For black women, the hair salon is a cornerstone of our culture.
Many of us view our stylists as confidants, the salon chair as a haven, and hair appointments as therapy sessions. With that, gnat is a kind of therapist.
The hairstylist knows the essential role salons play in the lives of black women, something she doesn’t take lightly. “I want my clients to feel at home when they’re with me and my stylists,” she said of her salon. Questionslocated on the south side of Chicago.
According to Welch, this feeling was ingrained in her from the very beginning. “I’ve loved helping people look good since I was a little girl,” she said. “I’ve always been the one to style hair, do piercings for my friends and really make them feel good about themselves since childhood.”
Growing up in the Dearborn Homes, a housing project in Chicago, she knew her passion would open a way out for her and her family. At 17, she began her beauty career as a shampoo assistant at a local salon, a decision she says changed her life. “That’s where I learned everything I know now as a stylist and business owner,” she says, crediting her work ethic and endearing bedside manner to her early employers.
This led her to pursue her studies in cosmetology to hone her skills, which she says was critical to her success. “I learned to be a real stylist at school – school is so important,” she said, pointing out that customer service is a lost art for young stylists because so much of it doesn’t value formal education.
“Putting my customers first is why I’m always here,” she said, referring to how she injects empathy into every customer interaction she has.
After graduating, she opened her salon at just 23 years old. Today, after more than 20 years in business, Issues Salon is a central part of Chicago’s black entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her clients have always known value, now the shrewd businesswoman is widely recognized for her heart-centered success.
In 2016, Vogue Magazine profile her and the relationship of the black living room experience to global culture and recently CÎROC tapped her for its Black Excellence campaign in time for Black History Month.
“To be recognized by CÎROC as part of what it means to demonstrate black excellence and to be celebrated as a trailblazer in the city that has been its home is honourable. Hair salons + beauty salons are pillars of our community and a safe space where we can bond through conversation and experiences,” she said. “I am grateful to be seen on a platform like #CIROCStands by a brand that has been influential in the Black & Brown community that understands the importance of being a conduit for small business owners.”