Article by Cheryl Harris Forbes
Photographs by Shana Sureck
Donyelle McBride is a small business owner with a big heart for the people she serves. She is founder of the eponymously named McBride Hair Restoration Services, LLC located at 92 Weston Street, Unit 13, in Hartford, Connecticut. McBride’s shop is not the usual blow-dry, perm, relaxer, press & curl, or razor-cut establishment, although if that’s all you need, you can certainly get it. McBride Hair Restoration stands out from the crowd because it caters to people who are experiencing the trauma of lost or thinning hair. By the time they reach this salon’s door, people are looking for viable hair solutions and, if possible, a miracle.
McBride doesn’t give out false hope. She‘s known for getting to the root of the problem and for creating a hair resource and personalized haven for clients that can’t be found at mega establishments. Ninety-eight percent of her hair replacement and restoration customers are female. They are diverse, with ethnic backgrounds ranging from African-American, Irish, and Swedish, to Polish and East Indian. They live as close as Hartford and Greenwich, Connecticut to as far away as New York City and Atlanta, Georgia. At McBride’s, clients become informed about their hair restoration options and receive services that meet their individual and aesthetic needs.
The process formally begins with an initial consultation. For McBride, it’s an opportunity to let potential clients tell her what they’re experiencing and for her to examine their hair. Whether hair loss is due to stress, illness, chemotherapy, genetics or chemical damage, the toll it takes on self-esteem and quality of life is the same. The meeting can take a while and is often very emotional. A Kleenex box is always nearby.
McBride began her cosmetology career more than 20 years ago as a hairdresser, priding herself on great hair care and innovative style. After years in the industry and an increasing number of new clients with severe hair damage and balding scalps, she began asking if she could do more. As a result McBride became one of Connecticut’s first, and for many years, only, trichologist. Trichologists are hair and scalp specialists trained to identify and treat the causes of scalp disease, hair damage, and loss. Subsequently, she acquired additional training in non-surgical hair replacement and hair restoration. In an effort to be of further service, McBride, an avid health and wellness enthusiast, gained additional training to become a Certified Natural Health Practitioner. When appropriate, and if desired, she can help guide customers to adopt healthy lifestyle choices that support improved nutrition for optimum results.
The salon’s current location marks McBride’s third stop on her road to entrepreneurial success. “I was always on a journey to make sure my customers were happy. Balancing client needs and becoming profitable was a challenge. I loved doing hair so much, in the beginning I didn’t realize I needed to get training on how to run a business. I’ll admit I’ve made some mistakes,” she recalls. “That’s why I love the Women’s Business Center at the University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center and the business education they provide. They’ve helped grow my business by providing me the tools to develop into a competent business owner. “
When Women’s Business Center (WBC) staff approached McBride about the Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program, she jumped at the opportunity, completed a business plan, got legal counsel, and worked with the Center’s advisors on her marketing plan. The hard work paid off. She increased sales and opened new revenue streams with educational seminars and product sales. Her newly minted business plan even helped secure a business loan to complete facility improvements in her new space.
Since then, McBride continues to move forward. She is expanding her influence in the industry and has even adopted a new objective she’s dubbed “TORCH” - Training Others to Restore Confidence with Hair. For more than six years, she has served as an American Cancer Society preferred provider of medical wigs and a facilitator of the “Look Good, Feel Better” program for cancer patients.
Committed to sharing her knowledge to help a larger number of clients and operators, McBride trains other beauticians in hair restoration and replacement techniques. She has plans to open two more hair centers in Connecticut and a third in the Tri-State area.
“This whole experience has shown me that you can live your dream and you don’t have to be like everyone else. Before connecting with the Women’s Business Center, I saw a lot of salons that weren’t operating correctly. Early on, I worked in some of them. In my own business, I’ve learned it’s the details like professionalism, timeliness and, of course, skill that sets you apart from the competition.”
McBride is proof positive that professionalism engenders respect on all levels. “Now I’m taken seriously and seen as a business owner, by both my customers and investors. I feel good about my accomplishments,” she revealed, smiling broadly. “Because of the training I received, I can speak the language of business and I have a computerized method for tracking my finances and inventory. I couldn’t do that before.”
In addition to business counseling and technical assistance, McBride says she now has a reference group that understands the entrepreneur’s mindset. “I’ve definitely benefitted from the WBC’s holistic approach. I joined their Women’s Business Roundtable, which gives me a chance to network with other small business owners,” says McBride. “It’s the chance to associate with like-minded people who are working hard to succeed. They support you. I never know what pearl of wisdom I’ll get when we meet, but each one has helped me move ahead.”
If McBride’s attention to creating an environment that tends to client needs while protecting their privacy is part of her secret to success, restoring smiles and self-confidence is the visible crowning glory.