A Laid-off Autoworker Starts Her Own Hair Salon

January 12th, 2010
Helen Shaw is the owner and operator of the new salon "Model Behavior"

After ten years working for an auto supply company, Helen Shaw lost her job in 2005. She then lost her home on Detroit’s east side after her unemployment ran out.

“I thought I was going to work at the factory until I retired,” Helen said. “But suddenly, I had to start over.”

Helen, 34, decided to attend cosmetology school. Helen’s mother is a hair stylist and Helen always had an interest in becoming one herself.

Helen secured financial aid from the school and attended classes in the evening. During the day, she worked at various part-time jobs to support her two children. One of those jobs was as a commissary clerk at the county jail, selling food to inmates.

After she graduated last August, Helen went to work in a Detroit salon, where she rented a bay. She dreamt of owning her own business.

“I wanted to work for myself,” she said. “I know I have the talent and the will, but I really had to sacrifice and save to start up my business.”

Helen recently signed a lease to rent commercial space in southwest Detroit. The space, at 8740 West Vernor Highway, is owned and managed by Southwest Housing Solutions, which is offering two months free rent on new commercial leases. Helen is investing the $3,000 she saved to convert the space to suit her business.

“The rent is less than what I was paying to rent a bay at the salon where I was working,” said Helen. “So I know I can afford it, though I am still doing a lot of praying that my dream will come true.”

Helen has about 30 clients who are very loyal and will follow her to her new location. She is calling her salon “Model Behavior.” The salon is scheduled to open next month.

A friend whom Helen met in cosmetology school will also be working as a stylist in the salon. Helen’s two children will help out after school, answering phones, shampooing, and cleaning up.

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