Is bravery genetic? What about creativity? Entrepreneurship?
That’s what I’m wondering, and what you’ll be wondering, too, once you read this interview with the FOUR Vaughn sisters.
I met twins Kim and Jill in college, when we hung out in the same group of friends and spent the weekends (and, okay, weeknights, too) staying up way too late with our friends at their smelly boy apartment.
A few years ago, I hooked up with Kim again when I was living in North Carolina and looking for a new hair girl. I found out Kim had opened her own salon. Then I met her other sister, Amanda, who had just moved home and launched her own clothing line after living in Philadelphia for years and working as a designer for Urban Outfitters. Then, I found out Jill had started a business with her mom. And THEN I found out they had yet another sister and – you’ll never guess – she owns a photography business.
Anyway, all that to say, I’m totally excited to introduce you to this family of dreamers.
(as an aside, it’s a tiny bit tricky interviewing four girls at the same time, so…Godspeed)
Jennifer: Jennifer Vaughn Photography
Kim: Renewal Hair & Boutique. We offer all hair services, waxing and cosmetics. We also have Formation Boutique in the salon that clients are welcome to look through and shop while they wait.
Amanda: FORMATION – a clothing and accessories line (using new and vintage fabrications)
Jill: The Kids’ Clubhouse is an after-school care and summer camp program for school-aged children.
Your location: North Carolina
How did your dream begin?
Kim: My dream began as a child. I was very fortunate to know as a young girl what I wanted to be in life. I always loved the opportunity to get my hands in someone’s hair, whether it was coloring my sister’s hair down in the garage in high school or styling my friend’s hair for prom. Whatever the case, I was all on it. I loved being able to mold something into such beauty with my fingers.
Jennifer: In high school. I took a class at the Career Center off campus and fell in love with how the camera could capture a moment forever. I loved working late nights in the darkroom making images come to life.
Amanda: I started thinking up crazy outfits to where as a young child, and started sketching and bringing them to life as a young teenager. It seemed only natural that I would follow my dreams through design school and land in the fashion industry.
Jill: I took a job as my mom’s assistant several years ago at an after-school care program because, quite honestly, I needed a full-time job. At this point, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. It wasn’t until about a year later that I realized how much I actually enjoyed working with kids and their families! My dream really started when I began thinking about how much I believed my mom and I could accomplish if we started our own business.
What finally gave you the courage to start?
Amanda: The support and encouragement from family, friends and instructors.
Jennifer: Well, after graduating college with a photography degree, I didn’t think I had any other direction to go! And with my family’s support I was able to take that next step.
Kim: To be honest, I had always thought of owning my own salon, but had kind-of settled in as a booth renter. I was actually somewhat forced into owning a place, which turned out to be a huge blessing. The salon I was working at unfortunately came to an end and I found myself at a crossroads. I could either start searching for a new place, which meant starting all over as “the new girl” or I could finally step out and do my own thing. So, here I am.
Jill: Several people started coming up to us and telling us that we should start our own business. When we saw that other people really believed in us, it gave us the courage to actually believe in ourselves.
What has been the biggest surprise about owning your own business?
Jennifer: I’m surprised at how quickly word of mouth helps grow a business. Seems like one job leads to another, and another, and so on.
Amanda: Well, I found that staying “on top of it” carries a lot more weight…especially when you’re producing each garment yourself.
Have you made any embarrassing mistakes?
Jill: We recently hosted an art contest at our place. One of my kindergarteners was so excited about her artwork being displayed on the wall. As we were looking for it, I realized I had actually thrown her picture away. I felt so bad. The good news…she drew another and actually won 1st place, so it all worked out!
Amanda: Of course! I have made the mistake of sewing “right side” to “wrong side”, and in sewing terms that means ripping out the seams and starting all over!
What advice would you give to someone trying to get the courage up to start their own business?
Jennifer: You never know until you try. Surround yourself with supportive and encouraging friends and family and whether you succeed or fail, they will be with you the whole journey.
Jill: I believe that when God created me, He had some really great ideas of how He was going to use my talents. If I had not followed that feeling inside of me, then I really could have missed out on such a huge blessing. So, my advice would be to not let fear, doubt, and other people’s negative opinions keep you from doing what you believe you were made to do!
What inspires you?
Kim: This is going to sound super cheesy and cliché, but I am truly inspired in helping people. I have done so many of my clients for years, that they really have become friends of mine. When I see them come in and life has just been hard on them, I do my best to lift them up. So many people look at a stylist as “just” a stylist. However, it goes so much deeper for me. I have always made it a goal to make my clients feel special and lift their spirits. I am so encouraged to see them walk out of the salon with a little more bounce in their step. That is what it is all about.
Jennifer: People in their own environment and style, colors, shapes. Pretty much anything “outside of the box”. I’m always looking at magazines for inspiration. And of course other photographers.
What has been your proudest creative moment?
Amanda: My proudest moments have been when a customer will turn to me and tell me just how much they love my style, and how they have not seen anything like it before. That makes me want to go back to my studio and work out some more ideas right away!
Kim: I decided in the beginning that I did not want my salon, to “simply be a hair salon”. I wanted us to be able to impact people’s lives. We have been open for about three years, and each year we’ve hosted a cut-a-thon. We offer $10 cuts, raffle prizes, food, live music and much more. Then, 100% of the money goes towards a charity or a family. Our first year, we were able to send a family to Haiti for a mission trip. Our second one, we raised money for Susie’s Law, which is an organization against animal abuse. Last, we raised money for a sweet little three-year-old girl named Lily who was suffering from leukemia. It has been amazing to see our community come together and support these events. However, one of the most touching events was actually for one of my stylists. Her husband was diagnosed with kidney failure at 30 and we hosted an event where friends and family and community could come out enjoy live music, food and donate to the family. It was a great success! I love to be able to use my talents for a greater cause.
How many hours a week do you work?
Amanda: I usually put about 15-20 hours or more into production (at the cutting table or sewing machine), but I also spend countless hours looking through magazines, blogs and sifting through thrift stores.
Kim: Well, I must say ever since I opened the salon, it is very rare to have a week under 50 hours. I have a full clientele which takes up a lot of my time, so coming in on your day off is usually required.
Jill: Now that I am no longer working for someone else, my hours are actually way more flexible than they used to be! With that being said, summertime is quite different. Last summer, I worked 12 hours straight each day for 10 weeks. Did I mention that I work with a lot of kids???
You’ve got $100 extra to spend on something for your business – what’s it going to be?
Amanda: I am an avid collector of fabric, so I could always use it for material supply.
Jill: At this very moment, I would have to say a video camera. There are just too many great moments going on at work that I am missing out on!
What one thing makes your life so much easier?
Amanda: Having a supportive and involved husband. He will sometimes even go along with me to the fabric store, and he is always interested in what projects I am working on. That makes me want to keep doing what I am doing.
Kim: The fact that my hubby and family are in full support of me. I could not do what I do everyday if I felt as if I was all alone in it. I am truly blessed to have people in my life who would do anything to help me and who nonstop encourage me and my dreams.
Jennifer: Having a great family and lots of friends.
Jill: Normally, a job is stressful because of the people you are forced to work with (or work for). Because we get to choose who works for us, we can say that we have the best staff possible. It’s so much easier being surrounded by people I enjoy working with!
How sweet are these girls? I love their positivity, and their repeated reference to their supportive family.
Update: Just a few days after completing this interview, Amanda gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Dillinger! What a blessed boy to be born into such a creative, close-knit family. Plus, I know where he can get his first haircut. And have some photos made. And go after school when his mom’s working.