When I heard that my hair stylist friend, Danielle, had gotten her own room at Perfect 10 Salon in Fruitland Park, a space to call her own, a space to do a complete overhaul, I knew it was a big deal. It would be a big deal for her, for the salon, and for her clients. She pours herself into a project, and she’s got such a fun eclectic eye for design I think just about anyone could find something to love in what she was bound to make look amazing. From her start as just a senior in high school and over the last ten years she’s never hesitated to tackle her dreams head on. So, once she was done we sat down to document this cornerstone in her career; where she started, how she got there, and why she does what she does.
It’s always what I wanted to do, since I was a little girl. My mom used to find me in the bathroom dying my barbies’ hair with Kool-Aid. My only backup plan was to maybe be a school teacher but I knew I’d end up a stylist.
You went into beauty school very young, right? What was your motivation to go for it and start when you did?
Right! I started my senior year of high school. It felt like a big risk at the time. My mom encouraged me to start when I did because it was just her and I at home, we didn’t have a lot of money, and if I started in high school I could do it under the dual-enrollment program and attend the school for free. I missed a lot of the “senior year” stuff that my friends were doing but it turned out to be my absolute favorite year of school.
Is “beauty school” even the right term? I feel so out of touch, I keep singing “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease in my head!
Haha! I don’t know! I always call it “hair school” but I think beauty school is accurate. We’ll go with beauty school.
What was your least favorite and most favorite thing about beauty school?
Oh my! My least favorite thing was the book work. We didn’t get to go to school and just do pretty things. We first had to study laws and all the technical stuff before we started to do anything. My most favorite thing was that for the first time in my years in any school I felt like I was really great at something. I felt like, until then, I hadn’t found my thing that I was really great at, my friends always had some subject in school that they were great at, hair was my thing. I felt like a star student
Once you finished school you found yourself at a few different salons before you ended up at Perfect 10, were you struggling to find a place to fit in?
I did! Straight out of school I ended up at a salon in downtown Mount Dora. It was just an older lady and myself, it was such an awkward situation. It was such a small place and I spent most of the time pretty much just acting as her assistant but I learned a TON from her, she was a very experienced hairdresser. Next, I ended up at a big salon chain, I really enjoyed it there because I moved up in the salon really quickly. It was a place where I could really shine because they had so many people there. I became a master stylist there within the first six months. They kept rank of all their stylists and I kept the number one spot the entire three years I spent there.
That’s pretty impressive! How did you end up at Perfect 10?
Thank you! I was successful there but I knew I wanted more independence. My mom was a massage therapist at Perfect 10 at the time and she insisted it was the right fit for me. New owners had come to the salon shortly after and they just made this place like my favorite place to be, everyone here is just wonderful, I love it. It just feels like home to me.
What’s the greatest risk you’ve ever taken in your career?
Definitely leaving the chain salon. Because there, up until I left, I was commission based, so I had an hourly wage and a percentage of the work I did and I struggled over like 8 months to come to my decision to leave that security. I was pretty much stepping out to start on my own, I wasn’t sure if any of my clients would come with me, it was scary, I didn’t know if I’d be making any money to pay my bills. It ended up being the best decision I could have ever made.
Why did you want your own room at the salon? It seems like a lot of work you put into a space that Perfect 10 owns.
Yeah, I get asked that a lot! It was a ton of work. Really I’ve just always had a bigger vision for the work that I do. It’s always been about my clients and I want them to have an amazing experience. Not just coming to see me, sit in a chair, and have an average experience. I’ve always thought they deserved more than average. I want them to feel like they are escaping and treating themselves to something special.
What was your inspiration for the decor?
I definitely was going for an eclectic and artsy feel. Unusual. Like your grandma’s house, if you had a super chic cool grandma. I wanted it to be super comfortable for men too. I wanted to make sure I had a good balance of masculine & feminine details. Nothing too terribly girly.
So, how long did it take you to put your room here together?
Well, I was a slave driver.
Wait! If you were a slave driver who were your slaves?
HAHA, Alan (my husband) and Dale, the owner of the salon. We really worked ourselves hard. It took about two months but we only worked on it one day a week. Though, the other girls here at the salon used to laugh at me because in between clients I’d sneak back into my room and I’d be sitting on the floor with a dress on, make-up & hair all nice for work with a screw gun in my hand piecing things together. It was a lot of hard work and I was eager to see it come together!
So what are you favorite things about the room?
I love so much about it! But my favorite thing is the couch from Hobby Lobby! And also, I love the mouse door my daughter painted. Alan bought it for her on one of our several trips to Hobby Lobby and I came home one day and she had it all wrapped and taped up with tissue. I opened it up and she let me know it was for the mouse in my salon. (*There is no actual mouse in the salon.)
Do you think you love doing hair now as much you did when you started in 2003?
I do! Actually, I think I love it more! I mean, when I started there was so much uncertainty. I feel very sure of everything I do now. I get to go into everything feeling confident and at ease. When I first started doing hair I would stress myself out worrying when a client would want a big change. I know I don’t need to worry anymore!
Any advice for young girls thinking about becoming a hairstylist?
Start! Soak in as much as you can from other stylists who have experience. As much as I disliked being in that tiny little shop I started at I learned more from that woman than I ever did in school!
Check out more of Danielle & her salon at www.rhondaelm.com
Back a few months ago, after hours sitting at a children’s hospital & talking to a specialist trying to find the root of my son’s chronic cough, the nurse entered the sunny exam room and took a seat in front of us stating the doctor was wanting to see our son again in 3 months.
“How does March 13th sound?”
Already drained and overwhelmed by the ton of information the doctor had laid on our family and trying to absorb every word as she talked in depth about the six medications she was prescribing, I found myself utterly distracted. “What’s going on in March?…something is happening in March…Good grief! Why can’t I remember…”
Obviously frazzled I scrambled around to find my phone (I was VERY pregnant, everything I did appeared to be scrambling, don’t poke fun!). I texted my best friend.
“When are you guys leaving?”
The reality sunk in. Three months is no time at all.
Some time last spring my husband & I’s very closest friends traveled to Portland, Oregon and without much mention of it, we all knew where things were headed. In the end, they would fatefully come home and announce their plans to move 3000+ miles away.
In my teen years I moved from Florida to Costa Rica and back to Florida again, living as a family of six, to divorced parents, to just my mother & I, to just my sisters & I. It was interesting. Somewhere in that mess of a few years I formed some sort of post-traumatic stress social anxiety, on one visit to Florida late in that game of moving back and forth I found a church and at that church Melissa found me. She didn’t seem to notice how complicated I was and I tried my best to stick to what & who I knew so it wasn’t until my next and final arrival back in Florida that it registered with me that this was a person who wanted to be my friend. It turned out she was nice, funny, and interesting, so friends we became!
Over the next sixth months or so I would begin to spend far too much time at her house (sorry, Robert & Brenda!), begin to date my husband (a friend of hers since childhood), and eventually become so close to her, my boyfriend, and her boyfriend that we would joke about starting a commune. I know, we sound weird, but we really hung out together THAT much and we were all in our late teens (maybe Josh, Melissa’s future husband, was 20?) and we were trying to conjure up plans to move out of our parents’ homes. It was a joke, but it felt like it made a little sense. We never did act on the idea but fast forward five years when we were all married and shopping for homes at the same time the jokes started happening again, cause we were still hanging out THAT much.
Some time in all those years of commune jokes, Portland, Oregon got involved. I’ve no idea how. I remember one night Peter, Josh, and myself, on break from our jobs at a call center, sitting at McDonalds discussing the few facts about Portland we knew. Anyone reading this and not having ever visited Lake County may not know that it’s one of those small town areas where a lot of kids complain there’s nothing to do and how one day they’ll move away, so, there’s a point in the joking about moving away that you wonder introspectively if you’re serious. You talk about it so much you aren’t sure if you’re talking about it because that’s what you’ve always done or because you really want out. They really wanted out.
Over the last 11 years, there have been countless hours spent between the four of us. In a life that’s felt often times to be filled with enormous amounts of unnecessary drama, these friends of mine have always brought out any side of me that resembles a person of patience, rationality, and sensibility. I’m not capable of the eloquence it would require to put into words how inspired and encouraged I am by both Josh and Melissa. I think they know, the rest of you will just have to trust me when I say it’s a lot. A whole lot.
So, I sat there in that exam room three months ago and thought carefully. I like to think of myself as a strategic planner. (Really, I think I’m gosh awful smart) And I told her, unsure of what time my friends’ flight would be on March 13th, that I was busy that day. But the 14th would be perfect. The kids’ doctors are about an hour & a half drive from home and close enough to Disney that we make an extended weekend stay in Orlando when we have to go. Eventually we would end up figuring Josh & Melissa would be leaving before dawn and we would set more appointments for the 13th as well. My plan? My plan was to distract my head from processing that my best friends were gone, to keep myself absorbed in my own family, and to have my husband around in case he or I fell victim to our emotions. We’re both a little on the sensitive side. My plan worked like a charm.
And so, it’s done. Our friends moved across the country on March 13th. My kids survived another round of doctor appointments and we’re still a little achey from 5 days of walking around theme parks. Moving forward, Peter and I are really looking forward to the change. We’ve hung out with the Blount’s one weekday every week for nearly 7 years, sometimes under the guise of a Bible study or life group but for the last 3 years, just as friends who take a night to catch up, slow down, and grow together. One less night with friends is now one more night to just soak up our kids and try to get a little less caught up in the busy. We set the kids follow-up appointments for three months from now, which is June. That’s like no time. And no time plus one month is July. In July our family of five will be boarding a plane or two and making our way to our next family vacation in Portland, Oregon. Excited.
They didn’t move for no reason at all, by the way. It wasn’t without thought and consideration.
I never read much but just last week I had my nose in a book and read, “To say that geography is no longer our master isn’t to say that place isn’t important. Where we choose to live still has a huge impact on the work we do.”
Josh and Melissa, I can’t wait to hear about the work you do.
*No mention of Conor Blount seems wrong, he’s my kids’ bff and there are lots of wonderful things a person could say about him. We’ll miss him more than a little.