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Meet Leilani Hailey of Hair Theory in Huntington Beach

Today we’d like to introduce you to Leilani Hailey.

Leilani, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
The beauty industry is in my blood. My mother’s family is very artistic, and many of the people in my family chose career paths that are creative; some even in the beauty industry.

When I was 16 I started my first job as a receptionist at a hair salon. I really believe that is what sparked my interest in making hairdressing into a career. The girls were like family to one another and they adopted me as one of their own. They taught me a lot about hair, how to mix color, shampoo clients and how to do men’s cuts. Naturally, at the wise age of 16, thought I knew everything about doing hair (insert eye roll). During the time I was working at the salon, I had a friend with bright red hair. She hated getting teased about her naturally red locks, so one day she came to me and asked me to color her hair. We went to a beauty supply and purchased supplies.

After a few hours of being locked in the bathroom with a roll of aluminum foil and butcher block scissors we emerged to unveil her new look. My grandpa was over at my house and said, “Wow! Have you ever done that before?!” I hadn’t actually done anyone’s hair before, but my grandpa said, “You should do that!” To all of our surprise, it didn’t look half bad! That was it! my mind was set. I wanted to do hair.

At that point in time, I was a junior in high school and my high school had a regional occupation program. I decided I was going to try and enroll in the cosmetology program. When I went to see my counselor she basically laughed at me and said that people signed up at the beginning of their freshman year, and because it was so sought after, I would never get in. Well lucky for me I am persistent. I went to see her everyday she was in her office to remind her of how badly I wanted in the program. So in June of 2004 I got a call that someone had dropped out of the program that would be starting in a few weeks. She told me that my persistence stuck with her and instead of offering the spot to the next person on the list she was offering it to me. That was the beginning of my hair journey and me not giving up on anything that I wanted.

Fast forward about 10 years, after assisting, after being a military wife and moving all over the country, after building and losing clientele… I finally had the opportunity to settle down and give this career a real shot! I started working at a salon in downtown Huntington Beach where my cousin was working. I was able to build my business there and started attending college. I knew that I loved doing hair, but I was meant for something more. Education became really important to me, I wanted to learn as much as I could about hair, about business and about relationships. In 2012, I graduated from Long Beach State with a Bachelors degree in Communication Studies. At this point my business was booming, I felt ready to take on the next step in my life, which was opening my own salon… and so the next chapter began.

I wrote my business plan, started saving money and getting all my ducks in a row. I was waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. After changing salons and feeling like there was something I was missing, I came across this space that seemed perfect. I quickly learned that it didn’t matter how prepared I was or what my business plan looked like, if it wasn’t meant to be it wasn’t going be. So I kept searching, but again my persistence paid off when the original space I wanted sat empty for months after our deal had fallen through. I renegotiated and got the space we are in now.

Has it been a smooth road?
I’m pretty sure every business owner will get a good giggle at this question. There have been so many bumps during this process I could probably write a book. From the beginning, it hasn’t really been an easy road. It started when we first inquired about the space and ended up losing it; that was my first real tough reality check. I’ve come to learn that sometimes things don’t work out the way that you expect/want them to, but I’ve just kept working hard, being patient and having faith. Everything happens for a reason, as cliché as that is, they are literally words that I live by.

Now that we have been open for 8 months I am just starting to feel like my head is above the water. The biggest challenge I am facing now is figuring out who I am. I am a boss, a hairdresser, and a friend and that can get a bit overwhelming sometimes. I think I am just starting to try to realize that I can be all of those things together and independent of one another. I’m learning to set boundaries, and when you’re a people pleaser, that can be difficult to do.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Hair Theory – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Hair Theory was born from my understanding of what it’s like to be a stylist behind the chair, and also what it’s like to be a client at an upscale establishment. I felt like there was something missing from many of the salons I worked at previously. We had this void in North OC in our salons, what was missing was a rental salon that had many of the inner workings of a commission based salon.

For me the biggest thing that was missing was customer service. I have said time and again customer service is key. You can have an amazing stylist that makes you feel like a million bucks, but if the customer service isn’t there, eventually it won’t matter how good the stylist is the client will get frustrated and move on. At Hair Theory, our goal is to love what we do, love the people we work with and provide an amazing customer service experience because you can never go wrong with that!

My vision is truly coming to life because of my amazing team. I work with the most talented bunch of stylists I know. To add to that we have the best salon manager ever! Seriously the clients love her, the staff loves her, she is my right hand lady! It all starts there for us, that is where culture is created. Together we have hand-picked each receptionist and stylist to make up a dream team. They are what makes me proud as an owner, it sounds cheesy and cliché, but without them I have nothing. I have clients tell me that they love the energy in the salon. Many of them note the difference of the vibe compared to other salons and they tell me they enjoy our interaction with each other.

When a client walks in they will always get a smile and a greeting. If one of us has a client needing help or wanting another glass of champagne etc. any one of us would gladly help. That’s rare to find and I am extremely grateful that we have that type of culture.

As I said previously, we have a talented bunch of ladies that can literally tackle anything.

Naturally we each have our own specialty, but for the most part our clients request balayage and the beachy “undone look.”

We are located about a half a mile from the beach so it makes sense that many of our clients like natural beautiful looking hair.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
I love Huntington Beach. The culture that we have is a lot more laid back and natural compared to a lot of other places. Natural bohemian is totally my vibe so I dig it. I do wish we had more little local businesses as opposed to big corporate shops. I am transitioning to vegan so I also wish we had more vegan options.

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Image Credit:
Jenn Sturtevant for Classic Kids Photography Newport Beach

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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