It all started as a childhood friendship in a small town and turned into a successful business partnership with two young mothers at the helm. Shear Thairapy co-owners Staci Graeves and Amanda Burton took their passion for hair and helping others feel their best and applied the same dedication to building their team and the local community.
In a recent chat with Staci and Amanda, the two opened up about their journey and how they achieved the ultimate work/life balance in their salon. Here’s what they had to say:
Rosy: Tell us about the town where you grew up.
Amanda: We both grew up in a town called Olney in Maryland. It’s a small suburb of (Washington) D.C., and when we were growing up, and even still, it’s a small town. It’s grown a lot since we were young; there was one grocery store, a movie theater, and a few spots where everyone hung out – it’s very close-knit. So, if you skipped school, your parents saw you – that sort of thing. You couldn’t really get away with anything. That being said, Staci and I have known each other since middle school. So we went to the same middle school and high school in Olney.
Rosy: How did you two meet, and did you know right off you’d be friends?
Staci: Through high school, we were friends of friends. Amanda did cheerleading, and I did field hockey, but then her friends and my friends played the same sports together. That intertwined us a little bit in high school. We reconnected, though, after high school and in college. She went to college in South Carolina, and I just went straight to hair school. Amanda had always done hair and worked at a salon in Olney, and I was interested in doing hair. After she graduated, she moved back.
Rosy: Did you always know that you wanted to do hair?
Staci: I started messing around with (hair) in high school. I would do random things to my own hair.
Backtrack a little: my mom actually wanted to do hair, and her parents talked her out of it. Back in the day when my mom was growing up, it was a little bit after the Grease era, and (because of it) being a hairdresser wasn’t (considered) professional. My grandparents were lawyers and didn’t want that for my mom. She loved it and pushed me to do it. When I was messing around with it and having fun – I would perm my hair and change the color – my mom would help me.
I always knew I wanted to do hair. I always knew I wanted my own place – that was like another thing of mine. I liked the idea of something that was my own to share with everyone, not just the hair part of it, but the ability to have a place to grow people. Today, that’s something Amanda and I take a lot of pride in: it’s not just doing the client’s hair, but it’s our staff, watching them grow, helping them build, and we have such a great environment because of that.
Amanda: Yeah, so I started working shampooing at 13 – it’s all I’ve ever done. I loved it and worked for a lady until I graduated from high school.
My parents did not want me to do hair, and they said, “you have to go to college.” So, I went to South Carolina. I got my marketing and management degree, and they said, “you should go to grad school. You should work here; you should do anything except hair.” They didn’t want me to do it, so I came home and did an apprenticeship instead of going to hair school because I didn’t have to pay for that. That way, I can do it on my own without my parents’ support.
After I finished my apprenticeship downtown (Bethesda), I was looking to come closer to Olney. Staci was already working at a salon in Olney, so I reached out to her on Facebook. We still have the message, and we laugh at it because I said, “I’m thinking about coming back to Olney; do you like the one you’re at?” Staci had done one of my sister’s hair before I had moved back from South Carolina, and my mom had said, “oh, Staci’s so good. You should reconnect with her. She’s such a good hairdresser.” We reconnected that way, and I applied at the salon where she was working, and she helped me get a job there.
Rosy: How has your education/degree helped you with running the salon?
Amanda: So, my degree is in marketing and management, and with my internship projects, I always did at salons or about salons. I was uber-focused on doing hair.
I think (my education/degree) helps me a lot. I feel that college, more than anything, is a commitment to start and finish something. And it develops a work ethic. That’s really what you need when you’re starting and owning a business, is the ability to say, “I’m going to do it, and I’m gonna follow through.” I think for Staci and me, that’s why we’re both successful – we have that ability to follow through.
For the marketing piece, it’s just being creative with ideas about getting new clients and maintaining clients. The biggest thing for us is we’re always trying to make that personal connection with the client, which is the heart of marketing: who is your client, and how do you speak to them?
Rosy: How did you end up in the current salon space?
Staci: When Amanda reached out and started working at Bubbles (salon), we just super connected. We started doing a lot of things together: working together, going out – we just had a lot in common. Then we had babies at the same time. So our first two babies are six weeks apart: she has a son Shane and then my older daughter Laney. After that, she got pregnant again, and then I got pregnant again, and they’re four months apart.
It was at that time when we were pregnant we realized that we wanted the freedom to do this on our own. We want to make our own schedules but still be able to provide for our clients and also provide for our families. I had moved for a short time out to Fredrick, but our lives – my husband and I – are in Olney, so as we’re moving back to Olney, I said to Amanda, “I’m going to build a salon in my basement. Do you want to come?”
Amanda: I said, “Hell, no! I am not working in your basement, it’s fine if YOU want to work in your basement, but I am not working in your basement.” We laugh about it now because she’s like, “okay, but I’m gonna make a cute, like, wait till you see it.” I think we always knew there was a bigger picture behind it, and then that’s when I bought into the basement idea.
Staci: So, the basement is where we started (in September 2016). It was two chairs, one shampoo station, and a front desk. To be honest, we didn’t know what to expect, but it took off – all of our clients followed us. They loved our story; they loved how we had this work/life balance but could also make them feel good about themselves, their hair, and all the things. So, needless to say, we were looking for another place within the first few months.
Amanda: What it gave us is it bought us time because we both had our second babies there. Another piece to our puzzle is that I have three little kids, and Staci has two, and our whole journey has been balancing that. We both want to be the kind of moms that pick our kids up from school, and we don’t want to hire nannies – we both have always felt strongly about that. So, because we have each other, we can do it all, which is a huge piece of our story.
Staci: My husband owns an auto shop down the street, and he had a loft space upstairs. So, Amanda and I built out the space. Everything’s going great, and everything’s booming. We’re working three days a week, and we’re booked solid. Then we had a hairdresser approach us, and we were like, “NO, we’re good! We’re mom’s like, this is good! It’s too much, and we’re not taking anything on!” and she said, “I’ve heard so much about you, your story, and I want to be a mom, and I wanna work for you, like, I want that balance in my life.” And so, so fast forward, then we had hired how many people had we hired in that small speakeasy sort of loft space.
Amanda: The loft was 900 square feet and a rectangular shoebox. We hired Erin first, and then by the time we left there, which was the summer of 2022, we had eight hairdressers and eight other support staff. So, a team of sixteen.
Staci: It would’ve been five years in January (2023) that we grew that much from the basement. So, from the basement to the loft space, we were there for five years, and then this (where we are now).
Rosy: How did you manage that many people in that space?
Staci: We always had six stations. We split-shifted stations so that everyone wasn’t overlapping. We had worked for a year and a half to get out of that space because we knew we were busting at the seams with just the staff that we had. And then that’s where we, where we are now.
Amanda: COVID bought us time in a sense because we were busting at the seams before it hit. When COVID hit, we were closed down, and then we had all of the capacity requirements, so we could not even have that many people in there at once – that was a whole other challenge. We really had to split-shift the girls’ schedules. We said, “listen, everyone’s got to peel back a day from what they worked previously.” That’s how we made it work. It wasn’t perfect, but we really did well during COVID. It slowed us down a little bit to where we could build the (new) space out, and everyone was able to kind of hang tight.
Rosy: And what’s the salon like now?
Staci: So August 30th, 2022, was our first day here. We went from 600 to 900, then to 3800 square feet.
Amanda: We have fourteen stations now, and we’re getting two more by the end of the day. So we will have we’ll have sixteen stations with fourteen stylists.
Then we also added a clothing boutique called Shear Boutique. Another of our friends from high school was a manager and buyer at Nordstrom for ten years, and she left to manage our boutique. So sheer boutique was born as well, and now we have an addition to our brand, and it’s a lot of fun.
The boutique is an open space of around 900 square feet, making an L around one of the corners of the salon. When you walk in and see the front desk, you look up to the side, and there’s the boutique. A couple of the girls sometimes work on floating stations, and behind them aways are clothes.
Our thing is making people feel good about their hair and themselves. When you get your hair done and feel good about yourself, you’re like, “oh, my gosh, I’m going out tonight,” or “I’m going out this weekend.” Then there’s an outfit. So it’s creating all of that together for someone – to be able to have the outfit and the hair.
Rosy: What’s it like working with your bestie?
Staci: Yeah, for sure. It’s great. We recently got back from Miami, and we have to laugh because our staff says, “you work together, and then you can travel together.” It’s a beautiful thing – our husbands get along, and we get along amazingly – we have a great relationship.
If something’s up, we nip it in the bud. We don’t want it to fester – it’s not worth it. That’s also how we run the business. So, it’s been great, and honestly, I don’t want to say easy because, you know, there are always challenges, but we work very well together.
Amanda: Yeah, we always say we both come from families of girls. I know that sounds silly, but I think when you grow up close to your sisters, you know. Staci and I both treat each other that way where we can forgive quickly and move on. That’s the biggest thing – we are honest with each other. Sometimes you have to call each other out right away – It might not be a perfect time – you know, “okay, I’m sorry that you’re on your way to this right now, but I just need to tell you that it really made me upset when you said this to me today.” And it’s like, “Okay, crap! I’m sorry!” And then we’ll text, “I love you!” We both know that we respect each other at the end of the day.
Amanda: Yeah, our staff calls Staci, the dad, and me, the mom.
Staci: Yeah, I’m dad! (laughing)
Rosy: What has it been like to balance work with family life for you and your team?
Amanda: I have three kids, Staci has two, and we’re young moms. We’ve definitely created a business where our hairdressers can be moms and make a good living behind the chair three to four days a week. And that is what we are passionate about. I see this so much with young moms who have to choose between their career and their children. And I don’t want to say that harshly, but that’s where the world puts you. I mean, it’s like, you got six weeks paid, then you have got to go back and, and it’s hard, it’s really, really hard. I don’t want it to sound like this is just for women. I mean for men as well, but it’s essential to provide something where you don’t have to choose.
It brings tears to my eyes what Staci and I have been able to do in our child-birthing years. That’s our passion and why we’re so passionate about this industry. We’ve walked through countless pregnancies with our staff, and we have seen them grow during a time when most women have to shrink back.
We have stylists who are not moms, but we have several who were drawn to come to us because of the balance we provide. They came from salons that wanted them to work every Saturday or every evening and didn’t understand if they needed to take off. Staci and I ask a lot of them, but we also give them a lot. So, that’s a huge part of our business.
Rosy: Tell us how you give back to your community.
Amanda: We both went to Sherwood high school – Staci’s mom still actually works there – and they have a work program. When you’re a senior, you can leave school at 11:30 and get credit by working somewhere in the community. Every year for the past five or six years now, we’ve had interns from Sherwood, and this year we have two of them.
What started to happen is that one of the girls got really interested in the hair piece, and she decided that after her internship with us, she wanted to go to hair school. Then we had another one after her. So, now sometimes the girls go on to college, and it’s a great experience for them, and they still come back to work for us in the summers. A couple wanted to become nurses or other things. But so far, we’ve had three that have gone on to beauty school and are now becoming stylists in the salon.
Staci: This is their first job, and we want to help give them the tools and the skills in life, even outside of working in a hair salon, but just being able to work with people. I think everyone in life should work with people, whether waiting tables or shampooing hair because if you don’t have that experience and that customer service with people, you’ll always feel like you’re missing something. You need to be able to communicate and talk to people. So, the fact that we can provide that for some of these young girls with the school that we went to is great.
Amanda: The big thing that Staci and I talked about all the time is a lot of these high school girls come to us with – I think a piece of it is social media and just the way the world is now – but they don’t have confidence with people or about themselves. They’ll post a half-naked picture on their Instagram, so they have the confidence of some sort. But they come to work and don’t know how to even converse with an adult. Staci and I have a passion beyond the hair, where we watch these girls become confident women, teaching them that you sometimes have to come outside of your little world. Taking care of someone else is a huge way to see who you are, and we’ve seen a huge transformation in these shy, timid girls who come to us and grow in their confidence.
Staci: It’s hard right now, like Amanda said, with social media and all that stuff. So, it’s good that we can help. It’s important for these young girls. I have two of them that I’m raising right now.
Rosy: Have you advertised much to get where you are?
Staci: Social media, in general, has been the way that we advertise for the longest time. It has been a big part of our business and growth. We are referral-based, especially when we were in the loft, and we don’t really do advertising.
The advertising that we do now is within all of the schools. We donate to the schools. I just got something for our high school’s rock’n’roll revival – it’s a huge show they put on every year, and it raises a lot of money for the school. They’re asking for an ad, and we say, “absolutely!” We always help support and put the money back in (to the schools).
Rosy: How has Rosy Salon Software been for you?
Staci: So I’ll be honest with you. When we were growing, we talked to another salon, and they convinced us to try something that had a bit more reporting. We looked into it, and we were doing the transition. We were in the sandbox, or whatever they call it, where you’re actually halfway in, and it was a nightmare.
Rosy has been great because it’s very easy and streamlined. Rosy has been amazing for us. It’s very easy to use and train people on, so in using it, I’m super grateful for it because I can teach anybody; I can even teach my daughters to use it. It’s very user-friendly, and we felt like in these other salon software businesses that we’ve attempted to use – they’re not user-friendly – and they’re difficult, and there’s too much to it. That helps our business because we can bring new people in and get them with it – quickly.
Amanda: To echo what Staci said: For the reasons that we were looking to switch a few years ago, Rosy already brought on those things we were looking for. They are really growing, looking for what salons need, and communicating with owners. If we have a problem or question, we can call, and we can remedy it that day. So the other great thing with Rosy, which we’ve benefited from recently, is the confirmation texting. That cut down on what our front desk has to do – a huge increase in productivity for our front desk. We can give her more things to do within the salon besides being on the phone and confirming people. And then, we recently integrated with Tippy, which has been seamless, and our clients extremely appreciate it. It’s just great that they work together.
Staci: Yeah, it’s all seamless and very user-friendly, which I need. I need user-friendly.
Images courtesy Shear Thairapy & Marissa Lanay Photography
Looking for the ultimate salon software to help manage and grow your business? Try Rosy on for size with a free, 30-day, no-obligation trial:
You might also like: