WASHINGTON — From corporate America to owning a salon that helps people embrace their hair identities, a Maryland woman says she's changed her life and never looked back.
Freda Brown, 44, owns The Loc Shop which has been nestled in Hyattsville, Maryland for over 13 years.
"I was perfectly fine living in corporate America but it didn't take me long to realize I did not enjoy the nine to five," Brown said. "I didn't enjoy the hustle. I didn't enjoy the grind. And I also never felt like I belonged. I was often the only Black girl in a sea of older white men, and I never felt like I had a place."
But she took charge of her life, living on her own terms and was inspired to start her journey. She eventually enrolled in cosmetology school, telling everyone she was leaving her corporate job after classes was completed - though she had no clients, no money and bad credit. After completing school in 2008 and taking her state boards, she started her career focusing on hair full time
The Loc Shop
Though she knew some people wouldn't dare think of such an abrupt career change, many things inspired this freedom for Brown, including her own children.
"I'm inspired by the opportunity to show my children alternatives to I don't want to say typical professions, but standard professions -- being a doctor, being a lawyer, being a teacher," she said.
And Brown's belief in freedom for herself also bleeds into her work.
"We [The Loc Shop] allow our clients to experience an environment where their time is valued. That's so important. I don't know about you, but I grew up going to salons where you spent the entire day in the hair salon," she said as she started to reminisce. "Your Saturday was for your hair appointment. And even before I knew that I would be a salon owner, the moment I became a salon owner, I realized I don't want that."
She said, as a matter of fact, she doesn't want Black women, who are a core of her customer base, to spend their Saturdays in the shop. She instead wants the location to be a space that uplifts them - from their time being valued, the 90s R&B music being played, the lit candles, the WiFi provided, and snacks and drinks offered.
Another way Brown is able to emphasize customer experience is by honing in on each person's hair identity, which she says to her is when you are comfortable showing up exactly how you choose to.
"When I worked in corporate America, that was actually the time that I stopped relaxing my hair," she said. "I stopped wearing my hair in a way that I thought I was supposed to wear my hair. I cut it all off. I wear it very short. I had a very small afro, and there was a lot of stares."
She said that is when she noticed people were concerned for her due to the cut. This helped her realize that her hair says a lot about her, even before she says a word. Currently, with her purple colored hair in the front, she believes her hair identity is fun and sexy. And she wants customers to have that opportunity to also have that feeling, if that is what they want.
"And that is what we do at The Loc Shop. We are constantly encouraging women to if you want to let your gray come in, let your gray come in. You don't want to let your gray come in, because I don't," Brown said proudly with a smile stretching across her face. "Then don't let your gray come in. But for us, your hair is a part of your identity, and it says something before you enter the room. And we want your hair to say exactly what you want it to say. That's what's important to us. We don't want it to be defined by somebody else's rules and someone else's standards."
After over a decade of serving DMV clients, Brown has a few words of wisdom for people looking to start a business and to be adventurous.
"The first thing would be to take a chance on yourself," she said. "And I think the bravest thing someone can do is to bet on themselves. "
She also encourages people to read - as it can be encouraging and exciting - and to also look into community programs. She found success through the Verizon Small Business Digital Ready Program which gave her the funding she needed to hire, especially at her stage of the business where she is looking to grow.
"They create community. They give you access to capital. You cannot do this alone. You can only go so far by yourself. If you want to go further, you have to go with others. You have to build a community," she said about the program.
Through these tips, Brown has been able to continue an age old tradition of Black women sitting together and creating art with their hands.
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