02 Salon and Spa
605 Congress St., Portland
Jennifer Leigh admits that she grew up hating her naturally curly hair. But as an adult she learned to accept it. At O2 Salon and Spa in Portland, which she founded in 1999, she takes a holistic approach to beauty, which is, it is more beautiful to embrace than fight your hair’s natural flow. Leigh, who has been in the business for 22 years, studied at Vidal Sassoon Academy in London, worked as an educator and styled hair at many top salons in Portland before opening O2, where she is the master stylist.
What were your most important needs in getting started?
First, I feel having the support of family and friends is helpful. Being a business owner with responsibility for employees is a big undertaking and it is much easier with support from people who care. Second, a financial team helps. I wrote a vague business plan using a template which I downloaded, my accountant helped me fill in the numbers, and the lending officer at Bangor Savings Bank was amazingly helpful and very understanding of my greenness to the financial piece of the puzzle.
What was there about your upbringing that gave you the courage to venture out on your own?
My dad always worked really hard and I have had a job since I was first able to get a work permit, so my work ethic is strong. I am an only child, was a latchkey kid, so I had to be pretty independent, and by nature, I am stubborn. That helps, too.
What do you think the advantages and disadvantages are of being a female ? entrepreneur?
I have never really let being a woman hold me back. To be fair, I have the advantage of growing up in an era where many women paved a path for my generation. My industry is fairly well dominated by women, though men seem to have more longevity in the business, and are the leaders as far as business. My clientele is about 80 percent women, and there are some strong leaders among them. So I have had good influences. My first instinct is to say that as a woman you have to work harder, but I’m not sure that’s true.
What advice would you give an aspiring woman entrepreneur?
Make a plan, move forward, and don’t look back. You may make mistakes, but don’t dwell on them. Learn from your errors and move on.