New hair salon Be Rooted Organic Beauty perseveres through pandemic

Tessa White’s business, Be Rooted Organic Beauty, was just two and a half weeks old when Gov. Mike DeWine announced that salons would need to close in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I was terrified,” the Union business owner said. “I thought for sure, like, every single bit of my life savings I had dumped into my brand new business was just gonna go away. I felt like I wasn’t gonna be able to open my doors again.”

And that wasn’t the first time White had been scared during her time as a stylist. Two years ago, she was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease.

“I was basically told that if I didn’t kind of clean up my environment — as far as the food I eat and the hair color and stuff that I was around — that I could potentially end up really, really sick. And it really scared me,” she said.

But as a longtime stylist, White didn’t want to leave her industry. And, she had been thinking about starting her own business for a few years.

She had worked at salons large and small throughout her nearly 18-years as a stylist, but none had quite the environment she was looking for, and she disliked handing over a large portion of her earnings to commission-based salons.

She found Oway, an organic hair product line that she could sell independently and moved from her Aveda salon to a smaller booth salon, where stylists pay an owner monthly for a space in the salon and keep their earnings. Then, she found the building that is now Be Rooted, on West Martindale Road in Union.

“I found this little cute place, and I just had to have it,” she said.

The building was previously a hair salon and White completely remodeled the space, giving it what she calls an “organic, plant-y vibe.”

But despite her planning and vision, the pandemic brought challenges no business could have seen coming.

Be Rooted is a booth salon, and stylists operate independently while renting a station and chair from White for $500 a month.

At the time salons closed, her first renter had just joined the salon two days prior, and White wondered how she would make ends meet.

The salon was closed for eight weeks in total, but throughout that time, White said she kept her faith.

“The whole time I was off during quarantine, I thought, ‘I have to put out good vibes in the universe. That’s the only thing that’s going to help me,’” she said. “You know, negative thoughts don’t do any good for anybody. I just kept thinking, ‘OK, I’m going to overcome this.’”

She began selling gift cards at discounted rates for clients to use once salons reopened to keep money coming while the salon was closed.

At first when Be Rooted reopened, people were using their gift cards and the salon wasn’t bringing in much additional money, leaving White thinking, “Oh, my God, what have I done?”

But things are looking up.

Now, most of the gift cards have been used, many of White’s previous clients have followed her to the new salon, and the space has three renters — a full house — and each stylist is keeping busy.

Christine McNew, one of the renters at Be Rooted and hair stylist of almost 18 years, called the salon “a hidden gem,” describing the environment as calm and comfortable.

“I just felt like I was at home the first time I walked in the door,” she said. “And we want everyone to feel that way.”

McNew knew White through a friend and after experiencing the environment, said she decided to move over to Be Rooted from another local salon.

McNew said she has always worked in booth salons because she enjoys being her own boss, and said that White creates the laid-back environment that helps make Be Rooted special.

White said that’s just the environment she strives to create: comfortable for clients and employees alike.

“If you have poor management, you push really good employees away and that happened to me at a salon. And I just didn’t want that for my people,” she said. “I thought, ‘These are really hard working people.’ I don’t feel like anybody should be treated poorly, no matter what. We’re here as bosses and owners to uplift people, not tear them down.”

Despite the fact that business is going well, White said adjusting to all the changes brought on by the pandemic has been challenging, to say the least.

Some, like increased sanitation measures came easily as the salon industry already has strict sanitation standards, while others, like having each client wait in their car until the previous client has left, are slightly more challenging.

“You kind of just have to stick with the mandates and do everything that you can to keep people feeling safe,” she said.

Like many many other businesses, she is navigating uncharted waters and an uncertain future.

Her philosophy? Just keep going.

“It’s just important to keep focused on your dreams,” she said. “Keep moving forward, and that’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to keep moving forward. I’m going to take everything day by day, and make sure my people are happy.”

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