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Meet Kelly Tsue of Kelly Marie Salon in Little Italy

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kelly Tsue.

Thanks for sharing your story with us Kelly. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
My story began in Springfield, VA. I was 15 years old signing up for my high school classes for the following year and cosmetology caught my eye for an elective. My parents wanted me to go with something I could use towards college so I went with accounting. (Boring!!). Once I started my junior year of high school and got a driver’s license I started working for my father. He was the GM of a Hilton and insisted that I work at the front desk so I could learn the art of working with people. Let’s be honest. What he really was doing was keeping me out of trouble. My hours were 7:00am every Sunday morning during the school years and 7:00am Tuesday through Sunday in the summer. My father was smart and knew what he was doing. I enjoyed the client connection but still wasn’t sold on the hotel business life and had a friend who worked in a busy popular salon where I later applied to. I expressed to my Dad that I really wanted to work in a salon and he expressed back to me that I could make way more money working for him. The money wasn’t enough to hold me back from going for it though. I continued to work at the hotel on Sundays and started working at the salon as a receptionist after school. I love the environment and new right away it was where I belonged. I did however remember my dad saying I could make more money with him so I was very observant and aware of the stylists totals and realized I could make a very good living doing what I love. My senior year of high school, I did vocational travel so I could keep working in the salon and drop the hotel gig. I LOVED it. So I got the minimum credits to graduate and left every day at 10:30am to head to the salon to work. That was the beginning.

After graduating high school, I attended Graham Webb International Academy of Hair. I had the dream of moving to the Big Apple and becoming some kind off a “hair star” but was encouraged through my instructors to work in Washington DC and stay focused on getting on the floor. So I did and that is where I landed my first assisting job. I later graduated my program with Elizabeth Arden and found myself moving from one salon to another on a journey of finding myself as a professional and where I fit in in this crazy industry. You see, I never understood why people left salons. Why would they do that? Wouldn’t it make more sense to stay in one place? Build loyalty with the owner and your clients? I was so naive to think it was all rainbows and ice cream. With every salon I worked in, and by that time it was three, I took note of all of the things I liked and disliked. It was time for me to move on. I know!! I’ll move to San Diego, California!

I played around with editorial styling and make up. It was so much fun for me but I noticed that lifestyle was for a certain someone and it wasn’t me. I always had the vision of having a husband and children and working 15 to 20 hour days and having no set schedule wasn’t going to work. I also realized how much I loved and cherished my client relationships so I dedicated myself back to the salon full time. I was working for a very busy well-known salon in San Diego which was a highbred of commission and Booth Rent. When I was hired the owner asked me if I wanted commission or Booth Rent and I was mortified. Coming from the East Coast it is a commission world and the only booth renter I knew of was the 70-year-old women bringing in her 80-year-old client to do her roller set once a week. I insisted on Commission and carried on. While working there for 7 years I observed this whole “Booth Rental” model. I wanted to be a booth renter!! Why not! I can make my own schedule, book my own clients, and take home more money. Sign me up!! But there is a catch. There always is…. And that is why I started Kelly Marie Salon.

You see, why not create an environment where you can be a Booth Renter in a commission environment. A place where you can get education benefits, backbar, products, incentives, and clients, support, robes, towels, beverages and snacks for your clients, salon get togethers, 85% of your money vs. 50% and live work balance, why is no one doing this? I have had this model in place for four years now and we are a true team. Whatever my team and their clients need we make it happen.

What people want is to be heard. And what hairstylists aren’t getting form their owners is an ear to listen with. I started Kelly Marie salon not to be a millionaire but to be an activist for stylists like myself. Create the one true space where you can thrive, not trap you in with my regulations and protocol.

Has it been a smooth road?
It was very smooth up until my family and I decided to relocate back east 2 years ago after having our two kids (4 and 2). The juggle of being a present mother, wife and bicoastal owner while having so much love for my career can suffocate me at times. There isn’t enough room for it all to be 100% full so about a year ago I decided to pull back, slow down and make sure each cup was evenly full.

So let’s switch gears a bit and go into the Kelly Marie Salon story. Tell us more about the business.
We are a full-service Hair Salon specializing in guest customer service. We are known for our inviting unique, all white loft space and our family like environment. It is truly like “Cheers” when you walk in the door. it is a very non-intimidating environment where everyone greets you. I am most proud of the team we have worked with. As others have moved away or moved on I can honestly say we have done this community right with the love and passion we exude through our work. I believe what sets us apart are our consistent 5 start reviews. Always making sure our guests are happy and giving them our time. We build relationships not clients

How do you think the industry will change over the next decade?
YES YES YES!! This industry is going to go majority Booth Rental. Social Media has played a huge role in free online marketing. Stylists are getting their own client referrals through Instagram, Snap Chat and Yelp and commission stylists are going to one day wake up and realize they don’t need to be giving so much of their hard-earned money away.

Contact Info:


Image Credit:
Blue Barn Creative
Valerie Porcara
Kelly Marie

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