Amber Dotson, Caitlin Farlow Josey and LeeAnn Blizzard have known each other for several years. The experienced hairstylists have worked together in the past but only recently came together in a new venture. Identity Salon & Suites opened for business on Oct. 6, and the trio is excited about their new space.
Dotson is the owner of Identity, and though she had never really had her sights on business ownership in the past, the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the hair industry made her rethink her options. Blizzard, meanwhile, knew she was ready to branch out and try something new. She reached out to Dotson, and the wheels were set in motion to create Identity Salon & Suites.
“Honestly, from our first conversation to opening day was six weeks. It just fell perfectly, every single thing,” said Dotson.
The trio now works out of a fresh, new space in the Columbia Professional Center on Fieldstone Drive. The suite salon business model has become an increasingly popular trend in bigger cities but is still a new idea in the local area. Each of the stylists operates her own salon within the salon, with Dotson’s suite labeled as Identity, Josey’s as Salon Phoenix and Blizzard’s as Head Bangers. Each stylist has the independence to set her own price schedule and sell her own selection of retail products while all sharing common spaces such as shampoo stations and restrooms.
Dotson said that by each working from their own space, each stylist can set up their salon area to suit the specific needs and preferences of themselves and their clients.
“It’s really about your individual personality, letting your identity shine and creating a space where you’re most creative and comfortable,” said Dotson.
She also feels that, particularly during the pandemic, the individual suite salons put clients at ease by providing safe, clean spaces that are not crowded by other people.
“Here, everyone has a private space where you get to spread out. It’s much more comfortable. People don’t feel overwhelmed,” said Dotson.
All three stylists feel the separate spaces allows them to feel a sense of calm and peace that, in return, has reenergized their individual creativity for their work.
“I like how each salon has its own personality to it,” said Blizzard. “I love being here. I just love how quiet it is.”
Identity offers standard salon services including haircuts for men, women and children, coloring, eyebrow waxing and tinting and hair extensions. Retail products from lines such as Wella, Thrix, Surface, Malibu and Sebastian are available in the three suite salons. The salon strives to offer a welcoming environment to all including being an LGBTQ+-friendly business.
Dotson has been doing hair for more than 20 years, and she enjoys the bonds she has formed with her clients over that time. She specializes in blonding, color and demineralization of hair affected by hard water.
Josey got a degree in business in 2012 before attending cosmetology school. For her, the salon business is where she has always been most comfortable.
“I couldn’t see myself sitting in a cubicle or behind a desk by myself all day long,” said Josey. “I’m too social and hands-on.”
Josey’s favorite aspects of hairstyling include blonding, balayage and fashion colors.
Blizzard has been a licensed stylist for 15 years. She enjoys working with vivid, funky colors and loves helping people take chances on a completely new look.
“I get ecstatic when I have a girl come in here with hair down to their back and they decide they want to pixie cut it. I think that is awesome,” said Blizzard. “I get a good bit of gratification from doing things that are outside the box.”
In addition to developing their individual salon suites, the team at Identity has also taken part in group certification courses since opening their doors. They recently completed a Barbicide certification course specifically focused on COVID-19 salon sanitization practices. They also took part in a webinar course sponsored by the Professional Beauty Association called Cut it Out, a program that helps stylists identify signs of domestic violence in their clients and equips the stylists with strategies to help women suffering from such situations. The three stylists feel that participating in such programs has brought them closer together.
“While we’re individuals, we’re very much a team,” said Dotson.
For all three stylists, the relationships they form with clients are what they cherish most.
“A lot of our clients turn into family or close friends,” said Josey. “We form these bonds with each other.”
Additionally, Blizzard likes helping her clients express themselves through their appearance.
“I want people to be themselves, and I don’t want people to be afraid to try something,” said Blizzard.
Josey also loves how one good haircut can bring back a person’s self-confidence even when they are going through a bad time.
“When you turn them around in the chair, and they look in the mirror and they light up and that smile comes back, that’s the most rewarding part of our job,” said Josey.