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A Cut Above

Salon owner offers more than jobs

When they come to work in the morning, Charlene Carroll's employees know they can expect more than the daily grind. They can also expect a philosophy on life and business the 46-year-old Bostonian has developed over 19 years of owning a hair salon.

It's a philosophy that prompts her to hire neighborhood youth to do odd jobs in her shop-and to find out just what her employees expect from life.

"When a person comes to me [for a job], I try to be upfront. I want to know what they're going to do with their lives and what their goals are. I need to know if they're motivated or if I need to motivate them," says Carroll from her salon, Charlene's Hair Salon, in Boston's predominantly black Roxbury neighborhood.

For the truly motivated-and more advanced-Carroll's help can include free continuing education classes to learn new hair-care techniques, the chance to demonstrate hair products at shows around the nation, and training in the skills needed to operate a salon.

"About five salons in the area are owned by former employees of mine," boasts Carroll. "I try to get my people to the point where, if they leave here, they can go out and open their own businesses."

Opening a salon wasn't her goal in the beginning. "I was perfectly happy working for someone else," remembers Carroll, who started her business so she could get a pension plan. "But I always wanted to be the best at whatever I did."

Sometimes, Carroll discovered, being the best means striking out on your own. Now she's teaching others to do the same. -C.E.G.

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This article was originally published in the July 1996 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: A Cut Above.

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