dreams don’t work unless you do
Shelly, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Over 13 years ago, having had years of management experience in the salon industry, I opened our first adore hair studio located in the Inman Park neighborhood in Atlanta. It’s been an adventure ever since. My vision was an upscale boutique salon that offered clients all the benefits and amenities of a full-service salon, yet gave talented stylists a structured, creative environment to do their best work.
Opening a small business is tough, but I stuck with my vision, attracting an immensely talented group of professionals and remained focused on becoming a successful top salon in the Atlanta market. I had always dreamed of having another adore location and in 2011, with two daughters in diapers -one on each hip – I found myself signing another commercial lease for what became the Decatur studio. I applied the same principles as I did before and within months we were fully staffed with a waiting list of stylists wanting to join our team.
We grew steadily and here we are 12 years and 2 Atlanta adore hair studio locations later. I’m asked consistently when I’m opening the next location and though I have no current plans to do so, I know myself well enough to never say never. There’s a lot to balance between the salon and having a life. I’m grateful for my husband for supporting my entrepreneurial spirit. Although he’s not involved in the day-to-day operations, it’s sure nice to have a smart guy by your side.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Growth was challenging for me. My vision of growth didn’t necessarily mean multiple locations. It meant expanding our Inman Park location and staying on the brand as we doubled the space and staff. We grew faster than I expected, which took me a minute to wrap my head around how to quickly scale up with more staff and a busy 20-plus chair salon. It was a good problem to have and seeing a second bustling space with happy clients and thriving staff has made it worth the insanity.
Getting a second location up and running forced me to look at how I would manage overall without being pulled in different directions day-to-day. It was about that time that I convinced my sister Ashley Puckett Akley to leave her corporate job, learn the business and join the adoring family. It allowed me to focus on company growth while having her manage the Decatur studio. She’s run with it and I see that in the rapport she has with our clients and the retention among our core staff.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
More than anything I wanted to create a different salon experience in this city. The adore business model was designed to provide those on our team with the ability to create their own success, their own way. Adore is a boutique booth rental salon, where the stylists and colorists run their own business under my brand. Watching this model work and witnessing those around me become successful both professionally and personally has defined success for me.
I realized that Atlanta was lacking in upscale booth rental salons years ago when I began writing my business plan. I saw lots of talent, and potential, in an underserved booth-rental market. Salons that offered booth rental were limited, poorly managed, and lacked in cohesiveness. Wanting to offer something different, I set out to create adore as having all the offerings of a commission salon, but that housed independent talent.
Having managed commissioned salons for years, some of the best in the city, I never could wrap my head around the idea of a top stylist giving 50% of what they earned back to the salon. That just seemed crazy to me. Commission salons do have their place in the industry. They’re a great place to hone your skills and build a clientele, but many stylists don’t want the risk of going out on their own. That was my motivation to create adore and build a brand around the talent, the rest is history.
Proudest moment had to be the day I got an unexpected call that we were named a top salon in the U.S by Elle magazine. I was so happy and incredibly proud of my company! That national recognition was huge for us and the blood, sweat and tears had paid off, adore had arrived. I’m honored that our current team, with over 40 hand-picked individuals, have chosen to call adore home. What delights me the most is not the numbers and the success, rather it is the type of person that adore attracts. They’re ambitious, talented, and they’re diverse in their style.
Working alongside these successful individuals provides me with a tremendous amount of pride and I continue to be thankful. Expanding the salon and redesigning the interior look and feel from light fixtures to furnishings and art was a labor of love! I’m sort of famous for one day deciding our waiting area needs a make-over and the next we have a million new pillows. I’ve had enough questions about the salon interior and design that it’s pushed me into a new side hustle just as every #girlboss should have. For a sneak peek check out dote.design!
To any young professional out there that thinks they can’t do it, they can! It’s important to stay true to your brand. Trust your instincts! If something doesn’t feel right, then it’s not right. Know that you’ll make a ton of mistakes, but that’s part of the journey. What matters, in the end, is that your heart is in the right place and know you’re smart AF.
What were you like growing up?
I still feel like I’m growing up, even at 44 there are things I need to learn to do better. I have to say as a child I was somewhat shy, made good grades, always had a smile on my face, loved to laugh, had great friends, a few loves, and I rarely walked away from fun.
I have a B.A. in Journalism, with a concentration in Public Relations from Georgia State University. I have two darling daughters now 8 and 10, a great husband, and the best friends a girl could ask for. I love to entertain, and still more than anything I love to laugh!
- Address: 245 North Highland Ave NE Atlanta 30307 (Adore Inman Park)
904 West College Ave Decatur 30030 (Adore Decatur)
- Website: www.adorehairstudio.com
- Phone: Inman Park 404 522-0336 Decatur 404 377-1007