Choose Beauty: An Interview with Nine Zero One’s Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri
Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri
Nine Zero One’s Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri put their friendship first when they set out to design a salon that would feel like home.
Hometown: (Capri) Oxnard, California (Lee) Reno, Nevada
Career other than a hairdresser: (Lee) A wedding planner. (Capri) A photographer. Probably the wedding photographer for the wedding planner, Nikki Lee!
Advice to someone going into business with their friend: (Lee) Realize what strengths each person has. I can’t make Riawna interested in finances and accounting and she can’t expect me to love attending events and networking.
Social media advice: (Capri) We are in a very visual industry and it’s important to showcase your work and show what you can do. Consider your Instagram and your social media as your portfolio to all your clients.
Mantra: (Capri) Hope is not a strategy. You really have to work hard for whatever it is you want.
(Lee) Everything you can imagine is real.
Beauty Product Must-Haves:
(Lee) UNITE Argon Oil! I use it in my lightener and on the hair before highlighting. I also put a dab in the hair before blowing it out.
(Capri) UNITE Smooth and Shine Cream because it seals the cuticle without weighing the hair down which is very important when you are platinum blonde to not look like a frizzy mess! I use it on wet hair before I blow dry as well as on dry hair mixed with some wax to help smooth and give a piece-y textured look.
Person I would like to makeover: (Capri Lee) The Olsen Twins. They are super rad and would be totally cool to hang out. And they have had the same thing for so long it would be fun to shake it up a little.
They magnify each other’s strengths and minimize each other’s weaknesses. The salon owners and styling team of Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri (Capri Lee) chose beauty and then chose each other as best friends and business partners. They met while both were part of the rigorous assistant program at Santa Monica-based Fred Segal Salon. Nine Zero One, Capri and Lee’s salon in West Hollywood, CA, is the street address of the building where it is located.
“It’s not about the name on the door, it’s about the environment created inside,” Capri says. ”When you walk in, you don’t know who the owner is—everyone is on equal footing.” Even though, they both acknowledge, they never set out to be salon owners.
“We come as a package deal-you take both of us or neither of us comes,” says Lee. “It started at Fred Segal, when we took a Great Lengths course and started to tag team doing hair extensions; I’m left handed, Riawna is right handed, and we can do a full set so much faster together.”
After Fred Segal, the two worked at Cush Salon in Beverly Hills. One of their extension clients, the late actress Brittany Murphy, was eager to have CapriLee meet her friend Kenny and took them to his salon. “Kenny” turned out to be Ken Paves and he invited them to join his team. After they had been there for some time, one of Lee’s clients would offer to invest in the two to open their own salon.
“That is when we looked at each other and said, maybe we could do this,” Capri says. “He wanted to meet with us and go over our business plan. We didn’t know that was so we Googled ‘How to Make a Business Plan’ and put one together.” And with this internet guidance, the accidental entrepreneurs moved forward until two days before they had to sign the final lease for their space…and the investor backed out.
“At that point, after we had fallen in love with the space, when we had calculated all our costs, how much for chairs, for lighting, for toilet paper, we just looked at each other and said, ‘how much do you have in your bank account?’” They pooled their money, maxed out three credit cards and opened Nine Zero One.
The salon they created together they describe as beautiful, comfortable and homey. But it didn’t have a sign outside that said “Salon” so to bring in business, they started a Braid Bar (and trademarked the name) offering braids for $25. People came for braids and returned for cut, color and extensions.
Today, with a full team of stylists and makeup artists, an apprentice program and a glittering client list of Hollywood starlets, they are taking their show on the road with their “Beauty Coaches” tour. “It’s a full day class and we demonstrate what we do best--cut, color, extensions and also social media,” Lee says. They are selecting a different city each month to talk about how they work with celebrities who set the trends and coach them towards an overall style, and how that translates to salon work. “It’s about paying attention to so much more than just their hair,” Capri says. “We have to pay attention to their personality, to their career, and be able to guide them towards their best style and achieve a whole picture.”