On an almost weekly basis, I'll receive a text/email/DM/Facebook message asking for my opinion or recommendation on Toronto salons. The hair business is a sensitive one - clients want to go where they know they'll get the best service and treatment for their hard-earned money, and the majority of stylists I chat with don't take that lightly.
Back in the spring/summer of 2012, I started hearing from stylists at other Toronto salons that there was about to be a new kid on the block. They didn't tell me with jealousy or competition in their voices - instead, it seemed like they were trying to give me the scoop on the low. I had held the assumption that the salon industry was cut-throat, yet here were stylists telling me to look out for a new natural/curly hair specialty salon that would likely be able to take care of me and my hair without breaking the bank. Finally, I heard that Curl Bar Beauty Salon was open for business - and the rest is pretty much history.
This downtown Toronto salon is multi-service (as noted by their extensive service list), but specializes in caring for all kinds of curly hair. I recently had the honour of interviewing Trudie Mulalu, Curl Bar's owner, and will share part 1 with you today! Read on to get to know Trudie and Curl Bar a little bit better...
Welcome to '83 To Infinity! Tell our readers 3 randomly interesting things about yourself.
1. I am an entrepreneurial mother and have mastered the delicate balance of running a business, having a profession and managing my family.
2. I am patient, calm, personable, and accommodating;
3. I am a basketball and soccer mom and a die hard Liverpool Soccer club fan:)
I have been natural for eight years but previously had weaves followed by wigs in order to transition back to my natural hair.
How did you get started in the profession of hairstyling? What are your biggest joys and struggles with the job?
My sisters had a hair salon in Zambia - I used to help out and enjoyed the salon ambiance and meeting all kinds of people. I opened my first salon (in the same location- 33A Sherbourne Street) as a business before I became a hairstylist. Watching the stylists at work, I developed a curiosity and wanted to learn about the science of hair. I subsequently did the training in order to enhance my understanding of the technical side of the science of hair. With this understanding came a greater respect for the styling process and its challenges and rewards and I found myself thoroughly enjoying being a stylist.
My biggest joy is being able to connect with my clients beyond servicing their hair needs. Each and everyone of them is unique and special and spending time with them always offers new, enlightening and fresh perspectives on the joys and difficulties of life in general. Before becoming a stylist I underestimated the importance and meaning of hair to people and my experience has taught me to respect the fact that hair is an integral part of their identity and is intrinsically linked to their self-esteem. The service has to be parallel to this and be the best possible every single time. This is the on-going struggle. To stay current and relevant with not only new and improved processes but also with ever evolving trends. Finding the time to stay on top of all this is a challenge and a struggle but it is always a great investment in the services we offer and ultimately and most importantly, it is a value-added service for all our clients.
Both you and Karlene (Curl Bar's head stylists) have trained at Lorraine Massey's Devachan Academy in New York. Curl Bar is a Deva Inspired Salon. What does that mean?
Curl Bar is a Deva Inspired Salon, meaning that we are teaching people how to love and embrace their natural curls/hair by teaching them how to care for it. With a greater understanding comes greater appreciation and love for one's hair and oneself. That is why our motto is "It's not just about the hair but the experience!"
You've owned salons in both Toronto and Halifax, Nova Scotia - tell us a bit about your business journey, and how the two cities compared to each other.
I previously co-owned Mico's Hair Design operating out of two locations - 33A Sherbourne St and 645 King Street West. I sold the businesses when we temporarily relocated to Nova Scotia for my husband to pursue his post-graduate studies in architecture at Dalhousie University. Halifax was a very good market as there were only two salons servicing the multicultural community and mine was one of the two.
Toronto is a lot bigger, busy, flat, and more multicultural, Halifax is smaller, intimate with a beautiful landscapes and the people are super friendly and always willing to help.
Toronto is bigger in terms of demographics but other than that, from a business/stylist standpoint, customers have the same hair needs.
What made you want to own your own salon? What advice would you offer other budding entrepreneurs?
Being a mother I wanted to have more flexibility with my time. The advice I would offer to other budding entrepreneurs is what is generally known but rarely practiced - do what you love! If you are that invested in it, the countless hours invested in making it a viable and sustainable business will be well worth it. It's not easy but perseverence and hard work have their own rewards.
Objectives: To provide a nurturing and professional environment where services are provided in a timely manner using an education-based system of empowering clients to be able to maintain their hair at home.
Difference from other salons:
- We care greatly about what we do and treat every customer like they are our only customer.
- We are not only providing excellent professional service in a timely manner but are committed to building long lasting relationships.
- We strive to impart valuable specific hair maintenance information to our clients to help them manage their hair in between salon visits - and we make ourselves available for post-visit consultations by telephone, email or better still, drop-ins.
What has the response been from your customers? Do you find that more women are embracing their kinks and curls?
I am grateful that the response has been good and very encouraging. More women are certainly embracing their kinks and curls. There really is a curl-volution happening!
What are the top three hair concerns that naturally curly girls come to you with? What advice can you offer?
The three top concerns are:
a) dryness and frizz
b) not knowing the right products to use and how to use them
c) Shrinkage/lack of length
My advice to them would be as follows:
a) Developing and following a moisturizing regiment using the right products for your hair type and needs. Sticking to it will eventually balance the moisture level in the hair and get rid of the dryness and frizz. It starts with the right cleanser, followed by a leave-in conditioner and some pure penetrating oil and then a styler to seal the moisture in and hold the curl.
b) It is worth it to invest the time to go to a professional for a consultation as to what works best for your SPECIFIC hair needs. A person may have different curl patterns on one head that need to be addressed separately.
c) Shrinkage (sigh) It is what it is, one just has to accept this and work with it. You can only stretch your curls/coils so much. Accept and work with what you have.