A hairdresser is a girls best friend. She’s someone who fixes you up and listens to your problems, all while making you feel like your best self. They’re super talented, extremely hardworking and very dedicated professionals. Like most, their professions and livelihoods were affected by the pandemic, forcing them to come up with creative ways so they could still cut and color people’s hair. This next girl boss is an extremely talented cosmetologist with years in the field who also just opened up her own salon in my hometown!
Meet Katie Shaw, owner of KT Hair Studio in Valatie, NY. She is not only known for being a talented hairdresser, but also for her wild and vibrant styles that she creates for her clients and herself. In fact she is so dedicated to her passion and profession that she decided to open up her own studio last year! So let’s learn more about Katie, how she made her passion into a career and how she’s a complete and total #GirlBoss.
Tell me more about YOU, the dedicated and hardworking Girl Boss behind the business.
I was born and raised in Valatie, NY and when I had the opportunity to bring my business to my hometown I couldn’t pass it up. I went to ICC and then to Columbia Green Community College where I got my fine arts degree after high school.
I always had an interest in doing hair, and when I couldn’t find a job with my new college degree I decided it was time for hair school. I went to Austin’s Beauty School in Albany, NY. Which was the oldest cosmetology school in NYS until it closed down a few years ago. I immediately loved it, and knew this was going to be a huge part of my life. The goal of most cosmetologists is to eventually get out on your own and open your own salon.
Outside of being in the salon, I enjoy spending time with my family. My husband JT who was my highschool sweetheart and biggest supporter in life! We have been together for 15 years now (literally half my life) and our beautiful 3 year old daughter Luna. I want my daughter to know no matter what obstacles life throws at you, to always keep reaching for your dreams! Anything is possible when your heart is in it! My salon will hopefully be a space she can enjoy for her future and being in our hometown she can get off the bus here or even have her first after school job someday! We love going to the beach or the mountains for our annual family trips, although this year was a little tough. JT is a tattoo artist and in 2018 his sister, coworker Liz and him decided to open up their own tattoo shop, Fawns Leap Tattoo in Catskill, NY. When I saw they had successfully done it I knew I could do it too! He always tells me to go for it, I couldn’t have done it all without him by my side. I also enjoy aerial yoga. It’s a way for me to relax, stretch and get a little workout in to keep me on my toes and have a little me time.
Tell us more about your business and how you became a Girl Boss.
Ever since being in cosmetology school I had a dream of opening my own hair salon. I ended up working at a salon that I had been going to for years prior. My hairstylist at the time, Tina Harp actually encouraged me to go to hair school when I wasn’t sure what direction I was going to go after college. I would always come in with crazy hair colors that I did myself at home. She would color my hair red, then I would color it brown to black and then I would show up for my next appointment and want blonde hair.
It was always so much fun getting my hair done and Tina inspired me. I always told her, “I’m going to work here with you someday.” And I did! We always joked about opening our own shop someday together. And look at us now!
When I was almost done with my hours at Cos school I asked the owner Jay Cozza of Mane Street Hair Styles in Hudson, NY if I could intern there. The school i went to didn’t require an internship but I couldn’t wait to get into a salon and start working. He allowed me to come in and style my mannequin or family and friends for a while until I got my official Cosmetology License. Once I did he ended up offering me a job which is where I started my career and worked as a stylist for 10 years!! I loved working there, my coworkers became friends and I ended up being my hairstylists, hairstylist haha! As time went on Hudson began to change a bit, it had started to be more of a touristy town which was great for Hudson and its fellow businesses and shops. But I realized it wasn’t the clientele I wanted for the rest of my future. I didn’t want to spend my days doing blowouts for clients who were only visiting for the day. I wanted to do people’s hair for 30 years. I wanted to do their kids’ hair, and their kids hair. I knew that this location might not be for me. I am very into color as well, I would say it’s my specialty. I love doing highlights, bleach outs, and of course vivid rainbow colors as well.
At the end of 2019 my grandfather (Pop) was very ill. He had owned his own mechanic shop for almost 60 years in the village of Nassau, until he got too ill to work anymore. We had talked about me opening my own shop someday and I thought well maybe someday…. January 4th, 2020 he passed away, and at his service a family friend of mine stayed with my family and told me about a space they had available for rent. I took it as a sign from my Pop and decided to go see the space. I ended up going with my gram in January 2020 and it just felt right. I decided to take it. I ended up asking my co worker and friend Tina if she would be interested in going with me. I knew opening a salon all by myself would be tough, and if she came with me it might make things a little less scary. She had actually been looking into reopening her uncle’s old barber shop in Kinderhook NY. Instead we decided to leave the salon that she had worked at for 31 years, and I had been at for 10 and ventured out on our own for a fresh new start! This all happened prior to us knowing that a full blown pandemic would be among us….
We ended up leaving Mane Street Hair Salon at the very end of February and we were under a lot of stress and pressure to get the new space up and running in time for our clients that we already had booked. The space was bare bones, we had to do everything from floor to ceiling, we put up a wall to make a back room and kitchen. We needed all the equipment, sinks, salon chairs and stations etc. We ended up having some great contractors who helped us get up and running quickly. One of our favorite things was our floor. We went with a poured concrete epoxy marble look which is probably the most complimented thing in the shop. So easy to clean up and just looks so great!
We ended up getting everything done in time to open on Thursday, March 19th 2020. Not knowing that NYS would shut down all salons 3 days later on Saturday March 21st. So we opened for literally 3 days…. It was heartbreaking to have to shut down and wait with no idea of when we could reopen. Our clients were so amazing! They followed us to our new space, and helped us out so much during the shut down by buying gift certificates, pre-paying for their services. And when we were allowed they would buy retail or color to apply themselves for curbside pickup.
We definitely got creative with ways to keep our clients engaged and in touch with us through the process. I tried to post hair tips on facebook and instagram to get people through some tough times. And I even did some facetime haircut tutorials for parents cutting their kids and husbands hair, or applying their own root color at home. We also had some extra time on our hands to totally finish up the decorating at the salon. We had our reception desk finished and installed. We also were able to take some classes on sanitation procedures for COVID-19 during our time off and get all necessary cleaning supplies, room dividers etc. We felt very prepared for when we were finally able to reopen on June 3, 2020. And its been great ever since reopening. We had our clientele follow us to our new space, and plenty of new clients from the area as well. People love the fresh new look that we have, and were excited to come check out the space. Everyone always says they love the look we created with our decor. We have a kind of modern shabby chic look. And went with neutral grey and white, with a pop of a mauve color with succulents and houseplants by our gorgeous big window, gives a very relaxing vibe. Which is what people want when they get their hair done. We can’t thank everyone enough for all their support and encouragement through a very difficult time!
What does it mean to you to be a #GIRLBOSS?
Being classified as a Girlboss is pretty exciting. It means you’re living your dream. You are your own boss and you don’t have to answer to anyone but you. Being a girlboss is an amazing confidence boost, it makes me feel unstoppable. Like if i can do this, then i can do anything! Which is pretty cool if you ask me!
What do you love most about running your own business and being a Girl Boss?
I love making people feel good about themselves! The soul purpose of my job is to help people feel pretty and to boost their confidence.
People walk in with hats on to cover up their hair, and when they leave they no longer need those hats! That feeling when they look at themselves and love what they see in the mirror is why I keep doing this. It’s why I work 6 days a week, 10 hour days sometimes. Because I LOVE what I do. I love the feeling I get, and what they get. And it’s amazing to be able to call this my job. I feel very lucky to be someone who wakes up and loves going to work everyday! It’s also awesome to not have to ask for time off, or if you’re done early you can go home, or go in late if you want. Or if someone cancels i can run out and get lunch, or my nails done or whatever i want! It’s pretty cool to be your own boss. You are calling all the shots, and at the end of the day you make the final decisions about every little thing! If you want to burn a candle, or diffuse essential oils, or if you want to paint a wall pink YOU CAN! If you want to cover everything in glitter, YOU CAN. HAHAH i didn’t do that, BUT I COULD IF I WANTED TO!
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in being a business owner?
Well COVID for sure, haha. But, that almost feels normal at this point unfortunately. When Tina and I were first making this plan our initial start up date wasn’t until May 2020. But unfortunately we had to leave the salon we were working at sooner than anticipated. So that rushed the process along quite a bit from a May timeline to a March timeline. Luckily we busted our butts there every day and night we had to get things ready in time. We were already booked solid with clients. So when we had to leave Mane Street, we needed to be ready at our new space to take those clients for their pre-booked appointments. We painted, installed cabinets, cleaned, set up furniture.
Pretty much everything we could to get things ready to go. Then covid happened, shutting us down for almost 3 months. So we also used that time to get things done that we didn’t have time for. From hanging hooks up, to installing our washer and dryer. To finishing touches on paint, we used our time to our full advantage and got stuff done! We had to lower our capacity at the salon when we reopened to 50% which worked out wonderfully since it was only Tina and myself working there. So we really didn’t have to change anything too drastically. We installed vinyl barriers between our 3 stations so people would always feel safe.
We do have a 3rd station available for the right person down the road once things settle down a bit with covid. As far as difficult clients, of course we have had our fair share. Sometimes people just don’t match up. Sometimes our vibes and ideas are just different and that’s ok! There are so many talented stylists in our County. I always encourage people who aren’t happy to try another stylist because my goal is for everyone to be happy with their hair. And if they’re not happy with me as their stylist then neither am I. But for the most part people have been great.
It’s so crazy to me when people call and I tell them we’re booked out 3-4 months and they’re ok with that and schedule something anyways. It’s so awesome to see the support from new clients calling everyday and being so happy to hear we’re booked up and so busy. Its also definitely more work to have your own shop. There is alot that goes on behind the scenes. Inventory of color and supplies, we go through alot of color so staying on top of all of that has been a challenge but having the two of us work together has made things much easier.
Is there a moment during your career that stands out to you and validates your decision to become a Girl Boss?
For my career I would say Tina Harp definitely gave me the encouragement to go after my dream of becoming a hairstylist. Without her, who knows if i would have gone through with cosmetology school. Tina and some of my fellow stylists at Mane Street, helped teach me how to thrive as a hairstylist. For that I am forever grateful. Then the whole story about my Pop. That was really my waking moment to going out on my own to open a salon.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, exactly when it’s supposed to. And that really was true for me. Then when Tina decided to come with me, it just made the decision feel even more right. Even though people felt so bad for us having just opened a salon literally during a pandemic. It was OKAY, we made it! But I couldn’t have done any of it without Tina. It is truly OUR salon together! She is more than just a coworker or fellow GIRLBOSS, she is a real genuine friend. I wouldn’t be the person I am, as successful as I am today without her.
What advice would you give to aspiring Girl Bosses?
Advice you’d give to anyone who came to you about how they can get into your industry, start their own business, etc. Advice I would give to anyone dreaming of being their own boss someday is to just follow your dreams. Do your research, and ask all the questions! I also ended up getting alot of information from the Columbia County Chamber of commerce, who led me to The Columbia County Economic Development Corporation. They set me up with someone to help me write up my business plan, get a loan and also helped get me a grant for my business while we were shut down during the initial quarantine.
I would also say, make sure you have a support system. Opening any business is HARD, it is stressful and it makes things 100% easier to have people who stand by your side and are there to help. My family and friends, and especially Tina helped so much that I wouldn’t have been able to do it without them. The whole process can be trying, and exhausting but you just have to focus on the light at the end of the tunnel. Someday all your hard work will pay off and you’ll get to be your very own boss. Which is the best feeling in the entire world!