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Her first business venture was in the restaurant industry, but within six months she realized this wasn’t her passion. When an acquaintance put a hair business up for sale, however, it inspired Charles to capitalize on her hobby of cutting hair, which she had done for family and friends for as long as she could remember. “Within two weeks of that business going up for sale, I enrolled in beauty school,” she says.
Directly after graduating, Charles opened a two-chair salon in Alberta. Following four successful years at that location, in 1980 Charles decided to move to St.-Albert, a suburb of Edmonton, and opened Hair Focus. Four years after that, Charles made the move to the big city.
“When you are in the suburbs, everyone thinks that the businesses in the big city are better,” she explains. I thought, ‘That’s it: I’m taking the plunge and moving downtown.’ ”
Her move to a mall in Edmonton was just the catalyst Charles needed to catapult her into a successful chain, now numbering nine locations throughout Canada. In 1997, she added spa services to her properties, and now she is stepping into the medical spa arena by providing medical spa services within her existing businesses.
Although it is undeniable, when asked about her triumphs in the industry, Charles is a bit surprised. “Everybody views you as more successful than you think you are,” she says. “The realization hits me when I fly into a big city and think, ‘I have a salon here.’ Or when I give the tour to new employees, I realize what I’ve accomplished. It’s a great feeling and I’m excited, but I still believe that the business is in the beginning stages.”
Charles’ drive doesn’t stop in her professional life. She also is an avid runner, mountain scrambler and sea kayaker. “My inspiration has been to be and become the best. We are never good enough ... we can always be better tomorrow,” she says. “My goals have always been moving targets. Everyday, I have to strive to do better.”
The future of Charles’ business reflects this motivation. “I want to be a $100 million company,” she says. “We are looking for different ways to distribute my products and grow our locations.”
And don’t forget the EvelineCharles Academy. With a current location in Edmonton, Charles plans to open a second school in Calgary. She believes her schools are important because beauty professionals are successfully trained and help her business overcome an employee shortage.
“The schools help feed the locations. With the shortage of employees in the industry, students are trained in the EvelineCharles Salon and Spas’ ways, so they are ready to work at the locations, and others, as well,” Charles explains.
As for the future of the industry, she sees things becoming more professional and streamlined. “We are striving to raise the bar, polish the profession and make it a better industry. Businesses can still be creative, but they will be run more as professional businesses and will need to work really hard on customer service and compete in the market to be recognized as viable and good,” she says.
Above all, says Charles, it is crucial to stand by your word in order to be respected and to push yourself as far as possible. “If I tell you next week that I am going to do something, I will do it. I have a lot of pride,” she says. “There’s nothing worse than people who have big dreams, but never walk their talk.”
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