Another Level Salon

Dawn Cauthen-Thornton | July 21st, 2016
Melissa Martin & Tomeka Lesane

Melissa Martin & Tomeka Lesane

Not too many people know what they want to do with their young lives at the age of 18. Most of us are applying for college, hanging on to high school relationships, or figuring out our next life move in general. In the early ‘90’s, Charlotte native, Melissa Martin was not the average teen.

While still in high school, Melissa earned a cosmetology apprenticeship license that allowed her to work under an experienced stylist for six months. By the time she was 18 years old, she was a fully licensed cosmetologist, ready for the working world. Over the next several years, she wore many hats in the hair industry – stylist, platform artist, educator, but most notably, business owner.

In July 2016, the salon will celebrate its one-year anniversary with a rooftop gathering and a grand re-opening of the facility. Located in east Charlotte, Another Level Salon not only offers services to those with chemically treated hair, but textured hair, makeup, and nails. “The most that I’m proud of with this salon is that we offer education classes,” she says. Melissa and salon manager, Tomeka Lesane pride themselves on teaching their stylists and clients how to maintain healthy hair, not just how to make it look pretty. Since teaching is a passion of Melissa’s, Another Level Salon houses the Transition for Learning program which is a series of continuing education courses.

“When I actually worked in different salons, I noticed there wasn’t any mentorship between the novice and veteran stylists,” says Melissa. That’s when she set out to bridge the gap. Providing sound education and mentorship is not only an interest, but a personal responsibility for both ladies. Tomeka, a native of Lumberton, N.C., has taught at several community colleges throughout North Carolina, including Empire Beauty School and most recently Central Piedmont Community College, both in Charlotte. Tomeka says, “Many educators simply teach just to pass state boards. However, we teach the students how to stay alive in a changing industry.”

Every stylist that works at Another Level Salon holds an instructor’s license that allows them to teach cosmetology classes. In addition, Melissa and Tomeka have both obtained natural hair care specialists and instructor’s licenses. In a nutshell, there are at least eight licenses between the two, not to mention other certifications and course completions. So when you step into their facility you will truly experience another level of haircare.

Unique to Another Level, is not limiting themselves to just being an urban salon. “This city is becoming a mini- Washington, D.C. or Atlanta, so there are many different cultures here. Because of that, we don’t exclude any hair type and we teach our stylists to do the same,” says Melissa. To highlight this aspect, the salon will hold a networking event in August, targeting the entire community to bring awareness to their multicultural services.
Melissa and her group of phenomenal women don’t just focus on making money; they also uplift others by offering their time and talents to the community. Last year, the ladies held a back to school event for a local nonprofit organization, styling and grooming for young girls’ hair, so that they would feel and look beautiful for the first day of school. Since Tomeka also has barbering skills, they partner with the Boys and Girls Club of America to offer free haircuts and hair styling to both girls and boys this year.

When asked about being a business owner, Melissa realizes she loves the freedom of entrepreneurship and the idea of being able to brand who she is as a stylist. She adds, “The most important thing about owning a business is having a support pool. Having a CPA, a financial advisor, or even a mentor on your team is imperative.” Jumping into the fire is never an easy fete, but at times it’s worth the sweat and tears. Her path has not been traveled without roadblocks however. These range from financial issues to severing ties with those who weren’t as dedicated to her vision and forced their own agendas. “I don’t know anyone who hasn’t faced challenges. You just have to keep pushing and promoting.”

With God being a driving force with Melissa, she believes he provides the gift to those who are interested in becoming a stylist, but it’s up to her team, as educators, to cultivate the talent. She admits a key component is not becoming complacent. It’s known that history repeats itself every few decades and now is no different. We’ve far moved on from the 1970’s but it seems the styles are once again upon us. With the re-emergence of natural hair, she has shifted her paradigm. “The trend has changed and now more clients have embraced their natural textures. We want to make sure they’re aware of the best products and techniques to keep their hair healthy,” she says.

Melissa and Tomeka, along with stylists, Ebony Jones and Shawanda Glenn, have found great success with their young salon, however, they are always on the hunt for new and emerging stars. In order to stay relevant in this ever-changing business, you must be willing to take your career to another level and Melissa Martin along with Another Level Salon may just be the ones to do it.

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