Denise Provenzano

Founder of Zano Salons and Spas with five locations, headquartered in Naperville, Illinois

Licensed: 37 years ago, after attending Capri Beauty School

Memberships: Cosmetologists Chicago, Intercoiffure

In addition to building a small salon family dynasty just outside of Chicago, Provenzano actively serves on the board of Cosmetologists Chicago for more than 10 years, currently as its secretary. The association has credits Provenzano’s leadership position as helping shape salon owner events and education available through America’s Beauty Show. Back in Naperville, she’s shaping a strong business she eventually plans to pass down to her two sons—Sam, 36, and Nick, 33— and their families.

How did you career lead you to your current role? “I have a Ph.D. in building relationships. All through my career, I have studied people with an interest of how to make them look good. Now, my interest is my staff and wanting to make them feel good about their jobs and the people they serve.”

Who was your mentor along the way? “My sister Karen, who has raised four children and obtained her nursing degree while a single mother. She continues to teach me lessons on balancing career and family. We also belong to the Loyola Family Business Program, where we do things like learn about generational differences and how to have serious conversations with staff. The different family members work in different salons, but we come together once a week for a business meeting.”

As a woman, what barriers, if any, did you come across during your professional growth? “No barriers for me. I believe if you can you will. I think as a woman in this industry, it’s acceptable to show your soft, kind side, but be strong when it comes to making the tough decisions.”

What would you consider to be your biggest professional break? “Letting go of the guilt, and realizing that I can be good both in business and have a good family life. Of course, it helps now having my family involved in the business.”

What’s the best business advice anyone ever gave you? “I have a friend who told me one time, ‘Show up for everything.” I still hear that as a mantra in my head. When I don’t feel like going to something. Then when I go, that’s always the time I make a good connection or find out something new.”

What business achievement are you most proud of? “There’s a lot along the way, but most recently I’ve been proud of how our company took the recession by storm. We’ve brought employees together for brainstorming sessions on keeping the business and asked for their ideas and made charts—taking charge of our destiny in a fun way. One of the greatest ideas to come out of that was the Zano Teen Club, where we developed special pricing for teens and attended school events to sign them up. Our teen club is 3,000 members strong, we’re tapping into our future.”

What’s the best business book you ever read?  “Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill. It’s an old book, but was the one that taught me if I think I can do it, I can; if I think I can’t do it, then I can’t. It changed my thought process and was the first to make me aware of the power of my thoughts.”

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? “Right now, I’m working on succession planning for the future of the continuation of Zano with my sons, determining what positions we’ll hold in the future. I’ve been doing quite a bit of researching and networking and am finding many people at my age bracket who are having the same thought processes. Currently, we’re trying to build the strongest organization possible with a series of think tanks where we examine things like expenses, marketing, customer service, sales. We want all that in order before opening up a sixth location.”