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Lessons from a Thriving Power Couple, With Chelle and David Neff of Urban Betty

An Interview With Candice Georgiadis

Make time for each other. To thrive, you have to be able to connect and spend time together. We book a standing date every Sunday night. We either go to the movies or eat dinner. It’s funny because we have been “dating” more since we had our son this year. Before having our son, we just planned stuff here and there, and now we make it a priority to spend time with just the two of us.

As a part of our series about lessons from Thriving Power Couples, I had the pleasure of interviewing Chelle and David J. Neff.

Chelle Neff has been a leader in the U.S. salon industry since founding Urban Betty in 2005 and has more than 20 years of experience creating innovative practices in the salon and beauty worlds. Neff has successfully grown Urban Betty’s revenue year after year and today has two salon companies that house more than 70 employees. Due to its continued success, the salon is expanding and opening a third location in 2022 and launching an Urban Betty product line in the fall of 2021.

My husband, David J. Neff currently works as the VP of eCommerce consulting at Accenture Interactive. He works with Fortune 500 brands on their eCommerce organizational strategy and builds their teams for growth.. He is the author of three books, including “The Future of Nonprofits: Thrive and Innovate in the Digital Age” and IGNITE: Setting your Organization’s Culture on Fire with Innovation. He’s a 2x entrepreneur himself.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you two to your respective career paths?

Chelle — I began my journey as an entrepreneur by first being an employee in the salon industry. I knew from a young age that I wanted to do hair. At the age of sixteen, I enrolled in Cosmetology school at my high school. When I received my license in 1995, I started working behind the chair at Supercuts. I slowly worked my way up the ladder to higher-end salons. I got a small suite at the Gallery of Salons and was an independent contractor five years later. That was my initial stepping stone to opening my own salon company, Urban Betty in 2005.

David — I began my career at the American Cancer Society where I helped them take some of our first eCommerce orders and designed our first eCommerce Web sites, as well as helped them take our offline events (like Relay For Life) and put them online. I also was instrumental in starting our social media policies and practices, building our first mobile apps (remember Palm Pilots?!), and launching online communities for patients and cancer survivors. After that I started my own consulting company and co-founded a tech startup called HelpAttack! that focused on social media fundraising for nonprofits. After that company wrapped up, I joined a small startup consulting company called Ants Eye View where I worked on eCommerce and digital strategy projects. We then sold that to PwC where I stayed for a number of years. After PwC I joined another small startup in Austin called Clearhead that focused on growth teams and eCommerce A/B Testing and Personalization. As a member of the executive team, I helped sell that to Accenture Interactive, which is where I work today.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you two got married?

In 2013 we were walking around our Crestview neighborhood when we saw a home that looked a lot like the Alamo (hoarders edition). As home-tour addicts, the house prompted us to look for a tour of weird homes in Austin. When we found absolutely nothing, we couldn’t believe it! Then the next week, David suggested we do it ourselves. Yikes! So in 2014, we bought a house, got married, and produced their first Weird Homes Tour. After eight years, we hosted tours annually in 6 cities, had a home featured in a Netflix show, and even wrote a book together, Weird Homes: The People and Places That Keep Austin Strangely Wonderful.

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?

In 2002, I launched a website with a terrible Urban Betty logo. At the time, I thought my logo looked good. It was a lady with a city background, and she seemed very cartoonish. Think Sex and the City if it were a children’s book. Not good. We reworked it after a couple of years. I recently found an old scrapbook with my first brochure and the original logo. I showed it to my employees, and they couldn’t believe how bad it was. We all had a good laugh! I learned that you should constantly be re-evaluating your brand and evolving to stay current.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

In a world that considers college the only option for success, my salon company stands out, empowers women, and gives each person who works here the ability to become a future shareholder and grow to have an income well over 100k without a college degree. At Urban Betty, we pay our employees well above the industry average WITH BENEFITS (¼ of the stylists make six figures in my salon, where the industry average is $22k).

I have brought on two current employees to be shareholders in our salon company — encouraging entrepreneurship and helping women achieve their dreams of owning a business. I have also created a plan for more employees to become future shareholders and launch it in 2022. In addition, we host personal growth retreats for our employees and have developed an innovative mentorship system. We want to shatter the glass ceiling and elevate our industry.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

In November of 2021, we will launch an Urban Betty clean beauty line with two shampoos, conditioners, and plans for more products. My goal is to continue to grow our brand in the next year through more locations, new services, shareholders, and, most importantly, a product line. Our mission is to empower other women through these endeavors. The Urban Betty product line will be a launchpad to give back to female entrepreneurs by donating 1% of its profits to Big Austin. We chose BiGAUSTIN because they are a leader in powering self-sustainable small business development by providing business consulting, business planning & funding solutions to women entrepreneurs in Texas. I was once that woman, and if it weren’t for Big Austin that helped me with funding, I wouldn’t be here today.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?

You help others to thrive by letting them take the wheel. If you are a leader who has to have input on every decision inside your company, others won’t take the initiative to grow the company. You have to trust your employees and let them make decisions on their own. Sure, you can help guide people. However, there is a delicate process where you can empower people, ask for their ideas, and let them execute. At Urban Betty, we implemented the “Decision Tree” from Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. When I started, every single employee came to me for every single question that they would have. It became exhausting. Changing over to this system empowered my employees and gave me time back.

How do you define “Leadership”?

To me, leadership means connection. To grow and maintain your culture while you lead, you must stay connected with your team. Know every person that works for you and listen to them. Ask them questions about their life, and don’t be afraid to be vulnerable and talk about your life. If you can cry and laugh with your team, you will forge a bond like no other. Being strong is great, but being vulnerable is even more powerful. Vulnerability and our desire to show our human side will connect us all.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

About twelve years ago, I was doing hair when a new guest named Rebecca Hamm came in. When I asked her what she did for a living, she said that she meets with people to help them heal trauma in their lives. I thought, “What the heck, I’ll schedule a visit.” When I first met with her, I admitted things out loud about my life that I had never told another person. It was an awakening, and I realized that I needed much help in my personal life. What I thought would be one visit turned into weekly visits that changed my life. And I still meet with her to this day! Problems never go away, and you always need a fresh perspective in life and business to get you out of your head.

She helped me gain the perspective I needed to know my worth, and she helped me let go of the fears I had surrounding scaling my business. I suggest that every person in business have a life coach, guru, therapist, or whatever you feel comfortable calling them in your life. Meet with them regularly and make sure they aren’t afraid to call you out on your BS.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

I had the realization one day that my salon company is a great platform to help other people and support organizations in the world. Before the pandemic, every year, we hosted an annual women’s clothing swap (and we are planning to bring it back in 2022), which benefits The Safe Alliance, a shelter in Austin for battered women and children. Usually, over 200 women show up to drop off their gently used clothing and take it home with them, whatever clothing they like. All leftover items are donated. The month of September is Leukemia awareness month and anyone willing to donate their hair during this month receives a free haircut from us. Any other month of the year, we offer 50% off your haircut for every guest willing to cut at least eight inches of their hair and donate it to this great cause! In 2015, I joined the Austin Classical Guitar board, a non-profit that does educational outreach to children through music. I renewed for a second term in 2018.

In 2019, I joined Impact Austin with more than 100 enthusiastic members eager to pool resources for a combined, more significant impact. We are now one of the nation’s largest women’s philanthropy groups. Impact Austin dedicates to helping women achieve their full philanthropic capacity. The membership requirements are to be female and to donate $1,250 each year. We combine $1,000 from each member’s annual gift to fund high-impact grants that we award in June using a collective giving model.

What are the “5 Things You Need To Thrive As A Couple”? Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Make time for each other. To thrive, you have to be able to connect and spend time together. We book a standing date every Sunday night. We either go to the movies or eat dinner. It’s funny because we have been “dating” more since we had our son this year. Before having our son, we just planned stuff here and there, and now we make it a priority to spend time with just the two of us.
  2. Laugh. One of the things that bond us is our love of silliness. We have all these funny “inside” phrases, weird voices, and jokes. We also love all things Halloween/horror-related. This year we went to Universal Horror Nights for the first time together, and David had more fun laughing at me getting scared than going through the actual haunted houses.
  3. Travel. Having a once a week date night is excellent; however, taking a trip and genuinely unplugging from work helps keep David and me more connected than ever. We have an ongoing list of all the places we want to visit. We plan one domestic and one foreign trip each year. Last year we went to Mexico for five days and came back rested and connected.
  4. Make a five-year plan. You can’t thrive as a couple if you don’t have the same vision for the future. And making a five-year plan will help each of you have the same family, financial, and career goals. Two years ago, David and I created a five-year goal board with the categories of family, travel, financial, and careers. Through this, we mapped out what we each expected to happen each year and where we saw ourselves. It’s also a great way to manifest your goals. Every six months, we look at this five-year plan to check off things we’ve accomplished or to change a goal that might look different.
  5. Learning to listen. This is the most powerful tool you can have to not only thrive as a couple but thrive in life. I heard the phrase “Listen with your nose” once, and it clicked for me. That means that while someone else is talking, all you have to do is take breaths and listen. It sounds weird, but it works. Many times all we are doing is waiting for the other person to stop talking to say our point. What if you just kept asking questions and listened instead? It’s a powerful thing.

You are people 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 would love to inspire a movement of supporting other people’s successes. The world is not one pie for everyone. When one person is successful, it never takes away from you. Your worth and all that you have relies on your emotional well-being and your beliefs surrounding that. Whenever you celebrate another person’s success, you draw that same energy onto yourself. I would love for everyone out there to want others to succeed and be happy for them!

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

My favorite quote is, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.” I heard this quote right after opening my salon company, and I was utterly overwhelmed with everything that I needed to do. I believe that all movement is forward movement. Even the most minor thing like having coffee with another business owner — asking them one question may help you get to where you want to go.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment 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 with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)

I would love to meet Bethenny Frankel. I love the empire that she has created with her brand. She has had many challenges in life and has overcome them all with laughter and even more success. I am so proud of her!

How can our readers follow your work online?

Facebook: https://facebook.com/urbanbettysalon

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/urbanbetty/

Linked In: https://www.linkedin.com/in/urbanbetty/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/urbanbetty

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/UrbanBettySalonAustin

David’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/daveiam

David’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-j-neff/

David’s various books: https://www.amazon.com/David-J-Neff/e/B004BIHRDK?ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1&qid=1635960952&sr=8-1

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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Candice Georgiadis

Candice Georgiadis

824 Followers

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