Jet Black Hair & Studio is a Ottawa based hair salon with the coolest staff in town to ensure you are leaving with hair you’ll absolutely fall in love with while enjoying your experience from the start to finish. I got the chance to ask Ilona Garson, founder of Jet Black Hair & Studio, on her story, how she came about to start and build her own personal salon as a entrepreneur, tips and advice for new business owners, and hair trends and product favourites!

Interview with Ilona Garson (Q&A)

1) When did you first open Jet Black Ottawa?

My husband Brian and I opened Jet Black 3 years ago- October 5 2013.

2) How did you come about choosing this location?

Brian and I have lived in centre town for years and agreed that opening our business in the neighbourhood would be ideal. It’s the community that we love- it’s dynamic and colourful and has a really cool demographic. Brian walked by the location one day and noticed there was a waste removal truck outside, then the next week a for lease sign went up. So we met with the owners/landlords and signed the papers! This beauty of a space didn’t start out so cute.. it took a lot of work to bring it up to our standards. The space had been ruined due to fire and water damage, and the previous tenant hadn’t done anything to it for about 40 years. I like to think that this location chose us, it just came together so naturally.

3) At what age did you first start doing hair? Was it something you always wanted to do growing up or was it a passion that brew up down the line?

I was 22 when I landed my first salon job, but I had started doing hair before that when a friend of mine asked me to do hair and makeup for a photoshoot simply because he thought I was creative and talented enough to “wing it”. I never thought I was going to be a hairstylist, but when I was a teenager, my hairstylist used to tell me that she thought I would be! I always thought I’d end up in NYC as a freelance artist of some sort, living in a cool loft with a rockstar boyfriend! Hahaha! I have always been creative and very hands on and I had tons of experience in the service industry so after finishing a 1 year portfolio development program at The Ottawa School of Art, I went to hair school and never looked back.

4) How long have you been doing hair for?

I’ve been doing hair since 2001.. so that’s almost 16 years!!!

5) Was this always a dream of yours, to open your own hair studio?

Yes once I got into the industry it became a dream. Simply because I wanted to give the people something new and different, and create an environment where my staff can thrive. Also I love that I can make my ideas come to life through my business. It’s a lot of work, but soooo worth it.

6) Is there any aspect of Jet Black Ottawa that really resonates with you?

Honestly this shop and my staff, the events we hold, our clients and the community all resonates with me. Everything about it is deeply personal.

7) From what you envisioned Jet Black Ottawa 3 years ago (when you first opened), was it anything like you envisioned it to be? Or did things just fall into place as you kept going?

It was really hard at first. What I had envisioned was really difficult to achieve because finding the right people and the right combination of people seemed like an impossible dream. A few things fell into place, but for most things, I had to work hard for it. Now it feels like the shop is sustainable and my team is in sync. It’s amazing to see the work they are producing, and sometimes when I stop and look around I think, damn! This is really good! Jet Black is everything to me.

8) What advice do you have for young female entrepreneurs looking to take the first step into their business?

First of all congrats! Taking that step to start your own business takes a lot of guts. It’s like a combo of being terrified and empowered! There will be supporters and haters. Cut the haters out! It’s extremely important to build a network of supportive people around you! Networking and getting out there is important. People need to see the face behind the business. Branding is so important in this day and age. You might be a natural, but even if you are, you’ll most likely need help streamlining your brand. Find a consultant that can help out with that! Stay true to your dream-keep that essence of what makes your business unique alive. Be open minded to constructive criticism, but don’t compromise the integrity of your business just to make fast cash. If you are starting your own business, you should make sure you are on top of the game within your industry. Do your research and don’t stop! One day you are in, and the next you may be out! Do your best to stay in, and evolve your business as your clientele does. People will start coming out of the woodwork asking for stuff or expecting freebies-beware! Be compassionate, but don’t let yourself become a doormat. Lastly, try not to take yourself too seriously and have fun.

9) What are your top three hair products to round off the year of 2016?

I love love love

Sebastian Dark Oil- adds shine and volume to any hair type, but especially fine hair!

Wella Ocean Spritz- with messy shaggy hairstyles about to hit hard next year, this is a top pick for creating a “lived in” texture with some grit.

Olaplex – we were the first salon in Ottawa to carry Olaplex, it is an essential product to keep all hair types healthy and strong. It can be used as a colour additive or as a treatment on its own. If you haven’t tried it. YOU.SHOULD.

10) What can you expect for hair style trends for 2017?

Hair colour will be metallics- ranging from oxidized bronze, to burnished rose and combos of warm golds and silver blonde on the same head! We will continue to see greens and purples, but with a mattified finish.

We will start seeing a lot more texture in the haircuts, long messy fringes, and I think perms are about to make a comeback. I’ve had lots of people asking me about perms. They won’t be your grandmother’s perm though, they will be multi textured and more organic looking! I’m excited!

11) What are your dreams for Jet Black Hair Studio in the future?

The future of Jet Black is exciting! Brian and I are always thinking of what we want to do next. I don’t want to spoil the surprise, but just be ready for more 🙂