We had the honor of interviewing a South Florida rising star. Jennifer Gant has mastered the art of turning her clients into supermodels by morphing their head into a work of art. Her company, Kindred Knapz is based out of Pembroke Pines, FL and draws in people from all over. Some out-of-state clients fly in for an appointment multiple times a year.
Jennifer Gant was born at the then-named North Shore Hospital in Miami, Florida, and was raised in Liberty City. She views herself as a hard worker, very independent, ambitious, and goal-oriented person. Jen as she is affectionately called by many grew up as an only child on her mother’s side which she believes led to the development of her loner mentality and introverted personality. She grew up around much older individuals which caused her to mature mentally at a faster pace in comparison to her peers. Which made her not interested in the things they were interested in. She was kicked out of her mother’s home at 15 years old and started working multiple jobs while attending high school more specifically up to the beginning of her 12th-grade year. This experience and growing up with a mother, cousins, and aunts who were all workaholics conditioned her to seek independence and work multiple jobs, emulating the examples she was shown. Over time she realized that being a workaholic was a fallacy and she needs to create a balance between work and life as she found herself neglecting friends and family. Shortly after this first epiphany, she had a second enlightenment where she realized that she has a challenge with authority and working for someone else is not her forte. She started working for herself but with a family member so she could intern and learn the intricacies and complexities of business ownership. She still struggles with being introverted but being social with her clients helps her to become more communicative.
Jenn studied psychology in college and finds herself pulling from that knowledge bank every day with her clients. Her clients are from different walks of life with different backgrounds and cultural foundations. She considers the hairstyling experience at her salon as a therapy session for both her and her clients. While doing their hair the clients tend to share issues they are grappling with in their lives. Most have been her client for at least a year and have developed that type of rapport to converse about personal issues from marriage to adult children challenges. Jen boasts about her memory rivaling that of an elephant where she can recall the clients’ conversation during that last appointment and can follow up with the client on the outcome of that situation. Several clients have told her that they feel much better after talking things out with her during their appointment. For Jen, it helps because it forces her to communicate with the clients and it makes the experiences smoother as the time flows by seemingly faster. She feels that the salon experience is more than just about hair, it is a life-changing experience for her and the client based on the rapport she builds with them. The conversations and opportunity to interact with people from all walks of life creates a sense of community for Jen.
When Jen was asked about a negative experience as a salon owner she laughed as she had not experienced that for the several years she was in business until recently. She had a client that was dissatisfied with the outcome of the service, several days after the completion of service. She strives to be as fair as possible with everyone, so she bent over backward offering the client multiple solutions, accommodated their work schedule, offered to go to the client’s residence to rectify the matter. The client kept rejecting the various solutions and ultimately stop communicating with Jen after she offered to go to the residence to fix the matter. Days later, the client threatened Jen with a lawsuit, but she was unbothered as she maintains having business liability insurance and a business attorney on retainer. She did not take the issue personally as it just revealed to her that she is doing the right thing by investing in these protections for her business.
Jen stated that the ideal client is one that effectively communicates about what service and style they desire. This allows for everyone to be clear at the onset about what is to be expected. One of the most exciting experiences Jen has had as a stylist is being contacted by random celebrities local and in other states, to get their hair styled after seeing one of her client’s hair. She has been able to meet and connect with football players and performing artists through these interactions and it has been exciting each time.
Jen’s biggest challenge as an entrepreneur is with documentation and paperwork; the legalities surrounding running a business; understanding, building, and leveraging business credit; and investing in the business. Being able to stay informed about the various changes of running a natural hair business in Florida has also been challenging as there have been multiple changes in requirements over the past decade. Covid has also posed the challenge of learning and staying abreast of the latest protocols of running a salon during the pandemic. It can be daunting as it is a lot to keep up with, so it is important to invest in a capable business consultant.
Jen admonishes any aspiring natural hair salon owner to do lots of research and ask questions from others in the business. There are many variations of the business as it is not a typical course taught in cosmetology school or business school. The business also has many nuances that exist from salon to salon, so there is no clear or set way to run the business. Therefore, you need to get a good cross-section of similar businesses to research and learn their best practices. Find a mentor in the business and if you are unsure always ask questions before moving forward. “Never consider yourself a master of something that is ever-evolving,” Jen says as the key advice given to new hair care entrepreneurs. There will always be new rules, new styles, new innovative techniques, so there is no real way to master it. Hair is very versatile and you will have to be a life-long learner to survive in this industry.
In reflection, Jen feels like the major mistake she made in business was that she started off lowballing her services out of a lack of confidence in her craft and potential. When she realized her talent and abilities were worth full price and made them full price, her clientele changed. She lost clients but feels that she never lost a client she was supposed to have. She does admit that it severed many relationships that were built over many years as the clients did not want to grow with her and stopped booking.
Jen’s three-year goal for her business is to have a store-front location where she can sell and make her brand of hair and skincare products from the same location. In five years she hopes to be able to wholesale her products and have them distributed in several beauty supply stores. Her seven-year goal is to completely retire from doing anything ‘behind the chair’, only sell her products and travel the world.
Note: A fun fact about Jen is that she loves archery, crossbows, and guns. It is her favorite pastime and stress reliever.
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