Today we’d like to introduce you to Alyssa Housh.
So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I went to Cosmetology school directly after high school. I knew then I wanted to own a salon, but I received advice to get a business degree first.
After a year or two of working behind the chair full-time, I started at a community college to pursue a business degree. While taking prerequisite courses, I started to notice the challenges my manager at the salon was dealing with on a daily basis. Hairdressers are artists and therefore can sometimes be difficult to manage. I began to question how much I wanted that role. Ultimately, I decided I didn’t, or at least, not at that time.
All of the sudden I felt stuck. I knew I wanted to finish college, but I wasn’t sure what degree I wanted or what I would do with it. Then, I took an environmental science course. My mind was blown! What are we doing to our planet!?!, was all I could think! I didn’t know what I would do with this degree, but I knew it was the only thing I wanted to study. I was accepted to an amazing Environmental Studies program at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. I continued to work behind the chair, and I continued to love so many aspects of the industry. However, the majority of traditional practices made me sick at my stomach, such as: the toxification of our water system, the enormous amount of waste and single-use items utilized in our industry, and, of course, the health effects on beauty professionals and our clients. Ethically, I felt debilitated.
Soon, I found myself hanging my head anytime someone asked me what I did for a living. There I was, a 27-year-old women, a homeowner of 5 years, a self-reliant college student, a creative-business person, and a socially adept person who had already spent eight years in the industry I loved, and I was ashamed to tell anyone what had brought me so much success. I could not wait to graduate, leave the industry, and move to the correct side of what I saw as a clear dividing line. To be fair to myself, in 2009, there was a pretty harsh line between the beauty industry and environmental sustainability.
After graduation, I spent a few months simply working behind the chair while I looked for a job in the environmental industry. In that time, I realized I still loved what I did as a hairdresser. I was able to be creative while building a deep and lasting relationship with people. I had a holistic gage on society and a deeper understanding of my community. Additionally, I had flexibility in my schedule, freedom to make my own rules, and so much more. Honestly, in so many ways, I was literally living my dream. Except, it now conflicted with my ethics. I spent many hours running and gardening while battling this internal debate as to what to do with my career. In the end, I decided I could leave the industry and nothing would change. I could walk away from my clients, and they would go to another hairdresser using equally (if not more) toxic chemicals and following the same wasteful practices – nothing would change. The beauty industry is a multi-billion-dollar global industry that was not going to be impacted by me leaving. But, if I stayed and tried to make it better, tried to do things as low-tox and sustainable as possible, I just might make a difference. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since. I have to add here, that I did get a job with my degree, working for one of the most efficient and amazing environmental nonprofits, Green Works in Kansas City. The founder and E.D. is one of the most amazing women I have ever met. She is still a good friend and mentor to me. I love her and that organization dearly. I know I would not be where I am today if I had never worked for Kate Corwin. I learned so much from her about how to run a business. There is no way I would be where I am today without her.
Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Oh, hell no! But, smooth roads have always bored me. Personally, there is no better feeling than overcoming a challenge and looking back at the growth experienced during the process.
Most of my biggest challenges have come from within. In my younger years, I struggled with self-confidence. This industry is tough if you struggle with self-esteem. Every new client can make or break your self-confidence.
As I became more confident in my craft, I struggled with trusting my intuition & the process of my journey. There was a long period that I didn’t think my passions could merge into one career. In hindsight, it seems silly that I doubted the possibility of such a niche considering that there is an organic beauty, low-tox, and clean-air salon movement on the rise. But, I had established internal limitations. My education was almost too effective in this case. I only saw toxic and unsustainable, or nontoxic and sustainable. Any middle ground felt like a farce. I now realize the only way to move to nontoxic is through low-toxic; the only way to move to sustainable is more sustainable. It’s not perfect, but it’s progress. I have also learned to trust I will end up exactly where I am supposed to be. My mentors often remind me to enjoy the journey and stop trying to figure out the how, when, and why of everything. There are a million paths we can’t see when we are trying to follow a pre-drawn map.
The best advice I can give to other women – especially young creatives:
1. Own your mistakes and learn from them.
2. Surround yourself with women that inspire you. Ask them questions about their journey and listen to their advice. Keep what serves you and don’t feel bad letting go of the rest.
3. Be curious. Never stop learning. If something continues to intrigue and excite you, it is most certainly going to be part of your journey. You don’t need to know how; just know you need to stick with it.
4. For young entrepreneurs, get a mentor (more like 2 or 3) & utilize Denver’s Small Business Development Center. It is such and incredible resource!
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about The Organic Salon Denver – what should we know?
We specialize in organic, low-toxic and non-toxic hair coloring services, as well as, lived-in, effortless haircuts. We are best known for providing high-quality services from highly trained professionals while reducing our environmental impact. We are truly a sustainable salon.
But, what really sets us apart, and I’m most proud of, is our triple bottom line approach to running a business. Profit is not the only bottom line we care about. The environmental and social bottom lines are just as important. Examples of the environmental bottom line include; reducing our environmental impact through waste reduction, recycling and up-cycling. Examples of the social bottom line include; our commitment to paying employees living wages & providing education to help them grow in their career. There are so many more amazing things in the works, but I can’t detail those because they are not official yet.
Which women have inspired you in your life?
“Growing up, I was always inspired by Lucile Ball and Amelia Earhart. But, my grandma is by far the most inspiring woman in my life. I just realized, my soul might be that of an 80-something year old woman!
Lucy was obviously a talented comedian, but she was also fearless. A woman would have to be fearless to become the queen of comedy in the 1950s! Amelia was also a pioneer for women and the aviation industry. I think that’s what I liked about both of them, they did what they loved regardless of the social norms of the time. And, they did it just as well, if not better, than anyone else in their field. They didn’t talk about liberating women, they just started clearing the path.
However, my 94-year-old grandma, Barbara Ashworth, continues to inspire me. She is still making quilts, teaching others to sew, beating our entire family at poker, and, in her limited downtime, playing Sudoku – you know, to keep her brain shape. She is probably the most amazing women I know. Which says A LOT because my life is filled with amazing, inspiring women! My grandma’s desire to learn and grow has never diminished. She continues to be loving and open-minded human. As the world changes, she adapts and accepts. I hope I never stop learning and growing, just like her.”
- Address: 403 16th Street
Denver, Colorado 80202
- Website: www.theorganicsalondenver.com
- Phone: 7208155701
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Instagram: @the_organic_salon_denver
- Facebook: @theorganicsalondenver
All photos taken by staff at The Organic Salon Denver