Today we’d like to introduce you to Gina Hayes.
Hi Gina, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself
I have always loved fashion and beauty. I thought a boutique would be the way to go after graduation. Once I graduated from Kansas State, I worked a few years in retail. During that time I felt I was ready to spread my wings and leave my hometown. I decided to move to Kansas City. Five years later I had gotten married, had two children and was raising them as a single parent. I chose to settle down in Lee’s Summit, Missouri. My children received an excellent education in the RVII school district. We became members of New Generation Christian Center, also located in Lee’s Summit.
The past 20 plus years, I have worked for a major manufacturing company. At different times I worked three jobs, many job titles and many long hours. I finally landed in the Quality Assurance Department.
During this time, I would travel to a different city to purchase African American hair care products. African American products were not available in Lee’s Summit, at that time.
Fast forward 20 years. The company I work for decided to close its doors in 2020. I was given the choice to transfer to a different location, retire or terminate my employment. I chose to transfer.
As I prepared for the interview process, I needed to purchase hair care products for my natural hair. I again traveled to a nearby city and that experience was my turning point. That experience left me feeling embarrassed. I was treated with disrespect and the mistake was no fault of my own. When I left the store, I thought to myself that I am tired of this. I have a business degree, customer service experience and I will treat people with respect. I decided then to open my own store in my neighborhood.
About a week later. I discussed it with my young adults. I made that leap of faith with their help. For us, Lee’s Summit has been a welcoming community; so what better city to open our beauty supply store in.
We all face challenges, but looking back would you describe it as a relatively smooth road?
It has been anything but a smooth road. At times I laugh just to keep from crying. Sometimes I do both at the same time. From the start, making sure all of the paperwork is submitted to the right agency is an uphill battle. The backlog due to the pandemic is mind-boggling.
We are a small business and working with suppliers have also been a challenge. Their cost per shipment is generally more than we can afford. We have to constantly negotiate and or find other means to acquire the inventory we need. The last supplier we wanted to work with informed us, that a minimum purchase order of $10,000.00 was required. There is no way my small business can afford that.
It is also a struggle to get the word out that we are in Lee’s Summit and open for business. We are on Facebook and Instagram. I invested in radio advertising. I had hired a digital media firm for help. I have had customers come in and say, “I didn’t know you were here.”
At this time our advertising budget is limited. We will continue to try and find the right combination that works best for us.
With that being said, funding, funding, and funding. Studio VII opened its doors the day the pandemic shut down the city and promptly closed them again, shifting to an online store model. The constant changing of mask or no mask has proven to be another challenge. We want to do our part in keeping our customers and employees healthy. The various mandates as well as the comfort level of our customers, impacts our sales. Our inventory has also been impacted due to shipping constraints and product that is no longer available.
As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?
I have worked for the same company for over twenty years. I was hired on as a forklift driver. I worked 12 hour shifts and rotated days to nights. After a couple of years, I advanced to a team leader position. Then finally a department coordinator. After a year in that position, I was told that the warehouse department would be contracted out. I had to start all over in another department. I started the climb again, as a production line operator and advanced my way to the microbiology laboratory. The company has been solid and supportive through it all. I am thankful for the opportunity to reach the level that I have.
All of those experiences have given me the determination and steadfastness to keep pushing to make Studio VII a success. Hard work is just the beginning.
The opening of Studio VII Hair and Style has helped me to realize how capable my children, Sierra(now known as Airen) and Thomas Hawkins are. I was living in West Virginia and they were putting in place the foundation of the store. From construction to social media, management to community service their commitment to success is as strong as mine. I am proud of their professionalism. And most of all I am thankful that they believe in me and are willing to give their support and encouragement.
What sets us apart from other beauty supply stores is our customer service. We are inclusive and strive to make our customers feel welcome, no matter the sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or financial status. We started a paid internship program to invest in our younger generation. Our store vibe is classy and upbeat. We make sure when our customers leave that their needs have been addressed, From setting up a consultation for a new hair color they want to try or ordering their favorite product for our shelves, so they don’t have to travel to another city to find it.
We provide product as well as services. We are a full service business for everyone.
Have you learned any interesting or important lessons due to the Covid-19 Crisis?
The main lesson that I have learned during this Covid-19 crisis is to always make sure that I am doing what I can for the health of my customers and employees. They are my family and my community and I care about them. Someone I was close to passed from covid complications. For me, a business, I can start again but a loved one gone from my life is not worth the risk.
Another lesson that I have learned is to stay flexible. It is extremely important to be able to adjust to change and be creative.
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Website: www.sviikc.shop
- Instagram: StudioVII Hair & Style
- Facebook: StudioVII Hair & Style