This March, The Tease is bringing you stories from women who are #MakingHairstory, #BakingBeauty and #DoingItForTheCultuHer. Learn how these influential women are breaking barriers, disrupting their industries and empowering others to do the same all month long.
Nikki Lee, celebrity hair stylist, salon owner, entrepreneur and mom, is a Jill of all trades. Whether she’s doing extensions, crafting the perfect blonde locks or touching up a deep brunette shade, Lee always makes her clients feel and look their best at the much buzzed about Nine Zero One salon, which she co-owns with Riawna Capri. You can see Lee’s incredible styling and coloring on celebrities Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez, Emma Roberts and many more.
We had the opportunity to speak with Lee about the hardships of her career and what she has learned along the way.
The Tease: How did you get started in the salon professional industry?
Nikki Lee: I went to beauty school in my hometown of Reno, NV. After I graduated, I went to the best salon there, called Genesis Salon. I was fortunate enough to be able to assistant under a woman named Deana Marie. She taught me so much! When I moved to LA, I assisted again at Fred Segal Beauty in Santa Monica, and that’s where I met Riawna [Capri]!
How would you describe your relationship to hair?
For me, healthy hair is beautiful hair. The healthy part is always a first for me. Healthy hair is always the ideal canvas to start with when creating a beautiful color and/or cut. Healthy hair has no competition.
Women are often discouraged from sharing their accomplishments, but we want to hear about them. List some of your career highlights. What are you most proud of?
1. The fact that Nine Zero One is still alive and thriving after 10 years!Never in our wildest dreams did we think Nine Zero One would become what it has. We started it simply because we wanted a happy, fun work environment. It blossomed into an amazing brand that we could not be prouder of.
2. Launching The BeYOUtiful Foundation. The BeYOUtiful Foundation is a foundation designed to provide hope, love and a path to feeling BeYOUtiful, created for women of all ages defying the odds against cancer. It gives us a chance to give back to those who need support the most.
3. Launching In Common Beauty. We (Riawna and I) do everything because we’re passionate about it. It took us a long time to even do a product line because it was the first time we were like “this is it.” After launching Nine Zero One Salon in 2009, we launched In Common in 2018.
What are the biggest challenges you have experienced within the industry and how did you overcome them?
Two days before signing our original lease for Nine Zero One, our investor backed out. At that point, after we had fallen in love with the space. When we had calculated all our costs (how much for chairs, for lighting, for toilet paper), we looked at each other and said, “how much do you have in your bank account?” We (Riawna and I) pooled our money, maxed out a few credit cards and opened Nine Zero One. The rest is history!
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned throughout your career?
1. Hire slowly. When launching the salon, we wanted to take our time hiring good human beings that wanted to grow with us and be a part of a family. We made a dream list of stylists we wanted to work for us, and now they all do! It was just a matter of holding out until they were available. We didn’t want to rush.
2. Riawna and I learned early on that we had to have a specialty to pop! That’s when we got certified for (Great Lengths) extensions together and do extensions together in half the time it traditionally took one stylist to do.
3. Be a problem solver! When we hit a bump, we often create the solution. Take RAINDROPS for example: our clients kept on getting brassy hair, so we created RAINDROPS shower filter to prevent it!
Are there any women who inspire you or your work? If so, who?
My daughter Parker, she’s the strongest girl I know!
Do you have any words of wisdom for other women within the salon professional industry?
You need to be dedicated and determined. You need to be fearless. Do not pay attention to everyone else, stay true to what you’re good at! Also do things for the passion, not for the money… and then the money will come.
Because of social media and being able to see what other people are doing, it’s easy to become sidetracked or discouraged. Instead, you should just be focused on what you’re good at and what’s best for your brand. Recently, it’s been nice to see women coming together and supporting each other because there’s enough to go around.
What’s next for you?
Spending time with my newborn, who I just had in January!