Posted on July 9, 2019
Sola Salon Studios
Kim Bennett met Matt Briger and Stratton Smith in a Denver, Colorado Starbucks in 2004, when they were just getting their fledgling company, Sola Salon Studios, off the ground. So much in life is happenstance, and that day Kim’s life was about to change in ways she couldn’t even imagine. After the two entrepreneurs told Kim about how they planned to empower hairdressers to take charge of their lives and businesses, she told them to sign her up even though their idea was so new that they didn’t even have a lease on a building yet. “I think I told them that I’d sign a napkin if that’s what it took,” she recalls.
Being an independent contractor is nothing new for hairdressers. It’s how Kim had been making a living for years, but she’d been paying someone to rent a chair in their salon. What Matt and Stratton were offering her was the opportunity to become a salon owner, not just rent space from one. Better yet, it was a turnkey approach with Sola providing a high-end, fully-equipped salon with the support and tools Kim needed so she was free to focus on her art and “dream my business into reality.”
Fifteen years ago when she became the first Sola stylist, Kim’s dream was to open the first Paul Mitchell Focus Salon in Denver. “Sola made that happen,” says Kim, who was and still is a national educator for Paul Mitchell. Almost immediately she began receiving accolades for the sheer amount of retail she was selling, as much as salons with 10 or 12 chairs. Then in 2012, she won a Paul Mitchell Focus Salon Award. “It took Paul Mitchell a few years to realize that I was doing those numbers all by myself,” she says, “but I had Sola behind me, which made all the difference.”
The poet Robert Browning famously said that a “man’s reach should exceed his grasp,” and those words ring true for Kim, who was named Culture Ambassador and Director of Industry Relations for Sola Salon Studios. “They hired me to help them connect to the beauty industry,” she explains. “The idea was to have all of the beauty professionals under the Sola umbrella stay connected to the brands they love and to have access to quality education.” Recently Kim was master of ceremonies at Sola Sessions, the company’s twice-a-year live educational events. She goes to trade shows all over the country, which she finds inspiring because it enables her to meet hundreds of beauty professionals, and she has been interviewed by all the major trade magazines, something she admits might not have happened if it weren’t for Sola. She still works at her Sola Studio three to four days a week and makes the 30-minute drive to the home office in Denver when needed. As Culture Ambassador, she’s the voice for 14,000 Sola stylists, and her opinion matters. “If they’re planning to go in a new direction, they always ask me if it would work for the stylist,” she says. “The beauty professional comes first. Always has and always will.”
Years ago Kim said something about Sola that still resonates today: “As big as you can dream, you can do it at Sola.” So, have all her dreams come true? “I think it’s fair to say that I’ve exceeded my dreams,” says Kim, who credits Sola with giving her the freedom to live life and manage her business on her own terms. Case in point: When she got married and had her daughter, Evie, she slowed things down a bit. But when Evie started school, she was able to accept the position at Sola and adjust her hours at the salon. Then, when life shifted once again and she became a single mother, she was able to rearrange her schedule to be home with Evie in the evenings, and SolaGenius, the company’s cutting-edge app, allowed her to do it quickly and efficiently.
“When I said that as big as you can dream, you can do it at Sola, I don’t think I realized how far I could go,” says Kim. “And for that, I am eternally grateful.”