by Gia Peppers (@giapeppers)
In the age of unlimited technology and less stable job opportunities, millennials, and those savvy enough to keep up, have created their own lanes to succeed in. With an unstable economy and less room for job growth, many find themselves leaving dead end jobs and doing whatever it takes to make their dreams a reality.
Still, the first step of leaving a comfortable 9 to 5 with benefits, an hour lunch break, and real vacation days is daunting to those who have lived their lives with a paycheck every other week. Nevertheless, if a person is committed enough, they will take the plunge. So, how do you start? Who do you call? Where do you begin? Those are all good questions.
To help us figure some of this out, PYNK enlisted the help of a fierce entrepreneur named Keisha Gilchrist. Gilchrist, a Hampton University Alum, is the owner of her own interior design company and a few hair salons. She decided to take the plunge and has never looked back. Check out her tips on what it takes to become a modern day hustler, in a new PYNK exclusive interview.
PYNK: Give us a little background into who you are, and what you do.
My name is Keisha Gilchrist, and every day I try to be better. I am many things – a mother, a wife, a friend, a business woman. My career is multi- faceted, I jokingly refer to myself as a serial business developer. I am an Interior Decorator (Style de Vie), the owner of a painting studio (Wet Your Palettes), a partner of two MD-based hair salons (Sintia’s Dominican Hair Salon and The Weave Express), and the sole owner of a FL-based salon specializing in hair extensions (WEX – The Weave Experience).
PYNK: Explain how you got into Interior Design and Owning a Hair Salon? Which came first?
I started my Interior Design Company in 2002. I naturally gravitated towards art in all forms as a youth, and I wanted to major in Art. My parents were funding my education and they vetoed it! After getting a degree from Hampton University and working in my field for a few years, a desire to be creative was calling me! I started first with decorating my first home, and then homes of friends. After getting my first client, the business concept developed and it’s been a fun ride since then. Owning the hair salons came later. Interior design is cyclical and you aren’t always busy – for me, the salon fills in those gaps.
3) How do you find time to balance both? Besides my talented team, I live by my lists! I start each day with a To-Do list and I manage my time to the tee. After all, it is my most valuable asset – and no one will value it if I don’t.
4) What is a regular day like for you? A regular day for me is EXTREMELY fast- paced. I start my day off like most moms… After they are settled in, I go to the gym for at least 30 minutes of cardio. By 9:30, I am in work mode. I start off by answering e-mails and voice-mails. On Monday’s, I meet with my assistant to plan for the week. Then, I begin working off of my lists… I am constantly multi-tasking.
PYNK: Hair and Interior design duties require a lot of use of your left-brain. Would you describe yourself as a creative? If so, how did you gain your business knowledge?
I am extremely creative. It is what comes natural to me. It is also natural for me to be soft. I learned quickly that that trait is not good in business. I had to train myself to think outside of my innate pattern to become business savvy. In the beginning, I tried to consider everyone’s feelings and it was difficult for me to make business decision’s that wouldn’t go over well with the crowd. My first salon taught me a lot – when you manage over 26 female employees, you learn quickly to be firm (but fair) and to see things more black and white. Now, it’s nothing for me to make decisions that are in the best interest of my businesses.
PYNK: You worked for other people when you first got out of college. What was the final straw that made you leave to work on your own?
It was God’s will that I left my job to work on my own. I knew from the day I took my first job out of college, that I wasn’t meant to work a 9-5. I used to literally feel like I was dying a bit each day (and I had a GREAT job with GREAT people!). But, I always felt stifled. I started doing my own thing while I was working, and the plan was always to leave my 9-5. In fact, I was saving to do so – but I don’t know if I would have had to gumption to pull the trigger had God not intervened. On this particular day at my job, my supervisor pulled me to the side and said “Keisha, you are doing a great job here. Your numbers are out of the roof. But people keep pulling me to the side and telling me that you are running an Interior Design business from your office. Can you be a bit more discreet?” I was so embarrassed that I put in my resignation that day, and two weeks later I stepped out on faith. I made what would have been my yearly salary within three months of working on my own! I haven’t looked back since!
PYNK: What tips can you give PYNK girls who want to leave their 9-5’s, but have no idea where to start?
A PYNK girl should always be ready for a rainy day. Most business ideas take awhile to become profitable. In the beginning, you should try to manage your passion while holding on to your 9-5…and save, save, save! Another tip is to eliminate as much debt as you can before going out on your own, you want your lifestyle to be as inexpensive as possible.
PYNK: What is the most challenging thing about being an entrepreneur?
Most people think that when you work for yourself you work less. You actually work MORE. It’s hard to shut it off, because you are betting on YOU. And your output directly impacts your profit. Yet, you still have to make time for your family, yourself and your personal interests or you will burn out. It’s also hard for people who aren’t business owners to understand your grind. No I can’t chat with you on the phone all day because I don’t have a “job”. No, I can’t hang out every night because I “don’t have to get up early”! Managing your time is also difficult.
PYNK: When starting a business, what are the 5 most important things you need to have?
Faith, Passion, Integrity, Thick Skin, Clients
PYNK: What characteristics make a successful entrepreneur?
She is positive, motivated, hungry, talented, inquisitive and ready to learn. She is not afraid of opposition and she welcomes it. She is resourceful, creative, and fair. She is unstoppable, and to her – “No” means “Not right now!”.
PYNK: Do you believe women can have it all—Family, friends, and successful career?
I do believe that women can have it all! It takes a lot of work and commitment to equally balance all three…but if you choose right the right career, the right spouse, the right career – it all comes together.
Follow Keisha Gilchrist’s companies here—> Style de Vie (www.sdvdecor.com); Wet Your Palettes (www.wetyourpalettes.com); WEX (www.wexhair.com); Sintia’s Dominican Salon (www.hairhappenshere.com); The Weave Express (www.theweaveexpress.com)
Hustle hard, PYNK Girls! #PynkGirlApproved