What started as a dream, I'm slowly building into an empire!
Hello everyone my name is Shakiya Gardner. I'm a mother of two handsome boys, hairstylist, foodie and traveler. I've loved hair since I was a little girl. I remember teaching myself how to braid when I was 8 years old. I practiced on my "my size barbie" (my 80's babies know this was all the rage growing up) until I perfected it. Or at least I thought I perfected it I was only 8. I was so excited that I braided my own hair and went to school looking crazy. In my mind I just knew I did a good job. Now looking back I realized how crazy I looked. My mom had no idea I did my own hair because she went to work before I went to school. I came home and got in so much trouble because of course I looked terrible. Unbeknownst to me this was the start of my hair journey.
From that point I continued to practice until I really learned how to braid really good. By the time I got to high school I was braiding all of my family, friends and neighbors hair. I fell in love with hair and it became my life. Hair was my outlet because growing up I experienced a lot of different hardships. I'll talk about those hardships in a later blog post. From a little girl I always knew I wanted to be a hairstylist so I attended vo-tech in high school where I was able to attend cosmetology school. I was passionate and dedicated to learning hair.
I loved hair so much that all I talked about was being a hairstylist and owning my own salon one day. I pretty much talked those around me to death about it lol. This was 2004-2005 ish. I talked about having multiple salons and an empire at 17. As much as I talked about it sometimes I doubted my own dreams because life definitely has a way of throwing curve balls. After high school I put hair on hold while I was in undergrad. I thought my way out of the lifestyle that I grew up in was going corporate instead of hair. I was focused on getting my degree that I didn't put any effort into pursuing my passion. Then reality hit after I received my degree December 2010 from the illustrious Hampton University. I graduated right in the middle of the economic downturn and corporate jobs weren't as fruitful as they had been in previous years.
In an effort to try and find myself I moved to Tampa, Florida in 2011. That move was short lived because after 9 months I came back to Virginia. Moving to another state with no help, no family and not many resources was very challenging for me. I also had a 4 year old at this time. I had my oldest son in 2007 right after my freshman year of undergrad. Being a young mother I was very overprotective and didn't trust everyone with him. The transition with a toddler from Virginia to Florida was unsettling when searching for positions in my degree field. Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any positions in my field.
I worked during the day as a collections agent at a call center, a bottle girl in the evening at a night club and I worked momentarily as DirecTV salesperson. I wasn't really happy with those jobs and I was still trying to figure out what path I wanted to take. My day time job eventually opened the door for me to get back into my passion of hair. Florida is extremely hot so I constantly did my own hair and changed my hairstyles bi-weekly. Eventually my co-workers noticed my hair and started asking who did my hair. From there I started doing most of my co-workers hair at my day job. This is when I realized I missed hair and I got my inspiration back for hair. I eventually started building a little clientele in Florida. Unfortunately after 9 months of trying to make it work in Tampa, I came back home to Virginia in September 2011.
After moving back home I was still unsure of what path I wanted to take. Part of me still wanted to do corporate so I went on a few corporate interviews with Freddie Mac, PNC Bank & IBM. I was fresh out of undergrad so I had zero experience. During that time because of the economy most corporate companies wanted you to have years of experience so I was let down again because I didn’t get any of the positions I applied for. I remember being so hurt and not understanding what I was doing wrong. After not receiving any of those positions I stopped applying and started focusing on my passion and craft. When I moved back to Virginia I moved in with a friend and I didn't tell many people I was back home. I started doing hair in the house and advertising on Craigslist. I was slowly building clientele but I hated doing hair in the house. I knew I couldn’t afford high booth rent so I started searching for salons that could work with me and my little clientele.
After searching I eventually found EJ Brown Salon and decided it was my chance to take that leap. The salon wasn’t far from my house and the owner was willing to work with me. I was nervous but excited to start my journey. The salon was located in a hood area but I needed to get out of the house. Everything started out slow but I was consistent with posting on facebook, Craigslist and I also made paper flyers that I posted all around Hampton University. Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest and all these other social media platforms didn’t exist. My clientele was slowly building but I was also attracting hood clientele because of my location and the environment of the salon. I eventually realized that in order for me to grow I had to leave and that’s what I did. I wanted to attract a different clientele and needed somewhere where I could learn and grow. That environment wasn’t conducive to helping me grow so I had to decide my next move. So I decided to go back home to doing hair and as much as I hated it, I knew that salon wasn’t for me. In the process I did meet some amazing people whom I’m still friends with today and some of my clients that started with me at EJ Brown still come to me now.
Sitting at home for months I was soul searching because I realized I was doing what I loved but I wasn’t sure where to go from there. Until one day while checking my email I saw an email from the salon owner of Luxe Hair Studio she was looking for stylists and she saw my ad on Craigslist. I remember reading the email closing it and saying nope I’m over salons. After waiting two months I responded to her email. I went to meet her and I liked the salon and the location was perfect. After much prayer I decided to take the leap and work in her salon. Transitioning back into that environment was hard but here I was excited again about my journey this was in July of 2012. I’m going to admit I STRUGGLED and almost quit a million times. No matter how hard it got I pushed myself because I knew I could it. Throughout the process I became pregnant and had my youngest son but I didn’t give up. My business was slowly growing, I was learning and building the type of clientele I wanted. In 2016 I hit 6 figures and I honestly never saw it coming. With hard work and dedication I grew my brand. I never would have thought I would get to this point. I’m so thankful I trusted myself and my dream.
Today I’m the salon owner of Beauty Rehab VA LLC. I'm also the proud owner of KG Beauty Co. and Hair by Kiya Gee. I’ve built my brands and I have an amazing clientele and the support throughout the years has been real. Failure is a part of the process! I’ve failed more times than I can count but I’m grateful I pushed through. I stayed consistent, cried, prayed, quit in my head, learned, failed, overcame, lost motivation but I never gave up. I’m excited to see what the future holds for my journey but my advice to anyone second guessing themselves is to Just Do It!!!