Learning from others is the fastest way to get ahead in life. On 4cHairChick.com every week we like to share stories of men and women who are and have made boss moves in the community. This week we are pleased to introduce you to Simeko Watkins-Hartley.
The Stylist You Need to Know
What is your hometown?
I am a Harlem girl! Born & Raised in Harlem, NY.
Image Credit: Simeko Watkins-Hartley ~ Owner & Creative Director of Meko, New York Natural Hair Care Spa & Boutique. Styled By: Meko, New York Stylists ~ Rhonda B, Jennifer C, and Niara P; Makeup By: Jemi of Au Touche Makeup Artistry
You have an interesting first name and we are curious about the origin of the name and meaning. Would you be able to share with us a little more about the history of your name?
Simeko is a Japanese name…the original spelling is Sumiko. It means a refined child. My mother used to babysit a little girl named Simeko and loved the name so much that she said if she ever has a daughter that would be her name. So, here I am!
Agree or disagree. Hair styling is a competitive business?
I agree and disagree…let me explain why. I agree because, yes, there are a lot of salons and stylists in the business and that makes it competitive. BUT it’s only competitive if you’re competing. The beauty about each salon & stylist is that they bring their own special talent and uniqueness to their business and craft and that’s why I disagree because no one else can do it the way YOU do it….there will always be something different about each salon and/or stylist.
What made you decide to pursue the path of owning your own salon?
When I was asked what I wanted to be or do when I get older, my answer was to be a teacher or own my own salon. So I always knew this is what I wanted to do. And I have been blessed to be able to do both…..Provide a space where I not only care for and style natural hair but also educate my clients on how to care for their beautiful natural hair as well.
Does your salon do natural hair exclusively?
Yes, that is all we do! No colors, relaxers, or texturizers; nothing that would alter the state of our clients’ natural hair permanently. When I made the decision to open my own salon, I made a promise that I would not do anything that would jeopardize the integrity of my clients’ hair.
What business owners and or entrepreneurs do you look up to?
My grandmother, Margaret Civers. She is my inspiration!
Why specialize in natural hair?
Why not?! Natural hair is absolutely beautiful and so versatile. And I love inspiring others to love & learn what they have been blessed. I always tell my clients “God didn’t make a mistake when he gave us our hair and he left us with everything we need to care for it. It’s up to us to learn to love and nurture it!”
When did you return to natural, or have you always been?
In 1994, when I started working at one of the best natural hair care salons in the country. When I walked in the salon and saw all the beautiful and confident natural women, I knew at that very moment, that this is where I was meant to be!
What is the hardest part about natural hair maintenance?
Due to the fact that natural hair tends to be drier, I think the hardest part is keeping the hair well moisturized. And most naturals have a difficult time finding the right products for their hair.
How often should women visit a natural hair salon?
I would say at least 2x a year. I compare visiting a natural hair care professional to visiting a dentist. Even if your hair is relatively healthy, you still want to go in for a routine checkup and professional cleaning (trim).
What is the most common mistake naturals make with their hair?
The most common mistake is comparing their hair to others. I say this because when individuals compare their hair to others they never learn to love and appreciate what they have. We need to remember that our hair is like our finger print. No one has the same exact hair and that’s what makes us unique. Even if your hair type looks like someone else it’s still different because of chemistry. That’s one reason why a product may work well for one person and not the other with the same hair type.
What makes your salon unique?
For one, I don’t really know of too many black hair salons that specialize ONLY in natural hair care…..meaning providing no chemical services at all. Not even color!
We also value our clients and their time. One of the things our clients say they love the most about our salon is that they don’t have to wait around for hours before being seen by their stylist. Our policy is this; we schedule by appointments only and if we are more than 15 minutes late, we honor them with a discount off of their service.
What are some of the highlights you’ve experienced running your own business?
The biggest and most rewarding highlight is living out my dreams and being able to do what I love to do full time. Not everyone can say that and that’s why I like to be an inspiration for others. It is by no means easy but it’s worth it!
There are many hair conversations taking place right now in the natural hair community. Are there some topics that you’d like to see receive more attention that perhaps aren’t getting a lot of attention right now?
Most of the topics that are out there are the same topics that have been discussed for a while now. So, honestly, what I would like to see is more professionals talking about what may be the best care and styles for individuals who may never achieve thick, long hair. We see so many bloggers who have become very popular because people admire and desire their hair type, texture and length. But the truth is most people won’t ever have that because it’s just not in their genetic make-up. But having professionals who deal with all hair types who can educate individuals on how to nurture and style their hair based on their hair type, density, and length would really help them to see the beauty in their hair.
What excites you the most about the current natural hair movement?
The fact that more and more women are learning to love themselves naturally! I truly hope it’s not just a movement but rather we are making it our way of life!
Who are some natural hair pioneers that you think really blazed trails in terms of styling and caring for natural hair?
Anu Prestonia, Diane Bailey, Tunlani Kinard, and Debra Hare-Bey definitely paved the ways for so many of us today. And the true beauty of it is they were doing it even when it wasn’t popular. It wasn’t a movement for them; it was and still is a way of life.
If you could do any celebrities hair – who would it be and why?
I would have to say Oprah, of course because she has defied gravity and beat all odds! She is a phenomenal business woman and I would love to have the opportunity learn from her while nurturing and beautifying her hair.
For more information about Simeko’s Salon please go to http://www.mekonewyork.com/
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