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Female Disruptors: Carletta O’Neal of Capelli Salon On The Three Things You Need To Shake Up Your Industry

Invest in your team — Never become stagnant and always keep educating yourself. Every few weeks, I host a different hair industry expert to keep my team educated, on trend and evolving. My staff loves it because we bring people in who they often really admire plus it helps them make more money in the long run, as they increase their skills and become more and more knowledgeable.

As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Carletta O’Neal, founder and CEO of Capelli Salon

A highly sought-after master hair stylist turned thriving salon owner, Carletta O’Neal, has been a powerful force in the beauty industry for over 25 years. A graduate of Carstens Aveda Institute in Tempe Arizona, O’Neal’s background includes working as a manager at ULTA, an educator at Marinello Cosmetology School of Beauty and working independently at several salons before opening her first Capelli Salon location in 2015, and second in 2019, with over 45 employees total, both located in Las Vegas.

One of the most-desired hair salons on the west coast boasting over 15,000 followers on Instagram, Capelli Salon, is best known for their Hollywood-inspired super on-trend experience and impeccable head-turning services. Guests from all over flock to the hot spot salons for Capelli’s signature Balayage, color-correction specialists and Victoria’s Secret like playful beach waves.

Additional range of services, they are best known for includes balayage, lived-in beach balayage, beach waves, haircuts, highlights, sombres, glaze, toners, curls and waves, hair extensions (tape-in, hand-tied and keratin tip), braids, up-dos, hair straightening, conditioning treatments and more.

A big proponent of innovation and education, O’Neal is passionately committed to investing in the continuous knowledge and expertise of her team, which is why she provides a variety of ongoing monthly training classes to her stylists. Many of these training classes have an emphasis on color correction and balayage and have been taught by famous hair personalities and educators including: Hair Erik, The Platinum Giraffe, Masters of Balayage with Ryan Weeden, Ashlee Norman, Blonde me Sisi and more. Many of Capelli’s stylists have won awards and have been featured in Behind The Chair, one of the most largest and prestigious online communities for salon professionals, with more than 800,000 members world-wide. Both Capelli Salon locations are about 1,200-square feet and feature a simplistic yet glam design scheme, featuring a mix of white, gold, brown and pink hues, with splashes of vibrant greenery throughout the locations. Capelli was nominated for “Best Salon Décor” in the Behind the Chair’s 2019 Salon Competition.

The prestigious salons are certified with the following top industry brands: Kevin Murphy, Olaplex, Unite, Gigi Pip hats and Bellami hair extensions.

When she’s not running her two bustling salons, O’Neal can be found spending time with her husband and three sons, decorating, and renovating and flipping real estate properties.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

Growing up with 9 brothers and sisters, we had to do a lot of fending for ourselves. My sisters cooked and sewed clothes for us, my brothers helped take care of the animals on our family farm and I gave haircuts and perms to my siblings. I guess you could say I was a natural, of course back then we just thought every family did home haircuts. When my oldest son, Jorian, was born he immediately needed open heart surgery and continued to have health issues so as a single mom I knew I needed a flexible work schedule. Already having a talent for hair, it seemed like a good fit and became my career of choice. I love helping people and like all of my Capelli Salon stylists, I am very hardworking and independent minded so I always did well as a self-employed rental stylist.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

In this industry most salons are out to make a profit, like most businesses, but when it’s all about the money a hairstylist can get taken for granted. Our salon is about the stylist, we are for the stylist. Instead of having stylists assist for years on less than minimum wage and tips, we start them off from day one as a commission stylist, send them to classes and teach them skills, provide them with clients so they’re making money from day one. We use a fast-track system which can take a stylist from commission as a freelancer to renter with their own clientele in as little as 3–6 months. Our commission stylists take home more than most fulltime stylists and at the end of the commission period have a blooming clientele and as they switch over to rental stylists they truly have their own businesses! It’s really a win-win!

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

It wasn’t funny at the time but I took a job assisting a big nationally known stylist who owned his own salon. He messed up a client’s hair and told the client it was the shampoo I had used. I couldn’t believe the client would actually think shampoo could fry her hair. I was embarrassed but later looked back and laughed at how dumb the lie he told her was. I learned a big lesson on how to value anyone who is willing to come work for you. They’re giving a piece of themselves to you and that’s to be valued and priceless.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

In this industry there is a sort of divide between salon owners and stylists. Most salon owners don’t really take the time to get to know their team and support their needs , both personally and professionally, they just collect rent and go. The first salon I rented at the owner challenged me to meet a personal goal, when I met that goal she literally took me shopping for new clothes! As a single mom that really meant the world to me. That year my business grew and I know it was because i looked so professional every day. Salon owners can have a big impact on the lives of their stylists and I’ve seen that directly affect my own life for the better. I want to make sure any stylist working for Capelli Salon feels supported, empowered and safe. This is when people truly thrive.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

Being a disruptor is not always a fun spot to be in, many times the established norm is modest beneficial for businesses. We saw stylists were struggling to make bills and many were leaving the industry. By transforming pay structures and removing barriers to becoming rental stylists has opened doors for many stylists who otherwise may have been lost or sidelined in a normal salon. By stylists seeing other stylists success is what has created such a buzz about becoming a “Capelli babe.”

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Save, save, save — It is easy to celebrate success but there are slow periods for all businesses and having a solid reserve is the best way to ensure you stay in a good position for growing your business.
  2. Invest in your team — Never become stagnant and always keep educating yourself. Every few weeks, I host a different hair industry expert to keep my team educated, on trend and evolving. My staff loves it because we bring people in who they often really admire plus it helps them make more money in the long run, as they increase their skills and become more and more knowledgeable.
  3. Take time for yourself — Self care is so important as a business owner. It’s very easy to get burnt out Take time for yourself whether it’s a hot bath, yoga, reading, weekend trip, family time, whatever it is that makes you feel energized and ready to conquer the world, do it! Creativity and innovation can not thrive until you learn the master of the reset button!

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I want to create a space where hair artists can rent a room next to artists from other industries, one room may have a hairstylist while the room next to them may have a painter painting, kind of like connecting artists from multiple industries together where each artist can have a creative influence on the other.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?

When women want to change something, they face questions of why does it need to change again. I feel like with male counterparts, people tend to just agree when a change is implemented by a male business owner.

Do you have a book/podcast/talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us?

My son Jalen shared a thought with me that he had heard from motivational speaker, Tony Robbins. The message was “burn all your boats” this means use all your resources so that there is no turning back, you have to push forward with everything you have if you want to make it as an entrepreneur. I couldn’t agree more.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

You never know what your idea can trigger. :-) I think there needs to be unions for hairstylists and barbers in every major city or virtual. This line of work comes with absolutely no benefits, a day you don’t work is a day you don’t eat. A union could help provide access to discounted medical treatment and retirement and death benefits like a regular union.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do today. Many times, the early bird gets the worm and if you don’t act on it, that opportunity may not come again. For me it was leaving a really secure job with the best medical benefits anyone could ask for to work for myself and go without medical insurance and without pay for almost one year. Without sacrifice there can be no reward and I wouldn’t trade my life now for that steady job with benefits. As an entrepreneur, I’ve worked hard to get here and I’m proud of myself.

How can our readers follow you online?

Instagram @capellisalonlv

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!



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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis is an active mother of three as well as a designer, founder, social media expert, and philanthropist.