DOWNTOWN ¬ó About the same time as ¬ìThe Simpsons¬î first appears as a series of shorts on ¬ìThe Tracey Ullman Show;¬î U.S. President Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to ¬ìtear down the Berlin Wall¬î during a visit to Germany; Bon Jovi¬ís ¬ìLivin¬í on a Prayer¬î becomes the biggest hit song worldwide and Michael Douglas wins Best Actor for ¬ìWall Street,¬î beautician Fahimeh Betts was going into business on her own, opening a beauty salon near the corner of Fourth Street and Broadway in Downtown Santa Monica.
But this wasn¬ít her first foray into business ownership. Having built up a series of profitable salons in her native Iran, the young woman lost it all as a result of that country¬ís revolution crackdowns.
Broke in America, she began meditating early each morning at Santa Monica¬ís Will Rogers Beach, searching for inspiration.
Starting over, borrowing money for rent from a relative in Canada, she began working three jobs here on the Westside.
Saving her money, the single mother thought about what she really wanted to do. It was the ¬ìlove of everything tied to beauty¬î that inspired Betts to try again and open her own salon.
The location would be Santa Monica because ¬ìit is inhabited by friendly people of many different cultural backgrounds who want to look their best in a casual yet cosmopolitan atmosphere ¬Ö and it is near the beach with lots of social activities.¬î
With every penny going into her new venture, Betts would walk to the salon from her apartment at Second Street and California Avenue, but only after her meditation at the beach each morning.
It was her dedication to service and that daily beach ritual that got the young business woman through the trials of a start-up including the challenges of loss of business and break-ins during the repairs from the 1994 Northridge earthquake, but through it all her desire to help men and women look their best was the key to enduring the lean times.
From the start, the Hair Designers Studio has offered a full range of services including programs covering hair, make-up, manicure and skin care for both men and women.
Regardless of what service they seek, one of the first things clients notice at the Downtown salon is a small but prominently placed sign that really says it all: ¬ìLet me drop everything and work on your problem.¬î
The notice represents what you can expect in a relaxed atmosphere. A talented hairstylist bringing all their focus and energy on your hair for the time you are at her work station. That focus might produce many questions ¬ó some of which could seem irrelevant at first. However, because so many factors come into play when it comes to a good hairstyle, you must trust that the inquiries involving your occupation, lifestyle and social activities will collectively help the stylist achieve the best results possible.
It is also one of the Hair Designers Studio¬ís keys to success.
With clients ranging from men and women across the socio-economic spectrum in their teens to their 60s and some having coming in from the start, the owner reveals one of the reasons she has succeeded from the first day she opened her doors a quarter-century ago.
¬ìIt is very important to have a consultation with a first time client¬î, says Betts. ¬ìI ask what they want and why I believe their choice is good or bad for them. They realize we are more experienced in what style suits a person¬ís face best. I sit down with them and explain with hand gestures and going over their face looking in the mirror what they should consider. Always they trust me and when I finish they say ¬ëwow.¬í I even take a before and after picture so they can judge for themselves.¬î
However, with the fickle nature of fashion and rapidly changing trends there are heavy demands on Betts and her staff that requires a constant education on the latest tools and styles in the field.
¬ìTo keep up with all the fashions and styles we constantly take classes,¬î says the studio owner. ¬ìWe also go to an annual fashion convention down in Long Beach. Different companies come and educate my staff and I as to what the coming trends may look like.¬î
Social media and other aspects of the Internet also play a role in the beauty biz. The salon uses Facebook to draw attention to their services, with the goal of getting prospective clients to come in for that initial consultation.
But the web world can also lead to some false assumptions about what might work best for a given individual¬ís features.
¬ìThe internet has been more responsible for the globalization of styles than pretty much anything else,¬î Betts says. ¬ìAmerican girls see something online from France or England and they talk their boyfriend here into trying it and boom it spreads. I have recently traveled throughout Europe and the Middle East and see how fast styles have caught on globally and much of it is due to the exposure hair designs get on the Internet.
This creates a problem sometimes because new clients come in demanding some cut they saw online and don¬ít want to hear from you that it won¬ít work with their personal features.¬î
Keeping up with trends, offering a complete range of beauty programs and personalized service, but still making time for those early morning meditation sessions at nearby Will Rogers Beach, Betts also counts passion as a core reason why she has been so successful all these years.
¬ìI love what I do because the world of beauty is something in my heart. My eyes shine and my smile widens when a client leaves our salon full of self-confidence. It has been a great run and I can¬ít think of a better place to live and work. I¬ím very happy to be in this corner and having fun being successful. In 25 years it is my hope that my daughter will celebrate the 50th anniversary of our business in Santa Monica.¬î