to Wayne State University to become a teacher. But, Maybee said, she felt the pull of the salon — and before finishing her degree, she went back to hairstyling. For the next two decades, while she cut other people’s hair, she saved money and dreamed about opening a shop of her own.
“One day,” Maybee said, she decided to call a salon on Coolidge that she had been driving by every day on her way to work. “I introduced myself, ‘Hi, I’m Nikki. I’m looking to purchase a building. Would you be willing to talk to me?’ ”
For about a year, Maybee said, she and the owner, Ann Powell, went back and forth on price.
Powell had owned the shop for more than four decades. In 2007 — as the recession was beginning — Powell decided to sell.
Maybee said she purchased the business for about $6,000. The building and parking lot next to it, cost her about $100,000.
Maybee renamed the shop, and started to grow the business from two stylists to eight.
We talked to Maybee about what it took to become her own boss, the challenges of being an entrepreneur, and what men can do to support businesswomen.
QUESTION: Why did you choose to open a salon instead of another business?
ANSWER: I think the salon choose me. I say that because — and this is going to sound like a cliche — but everyone wants to have the opportunity to be in charge of their own destiny. Each salon I worked at for other people was a great learning experience, but it reaches back to my mother who always taught entrepreneurship. She said: Whatever you choose, make it your own.
Q: So what does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?
A: It takes failure. It takes doing things that other people don’t want to do. It takes sacrifice.
Q: What’s an example of a failure that’s helped you become a better businesswoman?
A: It took me three tries to get my cosmetology license. That was three failures, not being able to complete my cosmetology license for whatever reason. Either I was partying the night before or I wasn’t taking the test seriously. Then, I had other failures. Not meeting goals others thought I should have. Not completing college. But, I took those as learning opportunities. In my business today, I continue to make improvements.
Q: What’s your advice for other entrepreneurs?
A: Invest in your brand. Be consistent. That’s really key. And listen to your gut.
Q: What does that phrase, ‘invest in your brand,’ mean?
A: If it’s something you feel passionate about, you have to invest in it. Your brand is whatever you want to do as an entrepreneur. Don’t give up on it.
Q: You are a businesswoman, your mom was a businesswoman. Why aren’t there more women who own their own businesses or run big corporations?
A: Overall, our society teaches women you shouldn’t be a risk-taker. Take the easy route. When my mom passed away and her salon closed it would have been easy for me to take a 9-to-5 job. That would have been OK. But, I knew there was something bigger in me. As women, we are caregivers, and spouses, and we have a lot that pulls at us. The last thing we think about is following our dreams. But, I have a spouse who believes in me. He supported me, and it was having that support that made me feel I could take this on.
Q: That’s a perfect segue to my next question. What can men — whether they are spouses, colleagues or bosses — do to support women who have this same dream?
A: Instead of saying you can’t do it, or maybe this isn’t the right time — because there’s never going to be a right time — really listen. Maybe give constructive criticism. But, when a woman tells you, “This is what I really want to do. This is what my heart tells me,” be part of the solution. Be a voice of positivity. And if it doesn’t go right the first attempt, because it might take many attempts, remain positive. If your first attempt is a failure, regroup, talk about it, and go back at it.
Title: Owner, stylist
Education: Attended Wayne State University
Experience: Started working in her mother’s salon, Glamour House, in Detroit; she also worked as a stylist at other salons, including Rob Willis International, also in Detroit.
Family: Husband, Chris; son, Max, 4
Hobbies: Biking, gardening
Car: 2015 Buick Enclave