Updated: Mar 18
"My interest in hair styling started when I was a little girl in Cincinnati, Ohio playing with my dolls. In high school, I wanted to go to cosmetology school but my guidance counselor discouraged me - suggesting I pursue clerk stenography instead.
"I enrolled in cosmetology school right after high school. Years later when I ran into my former guidance counselor, I shared my success.
Some more years passed, and I really wanted a fresh start. I had heard that Washington, DC would be a good place for me to move, so I did. I landed a job working with Aveda.
"A few years after that, I got a chance to work at a hair salon, but I didn't know anyone in the city. I needed to build a clientele so I offered free services to build people's trust. That year, I was able to earn six figures.
Then, I opened my own salon. At this point, I've worked for myself longer than I've worked for anyone else.
"My business is Signature Image Salon on DC's U Street Corridor. I've been in business since July 2011.
Among the challenges I've faced over the years, the COVID pandemic has been one of the hardest. We closed our doors like all businesses, but I made the tough decision to stay in business. At one point, we were selling retail products, door-to-door. In preparation for reopening, we remodeled and gave a fresh face to the salon.
When we were allowed to re-open (at limited capacity,) we implemented strict protocols to keep our guests safe. And as capacity increases, we'll continue to make sure our guests and staff remain safe.
"While we were closed, I used the time to rebuild my team (after all but one stylist quit,) and renovate our space. Continuing to focus on the guest experience, I asked clients for input for an artist' curation by Demont Pinder. We are now surrounded by women and men who are 'firsts,' including Dorothy Height, Madam CJ Walker, Mayor Muriel Bowser, Michelle and Barack Obama, Diana Ross, Diahann Carroll, Maya Angelou, and Horst Rechelbacher - founder of Aveda.
"I couldn't have done any of this without my team, and as we round the corner of this pandemic, we are focusing on taking care of ourselves, empowering each other, education, and our maximizing skills and talent.
"I am hopeful about the future and look forward to the opportunity to continue growing and building."
Vonetta Dumas, Owner, Signature Image Salon, NW Washington, DC
All images by Diane Butts ©2021