Ask anyone who’s ever accomplished something great, they’ll likely attribute their success to an unforeseen and often devastating challenge. While 2020 has thrown us all curveballs, it has also provided us all with the opportunity to pause, pivot and proceed forward on a new path. 

For many professionals in the beauty industry, that pause and pivot likely wasn’t your choice. Your salon may have closed, or with mandated capacity reduction, you may have found yourself furloughed or unable to support yourself through wage cuts. This story is shared by many within our beloved community, and while we never want to see any salons close, at Sola, we want to help provide a fresh start for those beauty professionals who do find themselves in search of a new salon home.

Going out on your own as a salon owner takes a ton of courage and strength. Maybe going independent has never been on your radar, but with limited options and increased regulations, it’s the perfect time to learn more. Or maybe working for yourself has always been your dream, but you just haven’t had the confidence to take the leap of faith. So we’re here to provide hope through an inspiring story of one #SolaStrong stylist, Annie Hayes, who opened her own Sola studio in May 2020 after being furloughed by her previous salon, Ulta. Since then, Sola has helped her get back on her feet and turn her career dreams into her career reality.

Annie’s Journey to Beauty


“I was in college, but I had no idea what I wanted to do. I was a few months shy of 19 and all the classes felt like a continuation of high school. I decided to take the summer to work, have some fun and figure out what I wanted to do. Every new friend I made that summer was a hairstylist, makeup artist or beauty professional. I loved playing with my friend’s hair, and my own hair, so I decided to see what cosmetology school had to offer.”

But her friends weren’t her only connection to her love of the beauty industry. 

“My grandmother started at cosmetology school, but a recession in the ’60s forced her into the working world before she was able to finish. She was still so passionate about it, though, and she was my biggest cheerleader and reason for committing to the industry. She passed away two months after I started my program, but I know that she is still with me and she’s my number one fan.”

Annie’s Pre-COVID Salon

“I spent several years leveling up my craft in private salons around town and trying to find my salon home... I was definitely the ‘salon hopper’ who stayed at a salon for about a year before realizing that it wasn’t the kind of environment I could grow in.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Annie’s previous salon furloughed most of their stylists. She was in line to get a promotion, but because everything was put on hold, she was not offered the opportunity to return when the state allowed salons to open again. “I was scared to lose 10 years of hard work and all of my amazing clientele if I couldn't go back to work again.”

Taking a Chance on Herself

Before making the switch to Sola, Annie had always dreamed about going out on her own and working for herself. “I had to choose between believing in myself or waiting to return to a salon I wasn’t 100% happy working in. I chose myself!”

Annie said that the first few weeks of not having to answer to a boss or a manager took some getting used to, “but having the freedom to wear what I want, decorate how I want, play the music I want, and set my own schedule, that's been the best for me. My suite neighbors are so friendly, helpful and supportive. I am so much happier!”


She attributes her fast success as a new salon owner to the education and support she received from the Sola community, including the Sola blog and Sola Stories Podcast. “Many of the 2020 Faces of Sola professionals have been amazing as well. Their [Instagram] Story takeovers are full of information and they have answered so many of my questions!”

Her career has evolved since going independent, being presented with opportunities she couldn’t previously have dreamt of. “I have the opportunity to explore my options! I’m not limited to one color line or retail line. I can enter brand contests and try all the new tools, styling products, and colors as they come out. I have been able to offer a customized experience for every client, new and loyal, as well as be my 100% authentic self!”

On the Fence About Going Independent? Here’s Annie’s Advice...

“DO IT! Our clients trust us to make them feel beautiful, and right now they also trust us to keep them safe during this pandemic. Being able to control my environment has given myself and my clients peace of mind coming into Sola.


“Sola has given me the opportunity to make MORE opportunities. Work-life balance is achievable. I made my Sola my dream salon home, and it was easily the best decision I’ve made for my career. My advice would be to not waste years of your time dreaming about this... Invest in yourself!”

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