Eight years ago Urban Waxx opened it’s doors on the corner of NW 18th and NW Marshall. At the time there were 4 employees: Mindy (who is still here and is now the Director of Esthetics), another waxxer and one front desk employee, and me. I had ZERO idea of what I was doing but I knew that I couldn’t fail. I was pregnant with Stella, and I had just sunk every bit of savings that I had (which was very little) and maxed out every credit card that I could max into opening Urban Waxx. I had moved to Portland in January of 2007, and when I told people that I was going to open a waxing salon, in Portland, where I knew no one, people were…skeptical.
I had been an Esthetician since about the age of 26. After graduating college with a theatre degree, and then moving back to New York to basically spend a lot of time in bars and restaurants, both working in them and hanging out, I was really struggling to find out what I wanted to do when I grew up. I had always loved salons and spas, and all the feel good things that went along with them. I also knew from working for years in food service that I loved customer service. I loved people. I loved making people feel good. I decided to go to Esthetics school. At the time I thought, “Well, at least I will have a skill that I can fall back on.” I remember having a conversation with my mom (who was still holding on to the delusion that maybe I would go to law school), and she said “Shannon, are you going to be able to support yourself working in a beauty salon?” I didn’t really know, but I wanted to try. I had to try.
Well, fast forward a few years and a few different spas. I was working in Charleston, SC at a beautiful spa where I worked for seven years. Waxing had become increasingly popular, starting with the famous J. Sisters bringing their Brazilian wax to the US in the late 90s. Do you know who trained me to do a Brazilian? ME. Do you know who I trained on? MYSELF. Oh the horror when I remember trying to wax myself clean so many years ago. Let’s not go into detail but I will say, it was excruciating. After much trial and error (sorry friends that I practiced on), eventually I realized that I loved, loved, LOVED giving Brazilians. Loved it. Mostly because I had become very good at it in a world where people were still very reluctant to give and receive a Brazilian. Oh the joy of the immediate result! For someone with ADD and a strong need for quick results, Brazilians met all of my needs! A guest could come in, nervous and timid, and then 20 minutes later walk out, smooth and flawless, and feeling like Superwoman! We would laugh, we would bond, we would share secrets, and then they would rebook to come and see me in 4 weeks! It almost seemed too good to be true!
Waxing in a full service spa: not great. I was constantly being told to zip it by my colleagues who were trying to bliss out their guests during a massage or facial and then they could here me chatting it up in the next room. Yes, you really have to talk when you are waxing a Brazilian. And laugh. It makes the experience one million times more comfortable. So, when I moved to Portland in 2007, I thought, wouldn’t it be AMAZING to open a salon where all I can do is wax? All day in and out, waxing until my heart is content. Waxing until everyone understands that a Brazilian is NOT scary, and it’s not gross and it’s not for just a certain type of person. It’s for EVERYONE! And it’s wonderful! And it makes you feel great after and you can connect with your Waxxer like she is your long lost best friend and you can eat M&M’s and drink mimosas! And be surrounded by beautiful things and maybe buy some great skin products or a nice candle. And so, Urban Waxx was born.
The reaction that we received from the guests was overwhelming. Portland is really just the best place to open a small business. So many wonderful things have happened in the 8 years since we opened. We now have 5 locations, and about 70 employees. People ask me all of the time who else owns Urban Waxx, or if we are a franchise. Nope. It’s still just me. Now I have a really amazing Leadership Team in place and they do so many of the day to day operational stuff, but I am in it. Urban Waxx is my life. I still wax on Thursday mornings. I selfishly cannot give up that one shift of waxing my guests. I still love love love giving a great Brazilian but more than that I need to connect with guests on a one to one basis. It makes me so very happy. We wax about 35,000 Brazilians a year. That number blows my mind. It really does.
The past 8 years have been humbling, crazy, wonderful, inspirational, exciting, and most of all, so unbelievably blessed. I feel blessed. I feel like I am the luckiest woman in the world to be able to work with a dynamic, charismatic, loving team of people who amaze me every day. We get to change our guests’ lives in little ways. Or sometimes in really big ways. We get to connect. We get to do good things. I get to show my kids what it’s like to run a business with integrity and joy. I also get to struggle, and to mess up, and to take accountability and to ask for help when I need it, which is a lot. I get to be so stressed and overwhelmed that I am googling “How to sell my spa and move to an island.” And then I get to wake up the next day and tell myself to snap out of it and to fix what I did and make it better. That is the joy and the pain of owning your own business. The joy is that it’s mine and I get to celebrate what goes well. The pain is that it’s mine and I get to torture myself incessantly when things go wrong. I’ll take it all: joy and pain I wouldn’t change it for anything.
To all of the guests that have walked through our doors, and loved us, and laughed with us, and told us when we needed to tweak something to make it better, and have referred us to friends and shouted from the roof tops that you believe in us: YOU. ARE. AMAZING. You have made Urban Waxx what it is. You are the reason that we are excited to come to work each and every day.
To all of my employees who have believed in me and Urban Wax and this journey and each other, and who consistently strive for excellence and love to deliver this magical experience: THANK YOU. I have met more creative, strong, fabulous women in the past 8 years than I have in my entire life, and so many of them work at Urban Waxx. What a gift.
Thank you all for the last 8 years. Let’s see what the next 8 bring!
Peace & Love,