Karen Bonner and She Salon of Winston Salem

by Tonya Dixon | September 10th, 2014
Karen Bonner (Photos by Kelli McDonald)

Karen Bonner (Photos by Kelli McDonald)

When Karen Bonner received her cosmetology license she immediately went to work under a great stylist, but she was itching to own her own salon. She was determined and convinced she could handle all the requirements and responsibilities of a salon owner. Even though she was encouraged to wait and get more experience under her belt, she would not be deterred. In December 2007 she opened her first salon. In less than a year the venture failed…miserably.

Although Bonner gave it her all, she simply wasn’t prepared for the immense responsibility and work required to make the business work. In the process of trying to keep the salon afloat, she loss everything she had – literally. She lost her home, car, source of income and everything else imaginable. “I should not have started and to be honest I was not ready. I had the mindset of a stylist. I did not have the mindset of a business owner. I could do hair well, however I couldn’t manage the business,” she says. “It was beautiful, but it was in a bad location and I didn’t have any clients.”

Down but not out, Bonner allowed herself a short time to mourn the seeming defeat, but promised herself and her children that she would rise and overcome her situation. She never gave up her dream and desire to be a salon owner and she knew she would have her chance again and when she did, things would be different. She was absolutely certain of it. “Sometimes you have to suck in your pride and say I was wrong; you were right. But I just believe if you fall down you have to dust yourself off and keep going,” says Bonner.

Although she was forced to return to booth rental, she was warmly welcomed back by her former lead stylist and mentor, Shannon Williams, whom she credits as teaching her how to properly own and manage a salon and handle every aspect from dealing with clients and stylists to bill pay and continuing education. Bonner even became Williams’ salon manager at Sassy Styles by Shannon. The experience she gained proved to be priceless. Eventually, the opportunity presented itself and Bonner again had the chance to be a salon owner. In 2011 she became the proud owner of She Salon. This time she was prepared with the knowledge to make sure the venture would succeed.

Located in Winston Salem, North Carolina, She Salon is the physical expression of the passion Bonner has for what she does. She Salon has several stylists and a manicurist, most of whom have been with Bonner from the very beginning. Each stylist is properly licensed and trained. They all have a wealth of knowledge they bring to the table as well as individual expertise in natural hair care, short hair styling, weaving, braiding and everything else imaginable. Furthermore, the stylists, as well as Bonner, glean from each other and help one another. It’s what sets She Salon apart and above the crowd. Clients continue to come because they recognize the difference at the salon. Loyalty has nothing to do with it; rather it’s the amazing family atmosphere they enjoy as well as the relationships they have built with one another. From cleanliness to the latest in healthy hair styles, options and techniques to the tranquil atmosphere and genuine friendships developed; it’s just different at She Salon.

“We are like sisters. We get angry, but we love one another. We help each other and our clients take notice of that. We don’t hoard knowledge and love teaching each other things. If one stylist is backed up we don’t mind jumping in and helping her out without expecting a payment. It’s all about the clients and efficiency,” says Bonner. And if you ask salon manager Fatina Matthews she will be quick to attribute the salon’s success to Bonner. “Our owner is so awesome that she pays for each stylist to take up to eight hours of continuing education classes out of her pocket and those classes can be very expensive,” she says. “Karen invests in the people she works with.” Matthews appreciates the loving but stern hand that Bonner operates the salon with. She likens it to a winepress. “It doesn’t always feel good at the time, but in the end it will be great.”

Not only do Bonner and She Salon invest in one another, they also regularly invest in the community. The stylists support Look Good, Feel Better, a partnership with Novant Health and the American Cancer Society that seeks to bring awareness to breast cancer and supports cancer patients. Additionally, She Salon established Camp She, in which Bonner and her stylists take 10 girls to the mountains for one week to receive special attention and pampering. Bonner says it’s an opportunity for the older women to be positive examples and pour into the lives of young ladies.

The resilient and positive attitude that Bonner maintains is simply her way of life and is ingrained in her being. She says life will throw you a curve ball that knocks you down, but you just have to get back up. Getting back up is exactly what she has done and not only that but she encourages her stylists and clients to do the same. Bonner says the biggest compliment she could receive is that her stylists go further than she does and accomplishes more than she has.

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