Q&A With Judy F. Sulisufaj Kelly of Studio 921 Salon & Spa

| February 24, 2016 | 0 Comments


Sponsored Post from Studio 921 Salon & Spa:

Tell us about Studio 921 Salon & Spa. How and when did it get started?

It’s an interesting story… I have no experience in the industry. I worked at Aerotek for 10 years. While I loved my job and company, I felt I wanted to do more. I decided (while 4 months pregnant) to leave and figure out what I wanted to do. I researched many different avenues and at the suggestion of my now business partner, Colleen Smith, I researched the salon industry. Although very much out of my comfort zone, I fell in love!

When scouting locations in 2003, as a Baltimore city resident, I knew I wanted to invest in the city. At the time, South Baltimore/Locust Point was pretty vacant and untapped. I felt Baltimore needed a full service salon and spa. We were looking for a unique building and found the space at the Foundry on Fort.  We wanted a building with Baltimore character – not your typical “spa” with white walls and marble; a gender neutral, comfortable space that was still upscale but with a down to earth and local feel – we felt this area was the perfect fit.

It was a completely unfinished space of 5,300 sq. ft. (dirt floors and all), which we completely rehabbed and designed literally from ‘the ground up.’ So with limited funds, and no experience in the industry, we took the leap! We tried to keep the build out/furniture/equipment, etc. using local/individually owned businesses. We ended up opening in April of 2004 with 6 employees.

Tell us a bit about yourself and business partner Colleen Smith.

I am a city girl, originally from NYC, with a passion for people, learning, and what I do. I am married to an amazing man, who has supported me since day one, and trust me, it hasn’t always been easy 🙂  We have 2 kids that are my world and I’m so grateful they are able to see an example of 2 women opening up a business (later in life) and loving what we do.  I am also a huge work out fanatic and love food and meeting interesting, diverse people. Growing up, I could never of imagined this life and I am so thankful.  Hard work and perseverance does eventually pay off.

My business partner, Colleen Smith, worked in finance at Aerotek (CPA!). We’ve known each other since 1994.  She has 4 kids and we are blessed to have a fantastic relationship, both personally and professionally. I could not have done any of this without her.

Tell us about the team at Studio 921.

Our team is my pride and our core – they inspire me every day!  Positive; passionate; motivated people is where it all starts. I take pride in our interview process— it is long and thorough and not just about skill. Skill is only one part of the equation at Studio 921. You cannot teach character, passion, positivity—these characteristics are at the heart of our Studio 921 family. From our shampoo assistants, to our front desk staff to our stylists and therapists… new or years of experience, we interview the same. We have seen very little turnover among our staff –I could not be more proud or love them more. We also have a culture of teamwork where we want you, the client, to feel comfortable seeing multiple stylists/therapists without the traditional “guilt” of cheating. We are super open and just want to be accommodating.

What do you like about having your business in South Baltimore?

We could not be happier in South Bmore. We had a lot of options in the beginning (many were less expensive) and even offers to relocate throughout the years, but we wouldn’t dream of it.  We love this area – South Baltimore is our home – and our clients are truly the best! Everyone is so down to earth, appreciative and highly communicative with us which is what has helped us grow and succeed over the years. And to say this area has grown is an understatement. When we opened in 2004 there was just us and Merritt. They assured us development would come… we were a bit nervous for a while, but it did come and new development is booming today. Wow – we are so glad we took this leap of faith! And it helps that we have free and readily available parking for our customers (we’ve learned parking is a life saver in SoBo!)

How has the business grown since opening?  

We’ve been very blessed and have continued to grow and evolve since our opening. New to the salon industry, we’ve learned from our mistakes with the help of amazing feedback from our staff and from our clients. We try to cultivate an atmosphere of open communication with everybody. We encourage an open dialogue with clients, staff and other local businesses. We learn something new everyday  – it may sound cliché but it works. Our culture is key. We started with 6 employees and now, 10 years later, we have nearly 40! We have grown slowly but steadily. Studio 921 is invested in this community for the long haul. We want to run a quality community business that people love to come to.  I love working with our staff and seeing our clients every day. I can’t say enough about how great the community has been!

What services do you offer at Studio 921?

We offer the full array of hair cuts and color services, facials, massage/body work, hair removal and nail services.  We also have “specialists” come in to do services such as a Dr. for injectables or a permanent makeup artist on occasion.  We also try and partner with local business to market and provide a full experience for our clients, such as the Wine Market Bistro, Rev Cycle and Soul Power Yoga to name a few. We actually have an event coming up March 20th with Core Power Yoga in our salon!  Please come in any time for a service or just to say HI!

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