It’s been five years since Cherie Hershman opened her North Seattle salon, Essence. When JTNews reported on the opening in 2007, Hershman’s clientele was growing. As a result of networking, community connections and unique services, Hershman has since taken on five stylists and an aesthetician. Business is booming.
“People are really into using local in Seattle,” Hershman says. “We’ve been tremendously blessed by the people in the community.”
Before creating her business, Hershman operated Cuts on Wheels, offering styling services to women in their homes, in addition to other jobs, like serving as director of the Northend JCC.
“Because I used to run the JCC, I tend to run the salon as a community center,” she says. “It’s not your average salon…I get to hang out with friends and family all day and make people look beautiful.”
Hershman is one of the few area stylists who washes, cuts and styles wigs. In addition to serving the Orthodox women who wear sheitels (wigs) due to Jewish modesty, Hershman’s clientele has grown to include cancer and alopecia patients who are losing their hair. Essence is also one of the only salons that offers free head shaving for patients facing chemotherapy treatment. Stylists will wash and massage the scalp, and counsel clients about wigs, scarves, and skin care.
Women may be “empowered to shave their head, or completely falling apart,” says Hershman. “You have to be prepared for anything.”
The most important part, she notes, is “treating them with as much love and nurture you can give.”
Whether the client wants privacy because of the sensitive nature of the treatment, or because she keeps her natural hair covered for modesty’s sake, Hershman sets up privacy screens. The salon also offers hair removal, permanent makeup, up-dos and mainstream services, like coloring and cuts for all ages and both genders.
Since hiring another Jewish stylist, Iris Brumer, Hershman says her reach to Jewish clients has increased.
“I have my hands in a lot of communities. I had been at the JCC, my kids had been at [Seattle Jewish Community School]. I’m pretty connected,” she says. But yet, “now that [Brumer’s] there, my grasp has definitely gotten bigger.”
Hershman’s advice to budding entrepreneurs is to network.
“Networking has been the backbone,” she says, along with consistency in her message and hours. Five years later, she’s still constantly handing out her business card with a coupon. “People want to do business with people they know.”
Business Networking International has also been integral. She attended weekly meetings with other business owners when she was starting out, and continues to send her stylists.
“It’s the best marketing that I’ve seen. It’s a very solid referral,” she says. “That’s been tremendous.”
And hair isn’t the only sensitive subject. Visiting the salon is “a lot like therapy,” says Hershman. “We’re not bound by HIPAA, but people know when they tell us something it doesn’t go anywhere.”
The best part of her job, she says, is spending time with her clients.
“A lot of people do this business for a lot of years, and you get to see the generations,” she says. “You do become a part of the family.”
For more information, visit www.essenceseattle.com.