Work It Girl: What I Learned When I Became A CEO

Our neighbourhood is full of powerful, ambitious women. I see you. I mean, how could I not. You’re out there hustling every day. Your perseverance and drive is written all over your face.

It’s awesome.

Well, I think it’s important that all of us fierce women of King West Toronto talk to one another and share our stories. Talk about how we got to where we are and what we learned along the way. In fact, I’d love to feature something like that regularly here, on our blog.

So I’m taking a moment today, on International Women's Day, to try and start this conversation by sharing my story. Maybe it will resonate with you, or reassure you in someway, or save you a struggle or headache down the road. Maybe it will make a difference.

You never know until you try.

How I Became a SheEO

I’ve always known that I would own my own business someday, that I was destine to be my own boss.

You see in the small town where I’m from every business on the main strip is owned and operated by a woman except one. When you’re surrounded by women in positions of leadership and ownership, you’re instilled with this sense that women in business is just… normal. So I always kind of knew that I would start my own thing someday.

I’m the kind of person that’s always striving for more. I bet you are too. When I say I always strive for more, it’s not necessarily because I want to be on top but more because I want to experience as much as I can while I’m on this earth. I feel like life is like a constant slope that goes onward, not always upward, but always in movement. I’m always moving, in fact, I think that’s my comfort zone. Just moving.

When I moved to Toronto I think it was always with the intention that someday I would open my own studio. It was always in the back of my mind, something that was just lingering there even though I knew I had a lot of learning to do before I was ready. But the funny thing about being ready is sometimes you don't consciously realize you that you are.

The funny thing about being ‘ready’ is sometimes you don’t consciously realize that you are.

One day someone brought up the idea of me opening up my own salon and I just jumped on it. Before I could stop the words they spilled out. “Really? Because I want to open a Salon.” It wasn’t a decision I had already made or something that I was actively thinking about until I said it out loud. And when I finally vocalized it, it was like I couldn’t go back. In a moment, my entire direction changed and that was it. I was doing it.

Less than three months later we opened our doors.

What I Learned Along The Way

Mentorship is Key

I’ve been really blessed to have an amazing mentor. My first boss Marion was the one who put the idea of being a stylist in my mind. She said to me, “Quit your job and come work for me.” So I did.

Over the years, she’s become a second mother to me and I can seriously say she taught me everything I know. Not just about doing hair, but about how to manage a team, run a business, take care of clients and give back to the community around you. She was an incredible role model for me and I can’t tell you how much I learned watching her run her business every single day.

If you don’t have a mentor in your life right now, get one. It might be someone that you work with, it might be someone in your professional network, or just someone that you look up to. If anyone comes to mind, take my advice and just ask them. Chances are she will say yes, but even if she doesn’t she’ll very honored that you asked.

It Takes a Village

Opening our doors at King and Portland was the most humbling thing I have ever done and the biggest, most eye-opening part of the whole process was realizing that it actually does take a village. I’m always skeptical when people say they did something all on their own, because it’s impossible. You may not realize how you’re leaning on family, friends and anyone around you while you’re working towards something big, but you are. You absolutely are.

The most rewarding part of opening my own salon was the realization that the people I thought I was providing for were actually providing for me. If you embrace that, it’s really beautiful.

Riding The Lion

Big accomplishments are like riding a lion. Completely terrifying. Everyone’s looking at you and congratulating you and telling you how great you’re doing... and all you can think is, “Holy shit I’m riding a lion. How did I get on this thing and how do I stop it from eating me.”

You’re never going to feel totally calm, cool and collected. You’re always going to be on the edge and like you’re just barely keeping it all together and that’s kind of the best part. It’s exciting and scary and unpredictable and risky. And I’m pretty sure that’s how you know you’re doing something great.

Words to Live By

For whatever value it might have for you, wherever you’re at in your journey and whatever you’re working towards in your personal or professional life right now, here are my words of advice:

Learn to see the forest through the trees. Don’t worry or feel guilty about how much time you spent in school or travelling or whatever it may be. When you decide to open your own business you’re going to pull your strength from lots of different places and you will be amazed at how much your past experiences, even if they seem unrelated, will contribute to your ability to accomplish big things.

People say you can’t bleed a stone. People are wrong. It’s actually incredible what you can do when you have to. When there is a will, there really is a way. It sounds cliche but I have found that even when I feel absolutely tapped out, there’s always more. That’s where leaning on others and pulling your strength from wherever you can becomes really important.

Success breeds success. It really is important that you surround yourself with people who inspire you, challenge you to be better, and push you to strive for more. If you want to be successful surround yourself with that success and everything else will fall into place.

Know that you can do it. Just know it. There will be no shortage of people who are going to tell you you can’t do something but you can’t entertain that for even an instant. When we said we wanted to renovate and open our doors in just under two months everyone said we couldn’t do it, but we did. I learned that you can’t take no for an answer. In fact, you have to completely eliminate that word from your vocabulary and just stay adamant that you can and you will.

I hope this speaks to you in some way and you find some value in what I’ve shared. I really would love to hear about and celebrate and promote the awesome women of King West, so reach out or stop by and let’s talk about what you’re working on and how you got to where you are now.

Going into spring, our studio is taking on a completely new focus and at it's core will be promoting and supporting the women in our community.

Happy International Women’s Day

~ Chanel