Her dream became a realityPublished 9:22am Monday, August 24, 2009
By JESSICA SIEFF
Niles Daily Star
Celebrating a quarter of a century in business this week, BryAnn’s Hair Design, 1705 Oak St. is planning an open house Saturday, Aug. 29 with food and raffles from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
But if there is anything to be said for Barbara Kyles Brown’s business it is that the open house is likely to feel more like a gathering of family and close friends.
In business, success can be the result of a multitude of things: luck, location, experience or hard work to name a few. But for BryAnn’s, it seems to be the result of all that and a little something extra: determination.
Brown started her business in 1984 in neighboring Buchanan, during a time when Clark Equipment was thriving and there was more activity in the city, she said.
Brown, who had been working at both Clark and as a hairdresser in another salon, decided to open up her own shop. “A majority of our clients were from Niles, Dowagiac, South Bend, Cass,” Brown said.
It was “just a dream, just a desire,” she said, about starting her own business. “It was kind of like, at the back of my mind,” she said.
The business became a sort of security measure for Brown, as Clark Equipment began laying off more and more of their workers. After surviving numerous rounds of layoffs herself, Brown lost her job in 1990.
The business became her full time occupation – and Brown said she wasn’t nervous when the time came to rely solely on the salon.
“I felt at that time of my life … it was an investment,” she said, adding that she told herself “this has to work.
“It was more of a determination to make it work,” she said. Looking back she said there were not many African American businesses in the area, and Brown felt a sort of need, “I think it was kind of in the back of my mind that I’ve got to prove this is not just an ethnic business,” she said.
Determined, yes. But nervous? No. “You know what?” she said. “You’ve got to get out of nerves.”
Her business has thrived and crossed all lines – serving customers that keep coming back to Brown over and over again.
When it comes to looking at what has helped keep the business going for so long, Brown credits hardworking employees that have been with her for years, including Valray
Croom who started working at BryAnn’s two weeks after the business opened – and has been working for Brown ever since.
“That’s been part of my success with the business,” Brown said, general relationships with both customers and employees.
And while some might find word of mouth ample enough to enforce reputation, Brown said “I’m a believer that word of mouth can either help you or hurt you.” So in addition to a well established reputation, she said she is careful and very selective with her advertising in an effort to pull in new customers.
At 25 years, Brown is also no stranger to tough economic times, a climate she has been revisiting since the country plunged into recession. But, she said, the business continues to serve its customers and she’s noticed a change in trends when it comes to personal hair care.
“In most recent years,” she said. “People are more into long term hair care.”
Though they might have to try and take care of their hair at home in an effort to save money, they still make their way through BryAnn’s doors to have their hair cared for professionally.
“They really want the professionalism,” she said.
And Brown has taken an economic atmosphere that has put more demands on her customers pockets into consideration. “Because of the economy, I haven’t increased my prices. I (in general) don’t increase that much.”
So far, Brown’s business decisions have been working. But she’s in no mood to slow down.
“I kind of thought at this mark it would kind of be at the part where I’d be ready for retirement but … wrong,” she said with a laugh.
Brown hopes that as business rebounds she may be able to look into moving into a larger space with more capabilities and a chance to offer extended services including weaves, a big trend, she said, for her customers.
As she gets ready to celebrate a quarter of a century in business, Brown by no means discounts the loyalty of her customers, which she said is a result of treating people fairly and honestly. “You get what you give.”
And she doesn’t forget those who have helped her along the way; her employees, previous landlords like Ray Gillentine (“I think of him often,” Brown said.) who helped her in gaining prime location and being kind to her business.
“The majority of this customer base is returning customers,” she said. “(They) come back because of how they’re treated.
“They feel like family,” said Brown.