Dawn Kehoe of Salon 527 On Becoming Free From The Fear Of Failure

An Interview With Savio P. Clemente

Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine
11 min readApr 30, 2023

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Step out of your comfort zone! It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. There are so many opportunities for growth (and even some unexpected surprises) along the way. Sure some things will work better than others, but in the end it’s all ultimately an experience to help you learn what’s working best for you!

The Fear of Failure is one of the most common restraints that holds people back from pursuing great ideas. Imagine if we could become totally free from the fear of failure. Imagine what we could then manifest and create. In this interview series, we are talking to leaders who can share stories and insights from their experience about “Becoming Free From the Fear of Failure.” As a part of this series, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Dawn Kehoe.

New Jersey native, Dawn Kehoe has been working with hair artistry for 40 years and has been the owner of Salon 527 located in Old Bridge, New Jersey for 26 years. Dawn’s passion for creativity and making people FEEL beautiful inside and out has blossomed in her work as a stylist, colorist and entrepreneur. Through her unique career path, Dawn Kehoe has been able to develop relationships and connect with people that have made her clients and staff into family.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

Hi! Thank you so much for featuring me! My name is Dawn Kehoe. I am a mother, a wife and a business owner of a local New Jersey based hair salon with incredibly large dreams. I was born to two incredible parents. My mom was blind, and my dad had a heart condition. I lived in an apartment building in Jersey City with my parents who were superintendents. When I was 13, my dad suddenly passed away at the age of 42. My mother was left with three children to raise on her own and maintain her job as a superintendent to keep a roof over our heads. We worked hard as a family together to take care of our large apartment building. I truly believe my background and experience through being exposed to this circumstance has made me the person that I am today. It’s provided me with the mindset to work hard and never give up.

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

The most interesting story in my career actually begins at the very start of my career! I was a senior in high school and didn’t have any idea what I wanted to do for my future. My guidance counselor sat me down and asked me what I’d like to do and what my interests were. I told her I like to do hair, remembering all my girlfriends would turn to me for a hair fix or style. And within a week she had me in half a day of high school and half a day of beauty school -Never knowing that I would become a salon owner for 25 years! My biggest takeaway was that if you believe in yourself and prevail, you can do anything! Success can stem from your passion so it’s okay, and in fact I encourage everyone to explore that!

You are a successful leader. Which three-character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

As a successful leader, my three-character traits are passionate, resilient, and accountable.

My passion is to make people feel special and beautiful. Being an owner of a hair salon is one of the greatest careers in the world. We love incorporating special features, promotions, and giveaways to remind our clients that they are beautiful and that we appreciate them! I want every client to step into my salon, Salon 527, and feel embraced and empowered from the second they sit in our chairs.

Failure is important to grow, we all fail, we feel it, dust ourselves off, get back up and try again. I think my resilience through difficult situations, whether it is a stressful situation at work or something we go through in our personal lives, is always what is guiding me through it all.

Accountability is very important to me on a personal and business level. I always want to grow, learn, and improve, and remaining accountable for my achievements as well as my mistakes are just as important!

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the concept of becoming free from failure. Let’s zoom in a bit. From your experience, why exactly are people so afraid of failure? Why is failure so frightening to us?

In my experience, I think people are afraid of failure because of shame, embarrassment, sadness, and disappointment. There is an overwhelming amount of emotions we can think of pertaining to failure, and many times we feel if we fail, there is no coming back or recovering from that. However, if we change our perspective, we learn that failure is just an opportunity!

What are the downsides of being afraid of failure? How can it limit people?

In my opinion, the downside of being afraid of failure is holding yourself back. As a business owner, I have been recognizing how fear plays a role in holding myself back and now, I’m trying new things, taking risks and growing. Though failure may slow us down and prevent us from achieving what our dreams and goals may be, we must keep pushing and cast away fears of “what if”. Remaining present is key and is what helps me when I try new methods and business models!

In contrast, can you help articulate a few ways how becoming free from the free of failure can help improve our lives?

Everything that can be seen as failure can also be seen as an opportunity to grow. It is imperative to do so not just as a business owner or boss, but for yourself personally! Growth is usually right around the corner when we experience a letdown. Instead of pulling from our fears, we can motivate ourselves with the understanding that there we can only go up from here! Learning from our mistakes is key, and if we do that in any situation where we experience a setback, it will never be a failure.

We would love to hear your story about your experience dealing with failure. Would you be able to share a story about that with us?

Through any ups and downs, I have never really felt like these experiences were failures. Fundamentally, I have acknowledged difficult periods in my life, however I also recognize that every single one of these periods were lessons that helped me grow!

The pandemic was a difficult, unexpected and an uncertain time in everyone’s lives. There was no “correct” way to prepare and many of us found ourselves experimenting new methods to implement into our personal and professional lives. Our main concern as a business was the mental health of our clients. Social distancing was tough enough on our mental health by being isolated, but there was also the factor of how amazing you feel after stepping out of a salon. That boost of confidence after getting your hair done was no longer there for a while, and we wanted our clients to still feel confident and beautiful. This period was difficult and definitely required some brainstorming to figure out how to do what we did best — make our clients feel incredible inside and out!

How did you rebound and recover after that? What did you learn from this whole episode? What advice would you give to others based on that story?

Salon 527’s foundation is built on the message that we want everyone to feel beautiful, authentic and the best versions of themselves! The pandemic required us to do some quick thinking on how to care for and provide for our clients from afar through social distancing. My staff and I created a color tree — we made individual color kits for our clients as a little self-care package. Our clients would then come to the salon and pick up their color kits from the porch and do their hair at home with the step-by-step kit we crafted!

Looking back, this process helped me and the entire team to learn so much. We learned how to adapt on our feet, and channel our creativity to be there for our clients in new territory. For me, it taught me as a business owner just how devoted my staff is and how much they care about their clients. It also reinforced the idea that hard work pays off, as we received such positive feedback and support from our clients who responded how much the color kits made a difference for their self-confidence!

My advice to others would be to keep it moving and never give up! An inconvenience in your environment should not tear you down. Instead, use it as motivation to create something even more successful! No unfortunate situation in your life should be taken as a failure, but rather as an important lesson or knowledge that you gained moving forward! You’ve got this!

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that everyone can take to become free from the fear of failure”? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. Train yourself to be successful. Surround yourself with people of the same mindset who want to grow. You are who you surround yourself with and in business this is so true! Being around like-minded business owners who are always ready to grow and take things to the next level is so motivating and inspiring to be around. I’m grateful to have staff that are willing to take the ride and grow their skillset. Making sure everyone on your team has the same vision is imperative!

2. Know that feelings are not facts. They’re just emotions. Separating your emotions from logic is integral when making decisions for your business. Even when we are feeling overwhelmed, disappointed or experiencing any negativity towards ourselves, we cannot hold onto these emotions! Keep going and keep striving to be better!3 Don’t take it personal. Many times, our minds play the role of the strongest antagonist in our stories. Free yourself from holding on to fallouts or disagreements and look at them only as learning experiences placed along our journey for growth!

3. If you fall down, get back up. It can be nerve racking to begin again after a setback but remembering that they are all part of our unique process makes it easier! We need to experience bumps in the road to get back up and succeed!5 Hold yourself accountable and stay on track. An important part of freeing yourself from failure is having a plan and sticking to it. Don’t make excuses for yourself and follow your path!

4. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box! Just because everyone in your field or close to you is doing something a certain way, doesn’t mean you can’t try something new! Don’t be afraid to be the first one to make a change. That’s how some of the greatest movements, leaders and practices are born! Especially in scenarios where you feel stagnant or are looking for change, reach out to other professionals who have a different perspective! You can learn something from everyone!

5. Step out of your comfort zone! It’s called a comfort zone for a reason. There are so many opportunities for growth (and even some unexpected surprises) along the way. Sure some things will work better than others, but in the end it’s all ultimately an experience to help you learn what’s working best for you!

The famous Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, “It is possible to fail in many ways…while to succeed is possible only in one way.” Based on your experience, have you found this quote to be true? What do you think Aristotle really meant?

I think this is true. I believe Aristotle meant that we could hit unexpected bumps and fail many times along our path to success, however, to succeed we know one thing for certain. Success won’t come easy and breezy, we will have to face hardships, unfamiliarity or uncomfortable situations. But in the end, as long as we keep going and shift our perspective from looking at each bump as end-all-be-all to a chance to learn something new, we will find freedom and success!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I built Salon 527 with a group of my closest partners understanding that everyone should feel beautiful and comfortable from within. We want beauty to radiate from the inside out, and our job is to make our customers, who have become family, feel special!

There is a huge mental health crisis within young people as well and women AND men in every generation. One issue I would want to make a difference in the world for would be reminding everyone that they should feel special and emphasize how important it is to feel good about yourself. We’re in this together, we all have our moments where we don’t feel our best, but as a contributing member of my community, I’d like to do my part and remind everyone I cross paths with that they are so special!

We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)

There are so many inspirational forces in my life. I’ve had the pleasure to have worked alongside many inspiring people, had incredible mentors and the people I work with and surround myself with every single day inspire me. If I could choose one person however, it would be Oprah Winfrey. She is an extraordinary, successful woman with the power of positive thinking. While watching her, reading her stories, and following along with her, I’ve taken on the mindset “If they can do it, I can do it as well”. I’ve learned so much about personal strength and resilience from listening to her struggles and how she woke up every day and chose to choose herself!

How can our readers further follow your work online?

You can visit our website — www.salon527nj.com! You can also follow our socials as we update them every day showcasing our talented stylists and beautiful clients! Our Instagram is @salon527nj and our Facebook is Salon 527.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent on this. We wish you only continued success.

About The Interviewer: Savio P. Clemente coaches cancer survivors to overcome the confusion and gain the clarity needed to get busy living in mind, body, and spirit. He inspires health and wellness seekers to find meaning in the “why” and cultivate resilience in their mindset. Savio is a Board Certified Wellness Coach (NBC-HWC, ACC), #1 best-selling author, syndicated columnist, podcaster, stage 3 cancer survivor, and founder of The Human Resolve LLC. He has interviewed notable celebrities and TV personalities and has been featured on Fox News, The Wrap, and has worked with Authority Magazine, Thrive Global, BuzzFeed, Food Network, WW and Bloomberg. Savio has been invited to cover numerous industry events throughout the U.S. and abroad. His mission is to provide clients, listeners, and viewers alike with tangible takeaways on how to lead a truly healthy, wealthy, and wise lifestyle. Savio pens a weekly newsletter in which he delves into secrets to living smarter by feeding your “three brains” — head

, heart

, and gut

— in the hope of connecting the dots to those sticky parts of our nature that matter to living our best life.

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Savio P. Clemente
Authority Magazine

TEDx Speaker, Media Journalist, Board Certified Wellness Coach, Best-Selling Author & Cancer Survivor