Eaton: Hair styling in Orland not her only job
By Fran Eaton Always Right/illinoisreview.typepad.com February 28, 2012 7:14PM
Nikki Hath runs her hair salon, If Looks Could Kill, in Orland Park. | Supplied photo
Updated: April 1, 2012 8:08AM
If you were to run into Nikki Hath at the mall, you’d probably do a double take. She’s an attractive 27-year-old from Evergreen Park, but she usually features a colorful streak or two in her trendy haircut. If her now-purple hair doesn’t grab your attention, her great smile or array of arm tattoos surely will.
Nikki’s my hairdresser, and because she loves what she does and does it well she’s won my confidence and business for more than four years. Being the baby boomer conservative I am, who’d have thought I’d go to a salon named If Looks Could Kill?
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says hairdressers have an exceptionally good future and projects a higher than normal business-growth rate of 20 percent over the next decade. The demand for hair coloring and other advanced hair treatments has increased in recent years, particularly among baby boomers and young people. That’s good for Nikki.
The bureau also reports that more than 44 percent of hairdressers are self-employed, as Nikki is. She rents her one-chair salon at Sola, 159th Street and LaGrange Road in Orland Park, where she nurtures about 200 customers.
Styling hair is what Nikki loves and wants to keep doing, but it’s also a challenge, even for such a bright, talented and motivated young lady. She’s one of the small-business owners who work hard to keep regular customers, get new ones, pay their bills, deal with personal challenges and meet government requirements.
They’re modern-day unsung heroes who have little voice in politics and rarely are noticed in the media. But without them, the world that we know and take for granted would dramatically change.
I couldn’t help but think of Nikki when President Barack Obama stirred a national discussion this week, advocating making college more affordable. (Read: More government assistance.)
Nikki put herself through cosmetology school after high school, started working for a hair salon at 18, gained experience in hair coloring and styling and started her own business at 23.
Like a growing number of members of Generation Y, Nikki passed on college, choosing to learn a skill rather than go thousands into debt for a diploma. She won’t have to join those in the Occupy Wall Street movement who demand that their college debt be forgiven.
Nikki enjoys concerts, shopping and traveling, and while she loves the flexible schedule her job allows her, she also must handle the myriad details that face small-business owners.
“I want to do all those things but not feel the stress of never being ahead,” she said. “You know, asking myself if my supplies are fully stocked, if all my phone calls are answered and if my quarterly taxes are in. People think I just do hair, but I’m doing all these other things, too.”
Nikki also has to find affordable health care and malpractice insurance and work to keep herself in good health, too, because her income depends on it. Being on her feet more than eight hours a day is tough.
She also has to adjust to whatever the state and federal governments decide for small-business owners. Most are not well connected with other business owners and have no time to keep up with the changes being proposed in Springfield, but those decisions, along with the health of the economy, directly affect their income.
“When the economy is going through tough times, people have to make adjustments,” Nikki said. “They usually go longer between appointments, and I have to work to get customers in to fill that gap.”
That’s when the grass looks greener on the other side and she asks herself, “Am I in the right place owning my own business?”
Nikki’s more of a libertarian in her political philosophy. She, like most her age and being self-employed, doesn’t want more government interference and regulations or more taxes to pay for things she doesn’t use or need.
“I’m a registered voter, but I’m not really not that informed about politics,” she said. “I probably will vote on March 20, but I need to find out more about the people running.”
I recommended that she read the SouthtownStar to find out about the candidates, their qualifications and their positions on the issues. After all, as a freelance journalist, I’m self-employed, too, and our simple exchange of skills is part of what makes the American economy work as well as it does.
And the salon name, If Looks Could Kill, also applies nicely to my job of observing and commenting on politics.
Fran Eaton is a Southland resident who co-founded and edits the conservative political blog illinoisreview.com.