Strands Studio is one of many local businesses in Clarington. Founder Heather Maitland has built an excellent, bright corner of the neighborhood. She has continued to help uniquely grow the local economy. Sure, businesses have come and gone in Orono, but locals all swoon over her unique ability to have people glow when they leave her Studio. The creativity gene runs in the family, and she followed her heart by making a small-town girl’s dreams into a reality.
What was the deciding factor that led you to hairstyling? When did you start Strands Studio, and why?
I have always been obsessed with hair. My Mom would find clumps of hair under our dining room chair, and I would give myself a haircut at four years old. All my barbies had highlighter-dyed hair and custom, unique haircuts. I believe enjoying what you do for a living is one of the most important things. So, when I was 18 and picking my post-secondary education courses, I was stumped. I hadn’t considered hairstyling as a career until my Mom suggested it. I had grown up around my aunt’s hair salon and loved doing hair. I figured, why not? I booked a meeting with my school’s guidance counselor, and she strongly recommended that I enroll in a traditional college course instead of Hair School. With my slightly unconventional mindset and slight stubbornness, I ignored her advice and enrolled in Hair School.
I opened Strands Studio in January 2017. I was at a crossroads in my life and, at 28 years old, had gone through a bad breakup. I had previously been working as a professional musical theater actor. However, I had decided that industry was too fickle and too appearance-based for my liking. Ironically, I had decided to pursue an acting career after working in a hair salon in a very toxic environment.
I think I just needed a little hairstyling break. I left Toronto and moved back in with my parents in tiny old Orono, Ontario. I was sad and was at a loss as to what direction my life was going in. I renovated a small hair salon in my parent’s basement. I start working as a hairstylist part time apart from working in my parents’ flower shop, “Apple Blossom Flowers”. One day my aunt (who was also a hairstylist) contacted me on a cold December night to “talk about hair.” She informed me she was retiring that January and wondered if I would be interested in taking over her local hair salon lease.
The only catch was that I had only two days to decide. After many considerations and conversations with my parents, I said, “Yes.” What did I have to lose? Thus, Strands Studio was born. It was terrifying at first as I had no idea how to run a business. Sure, I was good at doing hair, but I didn’t know how a successful company operates. I didn’t even know if I would have a paycheque at the end of the month.
What if I failed? But that fear of failure forced me to work even more. And it worked out, so much better than I could have even imagined. Now we are four years old; Strands Studio operates out of a building that is twice as large as our original storefront location. We have a powerful team of stylists, and we won “Readers Choice, Best Salon in Clarington 2020”. The Salon is always busy, and our fantastic clientele continues to grow.
What do you love most about being a business owner?
I like the fact that I am in control of my environment. As earlier, I have worked in very toxic environments filled with negative energy, jealousy, mistrust, and hate. I use to walk into establishments, and my stomach would be in knots with anxiety, unsure which coworker unjustifiably disliked me that day. I believe no one wants to work in such an environment ever!. I love the fact that my Salon is filled with joy, happiness, passion and energy. I have a powerful, female team, and we are all supportive and encouraging of one another.
I have a clientele that mirrors my open-minded nature, which is just a delight to be around. Every day I make people feel better about themselves and not only on a physical level. I am a very firm believer that our energy is contagious, and once you leave Strands Studio, you go with some of the positive vibes that my Salon radiates. The world can be a tough place, especially with what we have been through in 2020 and 2021. I want people to feel a bit lighter after leaving our Salon.
Are your clients all local to your area, and who (demographically)? I have heard you, style women and men. Are barbers a thing of the past?
We accept all forms of people at Strands Studio, resulting in us having a vast and diverse clientele. Since we are in Orono, we have many clients coming to us East and North, from the country and even from Toronto. We do have some clients in different provinces as well. Whenever they visit family locally, they are always sure to book a hair appointment with Strands Studio.
We service Men, Women, and Children. Hairstyling is an ever-changing industry, and one of the best things about being a hairstylist is that every client is different. You could be doing a child’s first haircut, then right after an older women’s perm, mix in some rainbow unicorn hair, a wedding updo and a tailored, faded men’s cut. For us, every day is different, and this does keep things interesting.
Barbers are a thing of the present! For years hairstyling has been directed towards women. I think it is refreshing to have men be more active in modern hairstyling, presented through barbering. I love the idea of a classic craft getting modernized. Everyone likes to feel attractive, and a man with a good haircut is at least 20% attractive. Not that it is all about appearance but how you feel inside, confident as your energy is radiated through you.
How did the staff at Stands Studio and you overcome the pandemic? Any personal mental health strategies: new hobbies or best self-care practices?
The government-regulated lockdowns are too taxing on myself and my staff. As we love our job, it is not just a paycheque for me; this is what drives my life. It is what consumes my daydreams. To say I am a workaholic is an understatement because nothing on this planet brings me as much joy and fulfillment as running my own business and watching it succeed.
So, not working and having no control over the matters, I felt been kicked in the gut repeatedly. It was the worst. However, now that we are in a second government-regulated lockdown, I keep reassuring myself and my staff that we have done it once; we will do it again. After the first lockdown, we came back stronger, determined, more fierce, and we will do it again.
What significant challenges you have faced as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome them?
I don’t have a formal education in business. My Mom is an entrepreneur, and my aunt was as well. I grew up being around their successful businesses and learned from them. However, sometimes I feel as if I am “flying by the seat on my pants.” I am a bold personality and never shy away from a challenge. So, even though some learning curves can be steep, I am always ready to learn and grow in any situation. I believe that when you become too comfortable, your business can start to suffer. I am determined to keep growing as a business, as a female entrepreneur, and as a person.
Maitland has been strategic in her endeavors and even sells products and gift baskets with curbside pickup, a smart move to deploy in lockdown restrictions. Even though we may feel out of touch with our social groups and visiting inside our favorite businesses, we must stay in our home bubbles. Keep in mind Covid-19 is likely to be sticking around for a while, and salon practices are creating a new reality we have already gotten used to.
There will eventually be a day when we can live more carefree and can indulge our self-care needs. The Salon will be there waiting to pamper us, but for now, we need to do our part to ensure they can open as soon as safely possible. I know I will be one of the first in line when it’s safe to do so, but I will continue to support my local businesses now. However, I can, even if that means staying home.
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Author: Kayla Stephens, for The Onside Media, Toronto, Canada. If you have any stories or comments, kindly email: – email@example.com