We have been business partners for eight years and friends for more than 10. We’ve seen each other through career highs and lows, relationship changes, and entrepreneurial pressure while running our small business, Evolve Salon. But never did we think we would have to tackle a global pandemic together.
As small business owners there are already so many stresses during a regular year, but in 2020, we were open for only five months which put a huge strain on the plans we had for Evolve. As hairdressers and salon owners, our work life balance was always a struggle until we found mindfulness and meditation four years ago and put it into practice. It has been a tremendous asset throughout the pandemic.
When we went into the first lockdown last March, we did our best to stay positive and keep spirits high, including arranging virtual drinks and trivia nights with our employees. We believed the shutdown would only last a month, so we cleaned our closets, baked sourdough bread, and waited. We continued to plan for the salon and our in-person retreat, The Elevated Stylist which we founded in 2019.
As the months went on, it was clear the shutdown would be extensive. We continued to schedule regular 1:1 check-ins with our team. Through our own journey of wellness, we had found coping mechanisms, but we wanted to make sure they had the tools they needed as well. We opened an online shop with all Canadian, locally sourced products, to take in extra revenue. We personally delivered product all around the city to our clients.
We also had to decide what to do about The Elevated Stylist which was planned for September. The retreat was specifically founded on the principle of in-person connection, but COVID-19 made that impossible, so we changed course and went virtual which allowed us to reach more colleagues during this difficult time. Moving to an online platform seemed natural and the two-day virtual event was a success. We had attendees from all over North American and received great feedback on our offerings of education, wellness, and business guidance.
In fact, we were so happy with it, we concentrated on building a better online hub around the tenants of the retreat: professional knowledge, wellness, and community. No one knew how long salons were going to be closed, so we felt it was important to have an active platform for support, connection, and education. We created our community on The Mighty Network platform because it’s outside the algorithm. It’s a place where members can connect without disruption. Members must request to join but there’s no payment and no firewall. They can find free business and wellness content, networking sessions, and affordable education. Our first one-day course takes place on Feb. 28. You can find out more here.
With the future still uncertain, we’ve done our best to adapt, see the positive, and give back as much as we can. For our staff, we implemented a four-day work week in the months we were open. We pulled together a Christmas Market Apothecary during the holidays that sold curated baskets with locally sourced products. This was so successful that we will continue this every holiday season. We were also holding on to more than 100+ blankets for The Elevated Stylist but decided to donate them to Encampment Support Network.
The COVID-19 regulations still feel unfair and we talk to many salon owners and stylists who feel the same. We are tired, like everyone else, of putting our lives and careers on hold and although we don’t know when this will end, we do know that by putting our efforts into building a community, it can make the waiting a little bit easier.
Sonia and Jody Kezar
Co-founders and Co-owners, Evolve Salon and The Elevated Stylist