Chelle Neff

How long have you been doing hair and what were you doing before hair? I retired from doing hair 2 1⁄2 years ago, prior to that I did hair for 21 years. My whole life has been mostly immersed in the hair industry. I knew from a young age that I wanted to do hair. At the age of sixteen, I was offered the chance to enroll in Cosmetology school at my high school. During my junior and senior years of high school (1993-1995), I attended half days of regular classes and half days of Cosmetology school. While doing that, I worked at a fast food restaurant, I was a waitress, and then a receptionist at Supercuts. When I received my license in 1995 at the age of 18, I started working behind the chair at Supercuts. I slowly worked my way up the ladder to higher-end salons.

I got the courage to open Urban Betty by first working in a small suite at the Gallery of Salons as an independent contractor in 2001. That was my initial stepping stone to running my own business. After five years of being in my own suite, I took the leap and opened my own brick and mortar in 2005. I named it Urban Betty. Betty is my first name, and I’m named after my grandmother. I had one contractor that worked for me in a space that could house over 10 hair stations. After 6 months, I had my first employee. Six years later, I had about thirteen people working inside the salon company (half were employees, half were contractors). We moved into a space that was double the size of what we had been in. After a few months, I phased out my contractors and evolved into a 100% commission-based employee salon company. Now eight years later, we have two locations with 58 employees.

What advice do you have for the next generation of hairdressers? I’ve been reading a lot of Brene Brown books lately, and the one thing that has really stuck for me is, “lean into what feels uncomfortable”. That’s what I would tell this generation. Don’t give up because it’s too hard or it feels like you won’t get through it. The experiences that give us the most growth are usually the hardest ones to get through. Work for a place that constantly challenges you, asks you to set goals and most importantly has an open communication policy with the management. Leaning into the comfortable also means asking for help. And if you surround yourself with high-achieving like-minded people, you can always lean on them for help.

How do you stay curious? I stay curious by traveling. I absolutely love to travel! I try to take at least one trip to NY every year and other domestic cities at least once every quarter. My husband and I also take one big trip every year to another country. When you expose yourself to different cultures and customs it changes you. I feel like a new person when I get back, I have more energy and a renewal of my spirit and curiosity. Last year we went to Ireland and this year we are going to Croatia. I can’t wait to see all the different foods, homes, and styles.

What's in your kit? I don’t have a kit anymore since retiring from doing hair. I will tell you though, one old- school thing that I love to personally use on my own hair. Caruso rollers! These are steam rollers that I first came across in the 90’s. I have since bought 2 more sets because I wear them out so much. I swear by them. I can get the best beachy waves super quickly. I usually shampoo my hair the night before, let it dry while I sleep, and then I throw these rollers in for about 5 minutes. I’ll do a few touch-ups with a regular curling iron around my face. And that’s it! I can keep that style for the next 3-4 days.

What is your creative process or signature approach? In regards to business, ideas usually just come to me, usually while I’m in the car or shower, or right before I go to sleep. I feel like when I finally get still, the inspiration can rush in. My next step is to write the process/idea down. I usually let it ruminate for a few days and then I will ask for help from those around me to flesh it out. It’s always best in business to allow others be a part of your process. If they feel some sort of creative ownership, it will become just as important to them as it is to you.