For Tamara Brown, Beauty Is Much More Than Business

By Sasha Vanallen The Wisconsin State Journal

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Tamara Brown shares her journey to becoming a salon owner and explains why her beauty business in much more than a place to get your hair done. 

The Wisconsin State Journal

Tamara Brown knew hair was her passion since she was a little girl.

Brown, 48, is the owner and head hair stylist at Fringe Salon Spa, 654 S. Gammon Rd.

Originally from East St. Louis, Illinois, she realized her passion for hair while attending college at the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. But she didn't know if she could fulfill her passion and pursue it as a career. Now, 20 years later, Brown is a successful salon owner who takes pride in serving everyone, regardless of their hair texture.

"Coming from an international hair background I have worked with all different types of hair from type one, which is straight, to type four, which is kinky," she said. "I want to always provide the best services for my clients to make sure they feel and look good at the same time."

Fringe Salon Spa has been open for 10 years. Some of Brown's clients come into the salon weekly, or even twice a week to get their hair done. Clients can book appointments 6 months in advance.

The salon also hosts classes for individuals who want to learn more about how to take care of and manage hair.

Brown's mission is to cater to clients' needs while also providing a place where they can come to relax and leave feeling like a new person.

On a visit to Fringe Salon Spa, Brown spoke to the Cap Times about her journey to becoming a salon owner and the services she offers to the Madison community.

How did you get started in the hair industry? I have always been interested in doing hair since i was a little girl, but I never really thought it was a real career, so I never really took it seriously. I just went to high school and then college and was doing hair in the dorms. I was interested in law but then I realized I didn't want to pour myself into it, so I decided to step back and reevaluate my path. So in the process of that, I went back home and talked to my stylist, and she taught at a cosmetology school, which I had never really seen up close before.

What challenges did you face when opening up Fringe Salon Spa? It was a lot of work but it went quicker than most people think. The years of learning and getting experience in doing hair was probably more work than opening the shop. I really wanted to know that if I did open my own hair salon that I had enough knowledge and experience to sustain operating and owning my own business. My grandmother was like an entrepreneur, but I never realized that I did have that exposure in owning a business until after opening my hair salon.

Opening the salon in 2010 when it was a recession -- and pretty much everything a person can think of that said I shouldn't open a business -- it took a lot of risk and confidence to jump out there. I would say that one challenge I faced was fear because of the uncertainty that exists with opening a business. I'm the type of person who likes to research and gather knowledge about something, but even with all the research and knowledge I still didn't know if somebody was going to come through the door and receive service from my salon.

But with every challenge comes some success. For me one of the beneficial things I did before opening the shop would be taking a small business management class down at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. That really helped me to solidify that I can really do this. I talked to a lawyer who recommended I take the class and other small business classes. These classes helped me understand what I know and don't know and what I need to get and do to cover what I don't know.

There are numerous hair salons in the Madison area. How did you build your clientele and get the Fringe name out there? Well, that was a little tricky because where I worked, the salon owner was a smart business woman. She had employees sign a no-compete form, a contract where the person could not work within a five-mile radius from the shop after the person moved. Also, we weren't allowed to tell clients where our new location would be after we left the salon.

I respected that. Thankfully everything worked out where I then realized that clients are loyal, and that they appreciate the work I do. Most people are not quick to let anybody do their hair, so I had clients from over a decade follow me and I still do their hair to this day.

What are all the services you offer to clients? We offer a wide variety of services for our clients to receive from hair cuts/styles to nails. We try to be the one-stop salon. We do some makeup, I typically do it more case by case because we do not have a makeup artist here on staff. I know how to do makeup and have done clients' makeup for photoshoots. I have clients who have gone on the news and needed their makeup done. We also offer hair removal for clients that can range from eyebrow wax to face wax, to lash extensions and hair coloring. I would say that hair coloring is by far one of the most popular services that my clients get.

What made you want to pursue community outreach through hair? My heart with what I do is to make it where it is not just about doing hair. There is such a beautiful aspect of being able to service someone to feel better about the way they look, to brighten their day and that goes for a 1-year old to 99-year old, it really doesn't matter. It's something about feeling kept and cared for and being able to sit down and have that service done really means a lot.

So I had a number of people who inquired about how to take care of their children's hair, because some of the kids they adopted did not have the same texture hair as the adopted family. This really made me look into that area and to reach out to Dane County foster services to let them know that we love to service those families.

But they reached out to us, quicker than we reached out to them, which was really neat, to let us know about a survey they sent to families asking them what hair salon they recommended and we ranked number one. Because of this, we have been offering small classes for over four years where families can come in to the salon to see how what products and tips work best for their children's hair. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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