Melissa moved to MSP from Atlanta in 2007
She was working in finance for Target but soon decided to pursue her passion for hair
Melissa is the owner of The Beauty Lounge Minneapolis
She lives in Golden Valley
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I relocated to Minneapolis from Atlanta, Georgia in 2007 when I got a job at Target right after college. This job was part of a rotational program based out of their Financial Services department. I’ve been here 13 years now and I recently moved to Golden Valley (west metro suburb) from Minneapolis. Now I’m the owner of a hair salon The Beauty Lounge Minneapolis.
How was your initial adjustment to living in MSP?
Part of what made my transition a little bit easier was my job. A lot of companies here have different networks put into place to onboard transplants and help them find a network within the company. Target also hires in classes, so there were a lot of people who were starting right out of college at the same time as I was. So, it was pretty easy for me to meet people that way.
The hard part is that people leave all the time. I’m very outgoing, but I’m still an introvert and it takes a little bit more work for me to get back out there and meet new people. It’s kind of a double edged sword, because you meet many people at once, but within 18 months, a lot of them cycle out of the state.
What’s the story behind your career transition?
I moved here with an intent to go the corporate route and shortly thereafter noticed that it’s not really for me. I’ve always enjoyed doing hair. Growing up, I was that person who did her friends’ hair and her family’s. And I did hair throughout college for extra money. So I worked 7 A.M. to 4 P.M., and I found a cosmetology program that went from 5:30 P.M. to 9:15 P.M. on weekdays and 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturdays. I did school part-time and worked full-time. After I finished school, I started working for a bridal company, because I could still work my full-time job, and weddings are primarily on the weekends. I did both for a while, and then I was crazy or brave enough to quit my full-time job. So I quit and started working at a salon.
I moved here with an intent to go the corporate route and shortly thereafter noticed that it’s not really for me. I’ve always enjoyed doing hair. Growing up, I was that person who did her friends’ hair and her family’s. I did hair throughout college for extra money. So, I worked for Target 7 A.M. to 4 P.M., and I found a cosmetology program that went from 5:30 P.M. to 9:15 P.M. on weekdays and 9 A.M. to 5 P.M. on Saturdays. I did school part-time and worked full-time. After I finished school, I started working for a bridal company, because I could still work my full-time job and weddings are primarily on the weekends. I did both for a while, and then I was crazy or brave enough to quit my full-time job. I quit and started working at a salon.
I fell into entrepreneurship. The lady I was working for sold her business and didn’t want her space anymore. I took over the lease, really prematurely, but I made it work! Minnesota definitely played a part in that. If I were still in Georgia, I don’t think I would have taken the time to do something for myself. I would have been so wrapped up in what I always did, the people I was always around and just in having fun. I would have felt like I was missing out or sacrificing something by being in school that long. So, I think that unfamiliarity played a huge part.
What are your favorite things about life in MSP?
I was born in New York, grew up in Georgia, so summer is my favorite. The summers here are beautiful! Before moving here I took being able to spend time outdoors for granted. But when you only have a certain number of months to be outdoors, you really need to capitalize on them.
There are great people here too but you have to look to find your flow and your group. It takes some time to find your people, your community here, but I do think that it is available. There are a lot of different resources to make it easier for people to connect, like MAKE IT. MSP. and Meetup.
What do you do for fun?
I’m a small business owner, I have a seven-year-old, so my free time is pretty limited. I also have a fiancé who has a seven-year-old and he is also a small business owner, so we’re super-duper busy. But I love to go out and dance. I like to try different restaurants. I like to be outside. I love going to sound sets and concerts. I love live music. Anywhere you can go out and just be. Life is stressful enough, you need those outlets, where you can just be free.
What’s your favorite music venue in Minneapolis?
I like Icehouse. It’s small, you have a more intimate experience. You do have some good performers there and also great dancing. If you want to have a good time, go there.
How could MSP improve?
It’s no secret that sometimes breaking into circles with Minnesotans can be difficult. Initially I thought “Oh my gosh, Minnesotans are so nice!” And yeah, on the surface they are, but if you want to have deeper relationships, it’s going to take some effort on your part.
On a more serious note, being from Atlanta, I was accustomed to seeing a lot of people who looked like me doing really well. The wealth gap and the achievement gap in Minnesota is so wide, which was really jarring for me. I’m accustomed to seeing people of all ethnicities, all backgrounds making a great life for themselves. I think there are some systems that have been in place in Minnesota that have made that hard for people.
I also find that people who may be transplants, who are coming right out of college, stay removed from what’s really going on. They might not vote or they might not get involved in their kids’ school because they see Minnesota as a pit stop. Being a hair stylist, I have an interesting perspective because I talk to so many people. Although it’s a pit stop in many people’s minds, people tend to be here for a lot longer than they anticipated. You might think you’ll be here for two years, but you end up being here for 10. So, what purpose did it serve to not get involved?
My daughter’s in second grade now. Having a child in school changes things because you see where the problem begins and start asking: “How can I help to change this?” So, get involved in whatever you’re interested in. If your thing is art, get involved in that. Immerse yourself and ask questions and see what people will tell you. Come out of your comfort zone and get involved with something different.
People from different backgrounds who are moving here can make a greater impact on the city or the state. They don’t view this as home and that’s a shift that I think needs to take place. And if a better opportunity presents itself, of course, you’re gonna’ take it. But at the same time, build a life here.
How do you deal with the winter?
My strategy with winter is to actually try to go outside! (laughs) If you just try to avoid it, then you end up being miserable for six months. So I try to get out and do something. Live a regular life. Get out of the house and don’t hibernate!
How has the murder of George Floyd and the social unrest that followed impact you?
I think we have to acknowledge that the people we serve are dealing with a collective trauma. There’s trauma from all the racial injustice that has happened. But there’s also trauma from the pandemic that’s disproportionately affecting Black and Brown communities. So it’s important to be sensitive to that trauma and to be an advocate for minority-owned businesses.
There’s been a huge effort to buy Black, shop Black, to reallocate where you’re spending your money My background before doing hair was economics. So I’m really passionate about the money and what it really means. I’ve spoken up about this push for buying Black to make people understand that it’s not a one-time thing. In order for it to actually impact the economy, you have to continue to do it, not because you’re “supporting” Black business, but because you like it. That’s the reason why we make all of our decisions. We like the thing, so we keep buying the thing!
And that’s how you build up a community. That’s how you actually reallocate your dollars, not by doing it one time. Social justice and economic justice are intertwined, and in order for us to really change everything, we have to change how we’re thinking about money, how we’re thinking about access.
What advice would you give to someone considering to move to MSP?
Get out of your comfort zone. There are going to be things and people that are different from what you may have experienced where you come from. So just feel comfortable being uncomfortable. In the beginning, it’s going to take time. If you’re moving here for a job, meet people outside of work. Find your interest and meet people doing those things, because it can be discouraging when people at your company keep leaving. If you meet people who are grounded in another interest, those people are more likely to stay longer. And you can find your community there.
What is your call to action to somebody reading this?
Discover the state for yourself. Explore. Try something you’ve never tried before – whether it’s a restaurant, a type of cuisine or an activity that you’ve never tried before.
And visit my salon – The Beauty Lounge Minneapolis!