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Meet Trailblazer Tori Smallwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tori Smallwood.

Tori, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I grew up in Houston, Texas, and actually enlisted in the Navy right out of high school. I met my husband, who was also active duty, and we decided together that it was easier if I left the service and pursued a path I was more passionate about. We had two children together – Rylan, 9, and Leighton, 7 – and I found myself really searching for a new career identity. I had always loved doing hair and makeup, and I decided that if I was going to reinvent myself I wanted to pursue something that got me excited, something that really echoed who I was as a person.

I went to night school at Bellus Academy here in San Diego, where we’ve lived for 12 years now. After earning my cosmetology license, I landed a job at Hyde Edwards Salon & Spa in Little Italy, where I worked for six years. During my time there, I honestly took advantage of every opportunity I could. I signed up for every education class I could find, I traveled to international hair shows and really dedicated myself to honing my craft. As the years went on, I found myself wanting a more intimate environment. And in January, I decided that opening my own salon would really fulfill the vision I had for myself.

Since then, it has been a dream. Salon Hearth is absolutely everything I wanted it to be. We have an amazing team of stylists and a creative environment that I am so proud of. In the few months we’ve been open, we have had so much support from new and existing clients, our families and friends. We have an amazing space that truly makes me happy to come to work every day and we have continued to pursue an education that helps all of us make every man or woman that walks through our door leave feeling more beautiful than when they walked in.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
In my experience, nothing I’ve wanted has come easy. I’m a mom who’s very involved in the lives of my children, I’m a wife to an active duty service member who’s away from home A LOT, I’m a small business owner, and I’m a woman who is constantly fighting to give myself time and self-care. All of that requires a delicate balance.

Any of those things alone can be overwhelming. Since my husband is gone a lot, I often operate in “single-mom mode” (Hats off to all the single moms out there who work full time – it is not for the faint of heart). When I’m working to pick the kids up from school or track down babysitters, make healthy dinners, find time for my workouts and schedule the little bit of downtime for myself that I allow, it can definitely be challenging. But this life, it is so worth it.

My advice to women just starting their journey is to find something you are passionate about and pursue it wholeheartedly – and don’t feel like you have to do it alone. Find your tribe, love them, and allow them to help you along the way.

I would absolutely not be here if it weren’t for the support of the friends and family in my life who have watched my kids or helped at the salon when I found myself stretched too thin. And when the tables are turned, I do my best to return the favor. That is what true friendship and family is all about – reciprocal love. Find it and hold on to it.

Please tell us more about your work, what you are currently focused on and most proud of.
I, personally, specialize in natural coloring and blonding. I love my blondes and have become known for my ability to create looks that make women (and men) feel beautiful without the damage or high maintenance that can typically come with coloring.

I am most proud of Salon Hearth as a whole, and all of the small details that we incorporate there. I am and have always been big on the attention to details. That means fresh coffee and snacks, beverages, products that are eco-friendly and cruelty-free, a baby changing table in our restroom for the moms with small babies that come in, good music and comfort. I want my clients to feel like family, I want them to feel comfortable. They are all worth the extra time it takes to deliver that personal experience to them, and I want them to feel like it. Our motto at Salon Hearth is “your hair home” we want our guest to come in and relax with a glass of wine, read a book and leave feeling refreshed!

I also feel like our dedication to education truly sets us apart. On Mondays, we close the salon so that we, as a team, can learn new things from experts in a number of different areas. We bring in product specialists, expert cutters, make-up artists, all so that we can deliver the absolute best services to our clients.

Which women have inspired you in your life?
I’ve been inspired by many women in my life. My grandmother, Mother, and Aunts from an early age set the example of hard work early on. I knew if I wanted anything out of life, I just had to work for it! I’ve met so many amazing ladies over the years in all of my different life chapters. Badass navy veterans, hairstylist friends who work hard and play hard, stay at home mom friends, military spouse friends, and each time I learn a little something new and continue to grow in who I am.

Contact Info:

  • Address: 895 Park Blvd #105 San Diego, CA 92101
  • Website:
  • Email:
  • Instagram: @ToriSmalls
  • Facebook: SalonHearth

Image Credit:
Tori Smallwood, Courtney Kissel, Ari Virsunen, Alecia Brianne

Getting in touch: SDVoyager is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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