Phenix Rising: An Interview with Gina Rivera, Founder of Phenix Salon Suites

Gina Rivera founded Phenix Salon Suites which is rapidly approaching 300 national locations with plans for international expansion to China. Rivera was featured on the show Undercover Boss and her business was named to Entrepreneur’s Top 500 Franchise List, now listed #25.

An entrepreneur with a passion for beauty and business, both, Rivera took time to answer some of our questions about her career path and her vision to support salon professionals. 

MODERN SALON: Tell us a bit about your beauty background.

GINA RIVERA: I grew up in a family who has worked for 90 years in the industry, dating back to 1929.

At the age of 11, I began sweeping hair at my father’s salon. Both he and my mother were stylists who I watched and learned from on a daily basis. I attended beauty school in high school through an area vocational program because I always knew that I wanted to do hair. I officially became a stylist in 1991, though I had spent years training under my parents prior to that time. I always loved the industry and the artistry of it. I also deeply enjoyed seeing how beautiful, and good, my family made people feel when they provided beauty services to them. 

MS: What was your first experience as a salon owner?

GR: I purchased my first salon in 2003. I had just given birth to my first child. I was very busy learning what I was doing as a mother as well as learning what I was doing as a new salon owner. It was very exciting, yet it was overwhelming and scary at times as well. I was way out of my element. However, I knew that I had to learn to conquer my fear because it was my passion. I always knew that I wanted to pursue this life.

MS: Where was your first Phenix location opened and when?  What was the response?

GR: My first Phenix Salon Suites was opened in Colorado Springs, Colorado in 2007. At that time the suite concept was a brand new to the industry. I had a strong desire to open the first Phenix, yet, I also had fear because the concept was in the infancy stage. 

Once we opened, the idea was well received and the fear subsided. I knew right away that I wanted to build multiple locations. I had a deep passion for creating an opportunity that would allow salon professionals the chance to open their own businesses at a fraction of the cost of owning a full scale salon. 

MS: How do you think suite salons and commission salons can co-exist?

GR: I believe there is still a place for every type of salon in today’s industry. Commission salons are a great place to start and a perfect way to build a clientele. It’s also important to work in a commission salon environment early on in order to draw off of the experience of more seasoned hairstylist. Additionally, the commission salon environment serves to teach a new stylist the business side of the beauty.

MS:What makes someone a good fit for a suite salon model?

GR:A person can be both a great artist and a terrific business person as long as they are self-disciplined and driven. An individual must be willing to put the time in to educate themselves on the artistic side of the industry as well as on the business side of it. Nothing comes easy, it takes hard work. An individual also must also have strong resolve to forge forward when times are tough. This is especially true during the early stages of building their business as a sole proprietor.

MS: At the start of the day, what do you check first—Instagram, your email, texts, etc.?

 The first thing I do is spend time with the Lord and read my daily devotional. I then have my coffee while reading my bible. After that, I take care of my family. I prepare lunches for my kids, take them to school, and attend to other miscellaneous duties.   Next, I move on to my workday which includes working with my staff on corporate initiatives, writing articles, preparing for appearances, and doing hair for a select-clients.

GR: Who has been a personal mentor for you?  And a professional mentor?

 My professional mentor in terms of the artistic side of beauty is my father. He has a wealth of knowledge and has been my mentor since a very young age. He continues to mentor me today on a variety of levels and as a tremendous amount of information to draw from. My professional mentor on the corporate side is my husband. He assist and guides me with many key decisions that affect the direction of the company and the overall vision for the brand. 

MS: What’s next for you?

GR:I will continue to focus on building Phenix Salon Suites and providing services to the thousands of amazing salon professionals who have trusted us to be the home of their businesses.  

 I also will continue to focus on expanding my product line including launching my new color line, COLOURS BY GINA, which is slated to release next summer.   I am running my own race and I am just getting started. I know there are many more amazing things to come for me.

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