I opened a clothing store at the age of 25. I had no management experience. I never took a business course in my life. But something inside me told me that I would be okay.
Getting there was kind of an evolution, and I continue to reinvent myself to this day. I’ve always followed my heart, and I’ve never been afraid to embrace new ideas. And even when things didn’t work out quite the way I’d hoped, I always learned from the experience.
My Bubbie Made Me Do It
I went to hair-dressing school straight out of high school. My Bubbie told me I ought to go into the beauty industry because she noticed the ongoing obsession with my hair. My hair always had to be perfect!
In reality, it wasn’t really about the hair at all—it was a confidence issue. My hair was something I could control. If it looked perfect, I felt I was at least projecting that image.
I went to Marvel Hair Styling School and loved it. Again, it wasn’t really about the hair. At that point, it was more about the interesting people that I met. People of all ages and backgrounds, men and women, all of them searching for a new image, a new outlook. It was exciting to be a part of that.
I worked at hair salons for the next several years, first as an assistant and later as a hairstylist. I knew techniques that some of my colleagues didn’t and would get request after request from clients to have me do their hair. THAT FELT GOOD – being wanted and valued for a skill I had.
I came to learn—and maybe I was naïve, but I was not ready for this—that my colleagues were catty, immature, and competitive.
Personally, I could care less about who’s better at what. What I enjoyed most was getting to know people and hearing their stories. Salon life definitely wasn’t for me. So I and my perfect hair went looking for a new challenge.
The Road Ahead
I went on to work as a dispatcher for a trucking company. I know, quite a departure, right?
But I really loved it. I was surrounded by something I didn’t get at the salons, and that was a family feeling. There was lots of support and caring among my coworkers. I felt like we were all on the same team and working towards a common goal.
I scheduled a meeting with the CEO to talk about business growth. When she asked what role I saw myself in next, I said it was hers. At that point, I knew my days there were numbered.
I also realized I had a deep interest in business. I started spending half my shift researching how to start a business. I enrolled in a night school accounting course and started putting my business plan together.
Suffice to say; I did not become the CEO of that trucking company. But I learned something valuable that’s stuck with me to this day: it matters who you spend your time with.
Lighting The Path
I decided I wanted to open my own store. I loved fashion, and I wanted to support Canadian designers.
I envisioned a small boutique store with a family feel to it, a place where anyone could feel right at home. I wanted people to feel like they were a part of something special, even if they didn’t feel that at home, at work, or with their friends.
I had tons of retail experience, having worked at several shops over the years, like Jacob Boutique, Mexx, and Club Monaco, but no management experience to speak of and no clue about starting a business or what came next.
I researched, schooled myself, and found the answers I needed. The next thing I knew, I was leasing space for a shop, putting in my first spring and summer clothing order, bringing in mannequins, hangers, and choosing a name for my store.
I spoke to and met many of the designers personally. I worked closely with them to help them succeed in my area, and they helped direct me to people I needed to meet. It was an exciting time. I felt supported, and it felt good to know that I was supporting others.
Tango’s doors opened on May 4th, 2007. I hugged the first customer that came into the store, and that was kind of what Tango became from that point on.
After customers came to know me, many would share their deepest secrets with me or share their exciting news, like “I’m pregnant!” or “We’re in a new relationship!”
On so many occasions, I was the first to learn about something—and what an honor that was.
I did it. I created that safe space, a judgement-free place where everyone felt comfortable being there, being themselves, sharing their heartfelt moments. People brought me into their circle, their families. They could be themselves 100% and know that I was there for them.
It was at Tango that I discovered my true calling, that helping others was “my thing.”
I liked helping people feel good about themselves, and I loved being there for them. It wasn’t about the hair or the clothes; it was about the way I felt—and how I made others feel.
There I was, in my mid-20s, realizing my true purpose and not even knowing it.
What makes your heart beat? Whatever you’re searching for, that’s where the answer lies.