This Mom Ain’t No Beauty School Drop-Out
This week’s guest blog post is written by my friend, Karolyn Massey, The Corcoran Group’s former VP and Director of Finance turned founder & owner of Beehives & Buzzcuts, a children’s hair salon located on the lower east side. And oh yeah, she’s a single mom of an 11 month old daughter. (And we thought we were juggling a lot!)
When I was 17 years old and deciding on post-high school options, my parents gave me one – COLLEGE! Not going to college was not an option for them or, to be honest, me. Nevertheless, when my mother said, “Karolyn, what do you want to do in life?” my reply was, “Be a hairstylist.” When I graduated from SUNY Albany with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and refused to go the traditional route of working at a big accounting firm (much to my father’s dismay), my father said, “Well, what do you want to do?” My reply was, “Be a hairstylist.” I never saw my father turn so many shades of red! There was no way he just spent blah-blah-blah thousands of dollars putting me through college only to have me not use the degree at all! So, I was the good, responsible daughter and began my 16 year career in the business world.
I began my career in magazine publishing, then moved on to advertising, then real estate. I truly enjoyed every job I was lucky to have in the corporate world. My last corporate gig was at the real estate firm, The Corcoran Group. I worked at Corcoran for 6 years as the Vice President and Director of Finance. I worked under some of the smartest, strongest women I ever met while I was at Corcoran, but alas, all things must come to an end. Just like all my other corporate jobs before, the bureaucracies of the business world got to me and I bolted. I amicably left Corcoran in September 2010. I was unsure of what I wanted to do right away – did I want to continue to collect a decent paycheck and go back to the fast-paced, high-stress, cut-throat corporate world or did I want to strike out on my own and use the skills and know-how I gained at my previous jobs to do something completely different? I just didn’t know.
So, in true avoidance fashion, I planned a 3-week vacation to Kenya and Tanzania! I was bewildered with the beauty of the African safari for 10-days then began a six-day trek up to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world’s tallest free-standing mountain. About half way up the 19,340 foot hike, I began suspecting something was up….it couldn’t be…I couldn’t be…was I pregnant???? My friend kept telling me my cycle was just off because I was going through a lot – I just left my job, I was on the other side of the world, I was doing this monumental physical feat, etc. But, a woman knows when something’s up and something was up!
We scaled down the behemoth mountain on October 28, took a 10 hour bus ride from Kilimanjaro, Tanzania to Nairobi, Kenya, boarded a plane to Istanbul, Turkey, transferred to a JFK-bound plane, and arrived back in NYC on October 31. I took a home pregnancy test on November 1 and confirmed that I was expecting a baby! My life was never going to be the same! I told the baby’s father the news and it was the last time I ever spoke with him – he went completely AWOL. So, here I was facing single parenthood with no job and no plan! I was stunned and terrified.
I was raised by everyday church-going Catholics and most (obviously not all!) of their values transferred to me, so terminating the pregnancy was never a consideration. Neither was telling my family any time in the foreseeable future. Why would I tell my parents who were sure to FREAK OUT until I absolutely had to?! This kind of thing happens to other people’s kids – not their daughter! I’m not sure if it was the hormones, the nerves of telling my parents, the terror of not having a plan or what, but I was sick throughout my entire pregnancy. It was brutal.
I vacillated daily about what I wanted to do. I thought this is the time to take a leap of faith, but then I remembered the child growing inside me that I would have to clothe, feed, and be completely responsible for. However, if I didn’t do it now, I never would. But I was the only parent my child would have and I had to be responsible. The teeter-tottering was endless. I finally decided to go for it (I blame/credit the pregnancy hormones!).
I signed the lease for Beehives & Buzzcuts on June 1, 2011 and gave birth to the cutest, silliest, most cuddley little girl the world has ever known on June 23. I hired a wonderful architect, Andrea Mason, who translated my ideas into the perfect aesthetic for my store – an outdoorsy, whimsical feel that’s not tacky, as many children’s places are. While the store was under construction (and my bank account was being depleted at a rapid pace), I was enjoying motherhood with my new baby, Annaleigh Grace.
The gut renovation was finally completed in early November and I began filling the retail space up with fun and affordable toys, games, books, hair accessories, and shampoos and soaps. OK-so now my store was ready, but wait…I had no staff! I, myself, have never worked in a retail store or salon, so I had no idea how to go about hiring a staff. But, as with everything else with this project, I figured it out as I went along. It wasn’t so hard – 4 stylists responded to my Craig’s List ad, so those 4 were hired! Two of the four are still with me. I now only employ stylists who have vast experience with children. I learned my lesson with the two that I hired that are no longer with me. I hired what I thought would be a great right-hand person who had salon experience and experience in children’s programming. This person was far from great, so that’s my job now. Two years ago, I was a finance executive by day and a social butterfly by night. Now I’m a single mother 24 hours a day and plan kids’ classes and birthday parties by day (among about a million other things) and climb into bed at 7PM with my daughter at night. The party people I used to consider to be my best friends are all just mere Facebook acquaintances and I now click with moms who visit my store. Oh, how life has changed!
Beehives & Buzzcuts opened on November 21, 2011. The opening was met with much anticipation from our surrounding community, however our opening just missed the big back-to-school new haircut rush and we kind of got lost in the whole Thanksgiving/Christmas/Chanukah holiday craziness. We ran a Doodle Deal in early January that had a huge response, which was good. I wish I had adjusted the staffing sooner than I did. Our staff now is small, but the quality of their work is huge. Everyone currently on staff has extensive experience in working with children.
This was the biggest undertaking of my life and doing half while pregnant and the remaining half with a newborn added to the stress and the specialness of the whole thing. I joke around that I now have two babies – Annaleigh and my store. I lay awake at night wondering what the future will hold on many fronts. I worry about my dwindling bank account balance, whether the haircuts my former inexperienced staff gave will impact the word-of-mouth reputation of my store, if I will ever successfully weasel my store into the children’s programming world, that my wonderful, talented, loyal staff will stay with me and are happy, my daughter’s health, happiness, and future, my parent’s not-so-great health and a ton of other things. But I have the greatest inspiration and drive to make what I can control a success – a wonderful, giggly, happy sweet baby girl.
I pray that the chance I took will show Annaleigh that taking a leap of faith can be not only one of the scariest challenges in the world, but also one of the most rewarding and fulfilling opportunities. I’m sure at some point I’ll regret showing my daughter by example to take HUGE chances like this, but in the meantime I just hope she has a fun, exciting life filled with toys, laughter, fun and, of course, hair.
Beehives & Buzzcuts is a children’s salon and retail store located directly across the street from the family-friendly Peter Cooper Village and Stuyvesant Town developments in NYC. This store is 100% dedicated to giving children a fun, interactive, exciting experience, whether they are getting their hair cut, having their nails painted, attending a class or having a party in our 500 square foot event space.