When it came time for Dana White to name her first salon, her thoughts immediately went to her grandmother.
Paralee Boyd was the first generation in her family to not be the help – she used her entrepreneurial spirit to sell pomegranate hand scrubs to pay her way through school.
It’s a drive that White said not only runs in her own blood but in the DNA of her salon, Paralee Boyd – an institution that endeavors to become the first nationwide salon franchise founded by a Black woman.
“What can an efficient, confidence-building salon do for women who look like me? That’s my ‘why,’” White told CNN. “That’s the drive. I’m just so excited to be a revolution in haircare.”
It’s a revolution long in the making. As White described, women with thick and curly hair, who often are women of color, aren’t the target demographic of existing blow dry bar franchises.
“If you notice, all blow-dry bars, Great Clips, Supercuts, etc. market and have built their business model toward those with a finer texture of hair. These businesses don’t carry the products or tools nor do they perform styles that cater to women with thick and curly hair,” White said. “Unfortunately, hair salons are very segregated along the lines of race.”
Piersten Gaines, the owner of Pressed Roots, a blow dry-bar similarly specializing in textured hair, agreed. Her Dallas salon aims to ease the anxiety many women with textured hair feel when walking into a salon that likely wasn’t trained to style them.
“We don’t really teach ethnic haircare in cosmetology schools, so when you walk into a Dry Bar and have textured hair, you’re really rolling the dice,” Gaines told CNN. “Many of those stylists don’t know what to do with textured hair.”
At many salons that do cater to textured hair, Gaines and White explained that the blow-dry process can take all day. White said she wants to take accessibility a step forward by attempting to “lean out” the process by making it more efficient.
“For years, women with thick and curly hair had to make appointments and stay in the salon for hours. Then they were up-charged because they had a ton of hair,” said White. “We need to reclaim our time.”
Now, more than ever, this change is necessary, Gaines said. Her clientele are more likely to have professional jobs, travel often and have crowded schedules.
“We’re just trying to fit the needs of a modern woman,” said Gaines.
Upon opening her first salon in Detroit, White brought in engineers from GM and Ford who tweaked everything from the placement of salon chairs to the type of hair straighteners used.
Additionally, White incorporates data analysis into the everyday routine of the salon, constantly monitoring how long clients are spending at each step of the blowout process. This attention to detail allows Paralee Boyd salons to operate as walk-in only, typically getting clients in and out of the door in under two hours.
Despite the salon’s success, White was at first hesitant to open more salons, wanting to first focus on cementing company culture.
“I’ve got to make sure that the ladies working with me are uplifted, empowered, and realize that they are a part of a revolutionary groundbreaking hair salon. We are changing the way women with thick and curly hair view their time, their dollar and themselves. It all starts with culture and training.”
But now, with a couple of years spent developing Paralee Boyd’s culture and mission, Dana White is expecting to open 100 salons nationwide over the next five years, with the process of expansion beginning this fall. Gaines’ Pressed Roots is expanding as well, set to open three more locations this year in the Dallas area.
Though the Covid-19 pandemic presented ample challenges to the salon industry, White said she was able to use that time to remind herself of her “why” and get to work building the franchise.
“You know how you always get ready for work on Sunday? I had six months of Sundays. And I was able to sit with myself and be very clear on why I started this, what I wanted to do and what I needed to do to get there.”
Gaines had to overcome her fair share of struggles too. Pressed Roots had its first day of operations on March 14, 2020, and by March 16, they had to close due to the pandemic. But the salon’s ability to withstand such nightmarish circumstances further proved the importance of Gaines’ mission.
“It shows just what a significant demand there is for these services, especially for this demographic who often haven’t seen their needs met,” Gaines said. “It’s only up from here.”
Though Dana White is a trailblazer in her own right as the first Black woman to open a national salon franchise, she said she is less focused on what that means for her and more focused on how she can use her platform to empower her clients.
“As we expand, I wanted my business to embody her inclusion and kindness. I wanted women to walk in, see themselves positively reflected in the space and leave feeling great, not just about their hair,” White said.