Marissa Frazier is a hair artist. For 17 years, she rented chair space from various salon owners to cut, weave, color, layer and style the hair of a steady flow of clients. But she always dreamed of running her own business someday, envisioning a modern, sleek salon like those in New York or Los Angeles, staffed by an “A” team of hair stylists, “people who wanted to do their best work and stay on the cutting-edge of hair trends,” explains Frazier.
Nearly three months ago, her dream came true. This small-town girl who grew up on the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation has realized her big-city dreams.
She is now the proud owner of Artistry Salon in Rapid City, South Dakota, so named because she believes hairdressing is an art. “I have brought that metropolitan vibe to the Midwest. But like many of the mom-and-pop shops around here, we still make people feel right at home when they walk in.”
Clients are greeted with a warm “Welcome!” and immediately offered something to eat and drink. “I’m Native American, and that’s the first thing we do when people walk into our house, we feed them!” laughs Frazier, a Lakota Sioux. “I want people to feel comfortable and trust us because our stylists have a wealth of knowledge and expertise behind them.”
According to Frazier, it is this hand-picked staff of hairdressers that makes Artistry Salon a cut above the other salons in town. Currently, she is renting out chairs to four stylists―one, also a Native, from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe―and hopes to fill her last four chairs soon. Frazier continues to be a stylist, her true passion, with close to 300 established clients.
She says it wasn’t easy to find independent contractors who share her “team” mentality. “Booth renters are sole proprietors, so they come and go as they please. That’s the whole point of going into business for themselves.” Frazier feels fortunate to have found a core group of independent stylists who want to be part of her team and offer customers the “artistry experience” through custom coloring and cutting, hair extensions and permanent cosmetics. “I have always told my team that people don’t pay just to get their hair done; they pay for an experience. They want to feel special, which is why they will keep coming back if you treat them that way.”
Her stylists pay a flat rate of $500 a month for the booth space, which helps cover the lease and utilities. “It’s like I’m the landlord of the business and they are the subcontractors.” Frazier says her rental fees are less than what many competing salons charge independent contractors. “I wanted it to be on the low end so that everyone had as much money in their pockets as possible.”
This business creator is quite experienced at bringing things to life. She is also a mother of five children―her youngest is 1.5 years old―and says she could not have realized her dream without the help of her husband, John, a supply technician at Sioux San Hospital. “He is a phenomenal partner and my biggest cheerleader. Not only does he help me at the shop with cleaning and other things, but he also takes care of everything at home, like Mr. Mom,” says Frazier, who works up to 50 hours a week at the salon. “He always says, ‘Babe, don’t worry. I got it.’”
Frazier says it feels “surreal” to be a business owner. However, she is not resting on her newfound success. She is already looking ahead to her next big dream: opening an old-time, traditional barber shop right next door to Artistry Salon in about two years. “We don’t have any barber shops here in Rapid City, so there is definitely a huge hole to fill in that market.”
And her inner artist is not stopping there, either. This energetic entrepreneur, wife and mother is also exploring options to start her own product line and hair-care company as she says she wants to keep her hands in as many pots as possible in the cosmetology industry. “After your first dream comes true, you need new ones, then you just keep going.”