Meredith Morris is a co-owner of the hair salon, Maven Beverly Hills, and she along with her partner, Danai, had been hairstylists for over 20 years. Tired of the robotic factory-style work, these two got together in 2014 and decided to open their own salon, Maven. The goal was and is to have a salon where everyone can feel welcome, at ease, and get quality time with their trusted stylist. The approach at Maven is securing customized experiences to every individual. They’ve created the idea of #Mavenmoments to live your best life. And as an entrepreneur committed to making women feel their best, we’re so excited to have her on today.

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Alice: Hey, everyone. I’m Alice, the social media manager for Jubilance. And today, I have with me Meredith Morris. Meredith is a co-owner of the hair salon, Maven Beverly Hills, and she along with her partner, Danai, have been hairstylists for over 20 years. Tired of the robotic factory-style work, these two got together in 2014 and decided to open their own salon, Maven. The goal was and is to have a salon where everyone can feel welcome, at ease, and get quality time with their trusted stylist. The approach at Maven is securing customized experiences to every individual. They’ve created the idea of #Mavenmoments to live your best life. And as entrepreneurs committed to making women feel their best, we’re so excited to have her on today. Welcome, Meredith. Thank you so much for joining us.

Meredith Morris: It’s so funny when you think about creating something and then having it read back to you. I was just sort of like, “Oh, my gosh, that’s so cool.”

Alice: That’s amazing. You’re doing some great stuff so that’s why we want to have you on.

Meredith: Well, I’m so excited that you have and I’m excited to be here with you today.

Alice: Awesome. I just want to open it up to some more fun questions at the beginning. What are your must-have hair products?

Meredith: It’s so hard because you used to, when I started 20 years ago, have a mousse, and a hair spray, and a pomade. And now, you have the most custom individual products that can fit in every single button or hole that you could even think of. Obviously, an incredible dry-texture spray or dry shampoo. I think that is like the holy grail for every single woman that I interface and interact with. I’m still going to stick with the old-school, a really great working hair spray, probably my favorite. At the salon, we work with a brand called, R+Co, so I definitely have my favorites within that line. But I think the stable products that every woman should have would be a great workable hair spray and a really great dry shampoo.

Alice: That’s amazing. Thank you so much. I love dry shampoo.

Meredith: I know. I feel like half the clients come in and the first thing, they’re like, “Eugh.” And I’m like, “Oh, girl, I already know. There is so much dry shampoo in there.” We’re like, “Let’s get going. Let’s get it out of there. We can get it out of there.”

Alice: What is your favorite hairstyle that you’re cutting now?

Meredith: It’s so interesting because I have been in this industry for 20 years and kind of like watching the ebbs and flows and trends. What excites me the most right now is, it seems that for almost the last ten years, it was sort of like no style with a style. It was like how long can we just get our hair? I don’t need a lot of shape. I don’t need a lot of structure, which that was a really fun stand of time, right? We really focused on a lot of coloring techniques to amp up, sort of a no-haircut haircut.

But I will say now that we’ve seen such a resurgence with ‘90s style and people are making bolder, stronger choices in their haircuts, some people are less attached to their lengths, I’m living for the very structured sharp, short bobs. The Academy Awards were just a few weeks ago and we saw so many women on the red carpet and I just thought it was such like a cut of the times just for female empowerment and women sort of like taking back and reclaiming their sexuality by making stronger, bolder choices in their hair. So, I’ve definitely been having all of the fun just like chopping people’s hair off. That’s been very fun because it’s been many years since anybody had any interest in doing that.

On the other side, there’s been a really big resurgence in the extension business and people adding in hair. What I think is so fascinating is, now even in those short haircuts, people are still adding in more hair for fullness and thickness. You’re not just using this technique for this one goal. It’s just been very fun mixing and matching different ideas. Like I said, for years, I was like, “Oh, extensions were just to create length.” Now, it’s like we’re able to create the short haircut and for a woman that doesn’t have a super strong jawline, head of hair, we’re able to pop in that hair and really create that first. So right now is fabulous because everything is possible.

Alice: I didn’t even know that was happening, that you could add extensions to your hair. That’s so interesting.

Meredith: I know. Well, that’s what I tell people all the time. At Maven, I don’t really like to have a lot of magazines in the salon because I just don’t really care for gossip or any of that kind of stuff, but I feel like it’s important just to kind of connect with each individual client on what their needs are. So, oftentimes, when women come in with magazines and pictures, they’re like, “I want her hair.” I’m always like, “So does she.” I was like, “She’s got a weave on her wig? That is not her hair.” You humanize these people to be like, “Oh, yeah, her hair is the same as yours, and this is what her hair looks like every day.”

Alice: That’s so interesting. And what is the funniest thing you’ve overheard at your salon?

Meredith: Danai and I laugh all the time that we could actually host a podcast on the wild stories that have happened at the salon. I have had someone bring in a picture of a Japanese anime cartoon and be like, “This is what I want my hair to look like.” Danai has had a woman bringing a Barbie doll that she had cut her actual hair and she was like, “I want you to replicate this haircut that I gave my Barbie doll.” That’s wild. It is wild.

As far as funniest things heard, I don’t know. I can’t think off the top of my head. Those would be like outrageous stories. But in our space, we have the safe haven for women to just converse with each other and it’s sort of an open community. So, I don’t know. We do a lot of laughing and a lot of commiserating mostly over all of everybody’s hellish experiences in the online dating community, but there is a lot of fun and funny conversations happening. The wild things would be like a woman who brought in a Barbie doll and wanted her hair cut the way that she had cut her Barbie doll’s hair, not the way that Barbie’s hair was originally. That was outrageous.

Alice: Can you talk about where you are now? We haven’t heard where Maven Beverly Hills is.

Meredith: So, we’re in Beverly Hills. Danai and I met working together probably like 10 years ago. We both worked at a shop in Beverly Hills proper. You know what I mean? Right in the middle, right off Rodeo in the middle of everything because it’s sort of the epicenter for hairstylists. I think in Beverly Hills alone, don’t quote me on this, but I did read one time that there are over 600 hair salons just in Beverly Hills. So, you have to think that Beverly Hills is just a small neighborhood essentially, right, but it is the epicenter for our industry.

Our shop is located off Doheny. We’re like a half skip and a jump from Rodeo, but we’re tucked on probably one of the most beautiful streets in all of Los Angeles, just huge beautiful palm trees, wide road, but we’re not in the middle of any shopping mecca but we work next door to a tailor that has been there for the last 30 years. It’s very, very charming the little street that we’re on. The next door to that is a dog animal rescue that works with finding homes for either senior dogs or dogs with disabilities. So, we’ve kind of got this neat little niche space.

It’s like while we’re adjacent to all of the things, the Gucci and Louis Vuitton and everything that you think of when you think of Beverly Hills, we’re preserved on this little precious street. The storefront itself, to me, it reminds me of an English storefront just in a quiet, little neighborhood. So, we’re in the middle of everything, but we’re not, which I think is exactly how Danai and I had envisioned life once living the big over-the-top salons.

Alice: What is your favorite part about living in Beverly Hills and working there?

Meredith: Well, to be honest, I don’t know if there’s like, “Oh, this is my favorite part.” I moved out here 16 years ago because Los Angeles obviously is the epicenter probably for the world for the tastemakers on what is–we’re the people that are dictating–the people here are the people that are dictating looks and trends for everybody worldwide. It trickles down to because you have to think like everybody that’s on the red carpet, everybody that’s in a movie, everybody that’s in a magazine, that community is here. So, for me, the biggest appeal to being in Los Angeles was like, “Oh, my gosh, am I going to be part of that community that gets to do that?” So, when people talk to me about what are the trends and what are the looks, it’s hard to know because I feel like out here and especially in this neighborhood where we are, things are constantly moving and evolving and probably we’re already a few steps ahead of what a trend would actually be. I’d hate to sit and be like, “Oh, we’re in Beverly Hills,” because I don’t have that attitude about it, but what I like is having my finger on the pulse and working alongside in a community with so many truly, truly, truly the best in the business, tried and true, just the best of the best of the best and to be working in a community of those people being from a small town in Mississippi, and Danai, my business partner, when she grew up literally milking goats on a farm in Bakersfield. So, just to be like from shoulders to breasts and working alongside those people being part of that, that is what is special. It means something to me. So, Beverly Hills just because of where it is centrally located in Los Angeles and because of the community that lives here, it tends to be the haven for most of the tape-making talent. So, just to kind of be in that community is what excites me the most when I think about it.

Alice: That’s so interesting. I would never have thought about that until you’ve said it. Speaking of trend-makers, I have to ask since you’re part of this and in Beverly Hills, have you ever worked on a celebrity’s hair?

Meredith: Yes, I have.

Alice: Can you talk about that?

Meredith: Sure. I think when I first moved out here, that was like the dream, right? I was like, “Oh, my gosh, I just want to be doing hair for magazines and red carpets, and all of those things.” I have been fortunate and gotten to work with celebrities, and I have gotten to do all of those things in my business. But very early on, I realized that I am a better match for a salon hairstylist rather than somebody who is constantly on set or constantly being taken out of the salon for one job or another. There are a handful of people that I remained to work with because I have deep relationships with them. But what I love about the salon environment is that it’s constantly moving and things are constantly changing, and so it’s like every couple of hours, the energy shifts and a client comes in and a client comes out. I just realized that for me there was not a real strong appeal in the sense of that hurry-up-and-wait culture that Hollywood is really focused on. Do you know what I mean?

Alice: Yes.

Meredith: So, I would say most of my clients that are celebrities, they’re people that come in to the salon to get their hair colored or to get their hair cut and they work with a different team outside of the salon that like specializes in just doing this is the presentation of their look out there in the world. I just sort of shifted and I think, too, in my career out here, I have worked alongside a lot of people that have been very, very celebrity-driven, and honestly, departing from that is probably a lot of the reason that Danai and I ended up coming together and opening Maven because we wanted to create a salon for everyone where you’re still going to get all of that world-class hair, all the things. It’s not reserved just for the celebrities that live in LA. Everybody can have that. Through trial and error of learning and being out here and realizing where we fit in, that’s how we migrated out of that environment and into our own thing.

Alice: Can you talk more about starting Maven? You’re talking a little bit about why you started it. Can you talk us through how that came to be?

 Meredith: Sure. So, Maven has now been opened since–I feel like you know the statistics better than me. I think it’s about five and a half years. It’ll be six years in August since we opened up. Danai and I, when we first met, we worked in a very big salon. At that time, I’d been out here for maybe 10 or 11 years. I had never had any real aspirations of owning my own hair salon. Now, I had ideas for products and all of these things, but owning a salon seemed like a nightmare to me.

Danai and I went to lunch one day and I can remember we were both just really burnt out in our said salons. Like there was a lot of drama and a lot of chaos, and I was like, “Oh, my gosh, if someone told me in 2001, when I got into this business, that there was going to be so much drama and competition and lack of professional–things just not being run from the top in a very professional manner, I’m not sure that this is the path I would’ve chosen for myself.” I was like, “Maybe I’m going to get out of hairdressing.” She was like, “You know what? I’ve been thinking the exact same thing. I just went back and I’m getting my personal training certifications, so just maybe I’m going to pivot into that.” I was like, “Yeah, maybe I’ll get into PR or something.” I just don’t know.

After that conversation, within a few months, I got a letter in the mail saying there was a salon suite in the country now. There’s all these pop-ups of these salon suites where people leave their big salon, they rent an individual room, and they open up a space. I found out that one of these companies was going to be moving into Beverly Hills.

And so, I called Danai and I said, “I have an idea.” I was like, “What if we think outside of the box?” I was like, “There’s not going to be any real money required for us to get this startup.” And when I say not real money, I mean hundreds of thousands of dollars and doing a whole set up and a big salon. There’s not going to be a ton of things, but what if we went into this salon suite? So, we went and met with them and we said, “Can we rent four of these studios and take down all the walls and we would like to open up our first salon here in this space?” Because we don’t know anything about running and owning and operating a salon or what that looks like.

We made a somewhat moderate investment into what all of that would look like but without any real fear. You know what I mean? Like if it didn’t work out, we were like, “Okay, well, if this doesn’t work, we’re not going to be in some huge lease, we’re not going to be in some long-term thing, and we don’t have some loan for hundreds of thousands of dollars that we need to build out a salon,” which is when you’re doing plumbing and electricity, and all of that the first time, it can be very, very expensive. So, we went there and they agreed to do that for us and that was almost six years ago. The dream obviously would be that we would use that as a place to then open up our own…

Sorry. I have three dogs in here. I live in an apartment building and it’s just sort of what it is. Draper. Hey. Hey, hey, hey. Okay, sorry.

Even though the dream was to open up our own brick-and-mortar space, and so I’m so thankful that it kind of happened in this way because the first two years of us owning our business, I think that we felt things had to look one way and we had to pivot quite a lot and to find the team, and culture, and environment that was exactly authentic to our mission and what we were trying to do. In those first two years, we were able to make adjustments along the way.

And then, of course, a brick-and-mortar location became available that was like right in front of the avenue. It was like our dream spot. We had actually said for years if that ever became available, that would be the perfect space, it’s the perfect size, it’s the perfect street, all of this stuff. And so, I guess we just kind of manifested that for ourselves because it became available. We got in there. It was a mess, but we completely redesigned the whole thing without having to do things like electric and plumbing. We’ve been there now for a little over three years. In February, it was three years.

Alice: That’s awesome.

Meredith: So, it wasn’t the kind of thing where we were like, “Oh, my gosh, we’re going to spend years deciding and building this salon.” I think when we opened up the original location, that all came together within about five or six weeks because in our business, we have to keep everything super secretive because we don’t have paid time off. We had to keep working our regular jobs and then on our downtime be putting together and building out this whole other secondary thing because we couldn’t afford not to have a home to service clients in that allowed time. So, Danai and I, we work really, really well together that we were able to sort of tag team out those job responsibilities while maintaining our clients and getting the salon up and running to begin with.

Alice: That’s amazing. What is the most challenging thing about owning your own business now?

Meredith: To be honest, now–I’m sorry, look, we have a dog here.

What I think is that, I’ve got some very, very, very good advice. One of my best friends out here in Los Angeles is a meditation teacher. When she first came to the salon to come meet with us, she said, “Don’t be so precious about anything. Be okay to pivot. And when something isn’t working, turn another direction.”

Initially there were things that I thought, “Oh, in order to have a successful salon, you’ve got to have 20 people working there. In order to have a successful salon, it needs to be this, this, this, this and this.” What I will say is Danai and I really stayed true to that advice that my friend [inaudible] gave us. And when things just weren’t quite working, we were okay to pivot. Danai is my longest relationship as a professional. We communicate so well to each other and in such, I think we both bring–I speak and just come from a place of a lot more passion and emotion, and Danai is very, very, very grounded. We both want the same thing at the end of the day.

So, there’s a nice way to sort of like push and pull each other in the direction that we need to go to get to the end result. But I think initially, if I’m honest, the hardest thing about opening up our own business was realizing how many other–I don’t mean the hairstylists. I mean, when we would have vendors or people come where no one does their job.

We were like, “How does anything get done?” It was kind of like having to manage other people in their jobs just to make sure that they were doing their job and the things that we needed. So, that was super eye-opening because in our chosen professions, if you don’t do your job, there are no clients and there is no money. You know what I mean? There’s no salary coming in, so I think that was a challenge just to sort of figure out how to be authentic to ourselves and then having to learn how to work–I’m trying to think of the right way to say this. How to work well when you have–how to approach men in a business that are working for you and how to get things done, and the attitude and manners that you have to have in order to have those things become possible. So, I think that that was a big learning curve for us because I think we both just wanted to be like, “Hey, so today, can you do this?” And then, we quickly had to learn you have to be scary to get people to do things for you and to get them to do their jobs. I think that was probably one of our biggest lessons that we had to learn. And because there were the two of us, we really learned our good cop, bad cop dynamic and able to making those things happened.

Alice: Piggybacking off of that, our podcast is really about what is it to be a woman. Can you talk about being a woman and being a woman in business and the differences and difficulties you’ve found?

Meredith: This is something that really, really lights me on fire in such a wonderful way. Well, honestly, in the last 10 years, there’s such a shift in women culture. I’m just somebody who’s truly always been a girl’s girl, you know? I don’t even know. So, when Danai and I opened up this salon, and Danai is very, very much the same exact way, we really stand for each other, for other women, and we wanted a space that really celebrated that. When we sit here and we talk about the beauty industry specifically, most people also don’t realize that it is still run by men.

Alice: Really?

Meredith: Yes. If you were honest or whatever your knowledge is, if you think about hairdressers that you know or that are famous, they’re men. If you think about all the big salons with their name on the door, it’s men. I don’t know if I had ever had a female boss. I’ve had one female boss in all of my ten-year doing hair. There’s nothing wrong with that. Hairdressing is for everybody, but there definitely was a stigma. It’s like in Los Angeles, unless you were Sally Hershberger, nobody knew who you were. She’s the only female that had a name out here because it’s still very, very, very predominantly run by men.

The reason for that is, is there’s like an older school mindset that women are competitive with one another, and that a woman would prefer to go to a man because if a man tells her that she’s looking beautiful and sexy, that might mean more, than me doing her hair and giving her that feedback. So, I would say it’s only been now in the last–it’s a very exciting time to be in this business and it’s a very exciting time to be a female and a business owner and all of those things because it’s sort of like where Danai and I grew up with that culture of just really embracing the females around us.

I mean, I got into this business because I truly wanted to be a daymaker. I wanted to make people really feel special and really highlight it not just their outer beauty but find ways to connect with them in an internal level that would make them really feel good. I’ve lived my entire–I was like a cheerleader growing up. I just think that it’s very in sync with who I am as a human being. So, I’m very blessed that I found a business where I’m able to use my creative and artistic ability while being able to press on people, their value, and all of those things.

I think that we can thank social media for a lot of things because what it did is, it really allowed–I think women were just very quick and good at the game of being able to curate and cultivate an experience that attracted other women. So, when you’re thinking the last, I don’t know, five to ten years, these female hairdressers started really coming up in this business. You look at Jen Atkin who now owns her own product line and works with all of these celebrities. And you look at Kristin Ess and she’s got her product line at Target. Younger women and our generation down have really latched on to that girl gang, that girl squad. You can see the shift even in Beverly Hills where things can be a little bit older of a mindset. The shift of women really embracing women. I think that as a business owner specifically here, specifically in this business, it is definitely an exciting time to be into all of that.

Alice: Thank you so much for going into that. Another question I have for you is, if you just ran into a woman on the street and you had a minute to give her a piece of advice, what would it be?

Meredith: Oh, my gosh. I don’t know. I don’t even think it’s about giving someone advice. I think a smile does wonders for people, and what I really try to do is, I’m like somebody who’s such an advocate for genuine compliments. So, I would probably stop somebody on the street and then find something that they have or that they’re wearing, or whatever and pay them a really true, genuine compliment. I think that does more than giving somebody some advice about some things because then, hopefully, they’ll carry that on the rest of their day. You just never know what’s going on in other people’s life or what people are dealing with, and I think that would go stronger, than a stranger being like, “Hey, here’s some advice.”

Alice: “Hey, let me talk to you.” That means a lot sense. Thank you. Meredith, can you talk about what’s next for you? What’s next for the salon?

Meredith: Oh, my gosh, I just don’t even know.

Alice: And that’s fine.

Meredith: To be honest, it feels like just now with the salon, it’s like every single thing is just–honestly, I feel like after the last five and a half or six years, I’ve been on a hustle and a grind for quite some years. It sort of now feels like everything is more falling into place.

Really my goals for 2020 is I want to–I’m in the process of taking more personal time and more personal care time, so that I can really pack into what is next. I think that for so many of us, it’s like, “Okay, we got to have this career. We got to have this thing and we got to be hustling, we got to be doing, and blah, blah, blah.” Years pass by. I just turned 40 years old and I’m still single. I don’t really know what that–I don’t know still about kids or if I’m going to partner with anybody. I’m kind of fine either way. What happens there is just trust the process of that. But what I really want to do is really tap back into my creative abilities and strengths, and sort of–I’m in like a phase–I don’t want to say pivot because I’ll never pivot away from my salon because that is what brings me so much joy, but I do feel like there is some untapped something out there and I haven’t quite moved into that yet. So, I don’t know.

You’ll have to stay tune to see what’s next, but there’ll be something next because I’m always pushing onto the next thing but I just don’t think I’ve had enough of a break to get clarity in what that might be.

Alice: That makes sense. Is there anything else you’d like to add to our listeners and viewers?

Meredith: Yes. Earlier in the salon, when you talked about when we created Maven moments, I just think I wanted to express what exactly that is.

Alice: Thank you.

Meredith: When we were going to open the salon, when we were not going to open the salon and then months later we were, it was very fascinating because I called one of my best friends and I said, “I think I’m going to open a hair salon.” And she was like, “I had a dream that you did and you named it Maven.” Then, Maven was born. I was like, “Well, that’s the name.”

A maven is someone who is a master of their craft and that just felt very distinct with what we were doing. When we first opened the salon, it was sort of in the beginning, in the initial time of Instagram and hashtags, and all of those things. We were like, “We really need our own hashtag. What is our hashtag is going to be?” So, that was the idea of a–Maven moment was born. What I wanted it to feel like is that your Maven moment is everywhere. Your Maven moment is, it’s speaking to a stranger, it is just living in your authentic truth and being kind to other people and feeling your best. We’re lucky, like I said, that we are able to provide that outward beauty to people and highlight and showcase what they present to the world. That is just like a shell of what is inside. I think creating that kind of confidence for people to present that way allows people to be more open and kind to other people when they have true feeling good.

So, in the salon, while we’re in Beverly Hills, I wanted to maintain that small town sense of community that I grew up with, without gossiping and all that kind of stuff, but a place where people could come and people would interact with people, and a place where people wouldn’t feel intimidated. I work in Beverly Hills and I’m intimidated going into a lot of these places. They can be very scary. I wanted it to feel like you’re coming into my home and you are very welcome here. We’re going to sit down and our approach to hairdressing is unique in the sense that I want to figure out what is your dream, what would be your dream look, and then let’s peel back the pieces and make a plan to get there. So, that Maven moment, it kind of all came about in a silly way. It was really stolen from Mariah Carey.

I saw a YouTube video where she was on QVC or the home shopping network and it was like a montage which everybody should Google it right now because it’s the most fun thing that you’ll see all day. Basically, everything from Mariah was a moment. So, there’s like a montage of clips of Mariah Carey being like, “It’s a jacket moment. It’s a Mariah moment. It’s a skirt moment. It’s a shoe moment.” Everything has a moment. And that encapsulated what I wanted Maven to be. I wanted it to be this very precious, special place for people so they can have their moment, and take that moment and express it out to the world in a truly positive way.

Alice: That’s amazing. So, you’re still doing the Maven moments then?

Meredith: Yes. We’re always having a Maven moment. Always. Silly but yes.

Alice: Thank you so much for being on, Meredith.

Meredith: Oh, my gosh. Thank you so much for having me. I had such a nice time.

Alice: Bye. Thank you so much.