Carol Lynn's Salon Success by Thealexa Becker

Nestled amidst the eclectic shops on Madison Avenue is a little salon whose comely appearance stands as a testament to the success story of its owner, Carol Lynn Congeni. 

The tale of how Carol Lynn's Salon Plus became a profitable business worthy of admiration reads like the classic American Dream. Congeni, a lifetime hair stylist, after spending years on commission in other salons, took out a small business loan from the city of Lakewood, and with $10,000, turned what was a dank, dark and empty store front into a blooming salon of her own. 

“This is my first very own salon,” said Congeni. “I rented chairs from other places for 12 years. I've been open a little over a year, and I've had over 130 brand new people, which is more new people than any location I've ever been.”

Trusting in the loan offered to spruce up Lakewood store fronts so much, Congeni used her own money to buy the materials she needed to open the salon. 

“I needed to buy everything, the only thing I had was scissors,” she said amusedly. “I've never spent $10,000 at one time, one outing even. Everything is mine now.”

Yet Congeni also credits her location to the flourishing of her business. While previous salons that she worked in were “nowhere”, at her current location there is already traffic. Nearby businesses support one another by trading literature and her clientele is loyal. 

“Location, location, location,” said Congeni. “It's warm and inviting, and there are a number of reasons that people would choose it. Madison is a cozy little spot.”

Congeni has worked in the hair styling industry since taking the once offered cosmetology program 20 years ago at Lakewood High School. Growing up on the west side, her own hair was always left short and unattractive because stylists did not know how to manage ethnic and bi-racial hair. 

“I met a lady on the bus who was a hair stylist,” Congeni said about her first interest in the business. “She gave my parents her business cards. I saw this ability to look and feel good and it triggered me to do hair.”

At Carol Lynn's Salon Plus, Congeni offers not only expert styling and coloring, but also manicures, pedicures, and spa treatments that include body waxing and facials. She enjoys coloring hair, asserting that she is quite good at doing highlights and corrective color as well as cutting hair (especially men's hair) and formal up-do's. 

As a Lakewood Alumni with two boys in the schools, Congeni also enjoys giving back to her community. The foremost example is her Honor Roll Program for students at Harding, Garfield, and LHS. Through this program, students who make Honor Roll are given a coupon for a free haircut once per quarter.  Teachers are also given a continual $10 off a haircut which amounts to $120 worth of savings. 

“It's my way of giving back to the community,” Congeni said. “I received a great education from my teachers. I redeemed 40 from Harding. But some didn't use it because they thought it must be a bad place if they are gonna do it for free.”

Being involved in Lakewood has also allowed Congeni to be involved in activities outside of her salon. For example, she was the stylist that shaved the heads of the LHS teachers during their extensive fundraising campaign two years ago. She is also a member of Rotary as well as LHS' RAD (Race and Diversity). She was a guest speaker at both RAD as well as the Career Connections class for LHS Freshman. Harrison Elementary students heard a presentation from Congeni on her success as a bi-racial business woman in the city of Lakewood.

“They loved me,” she said adding how exciting it was to show them her website on the Smart Board. 

Congeni hopes to expand by bringing in independent contractors to work at her empty stations. She already has one fellow stylist, Madeline, who at 75, has been cutting hair for over 50 years. But Congeni noted that it seemed to be proving difficult to bring in additional stylists despite her and other salon's best efforts at advertising. 

“It seems to be hard to find contractors,” she said. “To work here, you need to be seasoned or have clientele, or you need to be a go-getter to market yourself.”

As the owner, Congeni pays a lease, whereas independent contractors would pay her rent and pay for their own insurance. They are not guaranteed clients as they would be with a Best Cuts or Great Clips, but Congeni insisted that a job at her salon was a better alternative. 

“The advantage is that there is better experience,” she said. “It's a nicer environment. To be your own boss is a good thing.”

Having taught herself all of the business skills necessary to survive as a business owner, Congeni would be willing to help any independent contractor she hires to find clients and market themselves. Congeni attributes her own substantial client base to her personality. 

“I'm a people person,” she said. “I like to talk a lot. I've been doing this job for over 20 years and it is never boring. I'm as excited as day one and I make a good living. I'm a good listener as well as a conversationalist. A lot of people just need to vent.”

Minding the current troubled economy, Congeni keeps her prices fair and has been keeping her salon “green”, making sure that they do not damage anything. This also, she said, helps with the troubled economy, because customers, as well as she, need to save money anyway they can. Just another way of trying to give back.

“I'm celebrating a very successful year, and I thank Lakewood.”

Carol Lynn's Salon Plus can be found at 15410 Madison Avenue. 

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Volume 5, Issue 1, Posted 10:16 AM, 01.14.2009