By Robyn Gautschy The Register-Mail, Galesburg, Ill.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Salon owner Cassie Parrish discusses the unique service lineup at her shop "Mama Cass &Co.", her teamwork with other small-business owners, and her best advice to other young entrepreneurs.
Cassie Parrish is a true product of Galesburg, having been raised in town and attending local schools from the elementary level through college.
After graduating from Carl Sandburg College, Parrish took her business degree to Maytag and worked there for eight years before the plant announced it was leaving town.
She didn't let that boot her off course, though. Instead, she took it as an opportunity to go back to school and and study something she'd always loved: cosmetology.
She put in 12 years as a self-employed stylist and, one year ago, she opened her own place on North Henderson Street in Galesburg.
The name "Mama Cass & Co." draws from Parrish's own nickname, and her reputation for taking care of the people in her life. At the salon, she not only helps clients look and feel their best, but she also provides complimentary beverages and shares homemade treats from her mother-in-law.
"I really love taking care of people. Just the little mama in me," Parrish said.
Register-Mail: First, some background on you: Where did you grow up and go to school? How old are you? What kind of work did you do before opening your salon?
Cassie Parrish: As a Galesburg native, I attended Nielson Elementary, Churchill Middle School and Galesburg High School, graduating in 1995. After high school, I attended Carl Sandburg College to pursue an associate of arts degree in business. The following summer, I began working at Maytag. When Maytag decided to move their plant to Mexico eight years later, I signed up for the cosmetology program at CSC while working part time at McGillacuddy's.
I was fortunate to be able to build a career in something I always loved to do -- hair! After graduating from CSC in 2004, I received a great opportunity from one of my cosmetology teachers to start at Hair Trix/The Buzz, where I built my business for 12 years as a self-employed stylist.
I also volunteered my time teaching cosmetology students body waxing techniques, as I love helping others grow their profession. Currently 39 years old, I married Kris Parrish in 2015, who has been my biggest supporter as I opened my own business.
RM: How did Mama Cass come to be? What goals did you have in mind when you started?
CP: I received a wonderful opportunity from an existing shop owner to buy her shop so she could enjoy retirement. It was unexpected, and I only had a couple weeks to make my dream come true. My amazing co-workers (Jenifer Thomas and Jaclyn Shallenberger), great family members (Margo and Calvin Sholl, Sam and Vickie Parrish), some paint, a lot of hard work, and here we are. Mama Cass & Co. Salon is open.
I often get asked, why Mama Cass? Well, it's not only a nickname; I really love taking care of people. Just the little mama in me. When I started my business, I wanted to create a clean, peaceful and amazing space that makes everyone feel comfortable. We offer complimentary beverages and, as our existing clients know, Thursdays are treat day from my mother-in-law Vickie Parrish. No one wants to miss those!
RM: Your salon is unique in that you offer haircuts, styling and color, but also cosmetic tattoos and piercing. How did these different aspects of your business come together?
CP: I was joined in my opening by two very talented stylists (Jenifer and Jaclyn), and we all bring our own special skills to the business. Our salon offers an array of different services, including haircuts, specialty styles, color, full-body waxing, cosmetic tattooing, spray tanning, body piercing and foot detoxification. We are also hoping to add a few other personalized treatments to this list very soon.
RM: What are the most popular services or retail items at Mama Cass? Do you have a personal favorite?
CP: Our most popular services are for hair, with cosmetic tattooing growing in popularity every day. We also carry a wide variety of retail items. Pureology is one of my favorites, but as I know we all have different hair needs, my stylists and I try to fit the product to the client. If we do not carry an item, we try our best to find the item for the client, or we show them something new we carry to fit their needs.
RM: What is something a lot of people don't know about your business?
CP: We do on-location wedding hair! We also help our clients in need who are not capable of coming into the salon. We love to support local small businesses by using their products, putting out business cards or by selling their products with pop-up parties -- Old Flame Candle Co., Coffee Specialteas and Art Defined, to name a few. We support local businesses!
RM: What do you love about your work?
CP: I genuinely love making people happy and I appreciate all the relationships I've created both personally and professionally. I'm a very social person and love making people look and feel the best they can every day.
RM: And, on the flip side, what are the challenges or downsides of running a business?
CP: As a small business owner, it can be hard to keep up with everything; however, when you have amazing employees and clients, it's all worth it at the end of the day. It can be very rewarding being your own boss, but also challenging at times as you try to juggle clients along with taking time for yourself and your family.
RM: What have you learned from running your own business?
CP: Being self-employed is hard work no matter what you are doing. You may think you make your own hours and take off whenever you want, but that's not the reality. Your focus is always the client and you are always on, no matter what.
RM: What is your advice to other entrepreneurs, especially to young people like yourself who are just getting started?
CP: Write every dream down, no matter how big or small. It can happen if you believe. Think everything through. It's your life -- make it your own. Get a plan, a great support system, ask questions, try new things and keep your head up. Anything is possible. I have watched so many amazing local businesses come up over the years and I am blessed to join the awesome group of entrepreneurs in this town.
RM: What's next for you? Any new projects or ideas in the works?
CP: I would love to continue to expand the shop with new stylists and services. We are always looking for a fresh face to join our incredible team.
RM: And, tell us about your life outside of work -- what do you like to do for fun? Any clubs or hobbies? Family or pets?
CP: I enjoy traveling, yoga, hanging with my friends, canning vegetables and working in our garden. We often bring our fresh produce to the local farmers market. My husband Kris and I also enjoy spending time with our adorable Shih Tzu, Penelope.
RM: Is there anything else you'd like to add?
CP: I would like thank all of my loyal clients who have followed me through the changes of the past couple years. You allow me to live my passion every day. Thank you!