Women of Substance: Serena Chreky
Andre Chreky, The Salon Spa
Affiliations: PBA, in which she holds a role on the financial oversight and government affairs committee
Degrees: A bachelor’s degree in business administration and finance from the University of Maryland and a master’s in business administration from Virginia Polytechnic and State University.
Serena Chreky might have entered the salon industry out of necessity when her husband Andre opened his own salon and asked for her help, sut she’s certainly made the most of the position. In addition to helping the salon get noticed by media, Chreky founded Salon-A-Thon, an annual 24-hour charity gala that to date has contributed $750,000 to the Children’s Hospital of Washington, D.C.; she was nominated to the board of The Salon Association, and then The Professional Beauty Association; and she established the Mid-Atlantic Salon Owners Network, a group of salon and spa owners from D.C., Maryland and Virginia who meet quarterly to discuss best business practices. And, she helped represented the U.S. in the Women Business Leaders Summit, a private outreach program supported by the U.S. State Department.
Who were your mentor along the way? “The person who has had the largest influence on me since my involvement in the salon industry is my mother. She is the rock in my life, and not a day goes by that I don’t telephone or email her for advice. She never fails to give me straight answers—even if they are painful to hear. She may steer me in a different direction, but she doesn’t squash the enthusiasm. She’s going to be 80 soon, and I feel so fortunate to have her in my life! The other person who has had a tremendous influence on me is Frank Zona. He is the one who nominated me to the board of TSA in 2003, and he has been a great sounding board over the years and always bring a fresh, level-headed perspective in controversial situations. What I appreciate most is that he never overreacts and always finds a solution to a challenging problem.”
As a woman, what barriers, if any, did you come across during your professional growth? “I can honestly say that I have been fortunate to have had doors open because I’m a woman. This industry is unique because it supports and empowers women to succeed. Even when I am participating in congressional meetings, I believe I am able to articulate salon-related issues because of personal experience and that quality resonates with staff and members. Being a woman is an asset, because women do it all. We’re mother, partners, friends, sisters and owners and we have to juggle everything with grace. I find I am much more sensitive to the needs and wants of our team and also to clients. I believe women are excellent listeners and it is a critical skill for growing a small business.”
What would you consider you biggest professional break? “Becoming involved with TSA, which subsequently morphed into PBA. So many doors were opened and friendships developed which helped us through good and challenging times. Outside of the industry, my biggest break was meeting a client, who, at the time was the Deputy Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Melanie Sabelhaus is a business owner, entrepreneur, mother, fund-raiser—she does it all and she became a dear friend and huge mentor in life. She asked me to be part of the Women Business Leaders Summit, and I was fortunate enough to travel to Latvia and Jordan. The possibility of participating in international business conferences and partnering with other women from the industry was invaluable.”
What’s the best business advice anyone ever gave you? “Location, location, location! It is the only thing I remember from the two years I slaved away getting my MBA.”
What business achievement are you most proud of? “2012 marks our 15-year anniversary for our salon/spa. I am proud of the fact that we still have one original team member, Rodney Pinion. I am grateful that we have survived such turbulent times: 9/11, a recession, weather related challenges, and that we continue to stay open and optimistic about the future. I am proud of what we’ve bee able to accomplish in the community through fundraising. Our work with Children’s Hospital and the American Red Cross has been the most rewarding experience we’ve had since opening.
What the best business book you’ve ever read? The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell.
What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? I plan to a) continue to give back to the community on a personal level by volunteering at the local hospital once a week, b) celebrate my 25-year wedding anniversary in 2012 and work to achieve a better work/life balance now that we are empty nesters, c) start a $15,000 annual scholarship fund in 2012 to support our local beauty schools and encourage young people to pursue a career in cosmetology, d)become more politically active especially in the 2012 presidential campaign; and e)schedule more time off to travel and see the world.”