- Vanessa Villaverde Shares Her Apple Pie -
Before I moved to Flagstaff, I used to regularly relive my first encounter with Vanessa Villaverde. Traveling through town one summer, a friend took me to get my hair cut in the quirky upstairs of a historic building on the southside of the tracks. Many saké shots and ego-stroking compliments later, I emerged from her chair with the confidence that comes from booze and an amazing cut. Only after opening up my own business on her side of downtown years later did we reconnect. Vanessa came in one sunny afternoon, the light from the setting sun beaming in. I shyly, but excitedly, asked ‘aren’t you, like, the Vanessa?’ The Vanessa from my memories and dreams. The Vanessa I have had the privilege of reconnecting with over shared ideas and mutual respect. I had to start ‘CONVERSATION PIECES’ with an interview of Vanessa, because she such an inspiration to me to be myself, follow my desires and have fun along the way.
The progression from her single chair upstairs to taking over the entire three-story structure is inspiring in itself. The creative vision behind the growth of her business and constant re-invention of her surroundings is so motivating. We spent a rainy fall afternoon at her fun and funky shop and home. From getting glam in her bedroom, to picking apples in her backyard, to enjoying a fresh-baked apple pie in her freshly re-imagined kitchen with a wood-burning stove, we were completely swept up into and immersed in the magic of her life.
Meredith Christine: What was your first job in the industry of styling?
Vanessa Villaverde: I just started styling. I was 17, and began working here in Flagstaff at Aveda.
MC: Did you ever consider other career paths?
VV: I’ve never thought about doing anything else. Literally, never.
MC: Is there any story or meaning behind the name ‘Headspace’?
VV: Yes. I like Headspace because it’s an expansive name. It doesn’t sound like it’s a hair salon necessarily. I thought it would be a good name to umbrella many brands or things under. ‘Headspace’ could be a product company, it could be a cosmetic company, it could be a consulting firm name for other entrepreneurs.
MC: How old were you when you came up with the name for Headspace?
MC: You had a business prior to Headspace, what was it called?
VV: That was called ‘Vokuhila’, which is the slang word in German for mullet, and is the short version of front short, back long ‘vorne kurz, hinten lang’. So I licensed it under ‘Vokuhila.’
MC: Did you cut a lot of mullets?
VV: No! I tried to, I said if you get the mullet, it’s free.
MC: Have you had any other businesses besides these two?
VV: Yeah, a lemonade stand.
MC: Summers only?
VV: No, like all the time. Around the clock lemonade.
MC: What was the most difficult lesson you had to learn as you were first starting out, before you opened either of your business?
VV: The lessons are coming now, really. The first lessons were really obvious – you had to show up every day, you had to be on time for your clients, and you had to do consistent work. The biggest lesson, by far, when I was first starting was that gossiping is not fun. It’s a really easy thing to do with your clients, and it’s the only thing that has ever made me feel gross at work. I chose early on not to do that.
After these lessons, it was like the sky was the limit, no boundaries. I can’t fail, I won’t fail, and I’m going to get what I want. So there weren’t a lot of lessons, it was just a lot of full stride. If there were lessons, they don’t stick out because I never let myself feel discouraged. I know shit was being handed to me, I know I was getting served a lot, but it was like blinders on, one-track mind to get to your goal. Whatever the lessons were, it was like day-by-day you just take it and keep going.
MC: Do any lessons come to mind from when you opened your first business?
VV: Yeah. There were a lot of lessons. The pressure for being on time for something that I made up – I’ve alleviated myself from that. I don’t feel guilty or bad if I’m not on time anymore, especially if I know I’m being diligent and working towards my goal. By the time I got six chairs in my shop, I had let go of the pressure I put on myself to have six chairs. I had four chairs and then I just naturally grew into six chairs. I just stopped caring about how long it took me to get to my goal, and that it’s more important to enjoy the process than be stressed out about the process.
MC: How does it feel being a woman and running a successful business?
VV: I only know what it feels like to be a woman. So I guess pretty normal. And I also feel like I’ve always been successful with my clients. So opening a successful business feels pretty normal too. It really does, it just feels like it’s the way it’s supposed to be.
MC: Did you ever have a career mentor?
VV: If I did, I didn’t know it.
MC: What about somebody outside of someone you’ve worked or that you’ve encountered in your life like where your career was changed by meeting that person or seeing to do something?
VV: It’s kind of a bummer to say this, but most of my choices were made because I didn’t want be like someone I observed. It’s kind of cruel, but everyone in the industry that I was around, I knew I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to smoke cigarettes in the back of my shop and everything smell like cigarettes. I did not want to run stuff like my bosses were running it. I wanted it to be cleaner and more sanitary. I wanted it to be a calm environment. I wanted there to be organic matter everywhere, with plants and wood. So I learned from knowing what I didn’t want.
I didn’t meet mentors or peers that inspired me until I started actively pursuing my own dreams. That’s how we met each other. I feel like I have mentors now. I feel like you’re my mentor. I listen to a lot of TED talks. I read a lot of business books. I really enjoyed this book called ‘The Creators Code’, which talks about how people started their business and their creative process. Mostly I sought the information, but it was not by a warm human. It was by a book or a podcast.
MC: Do you have any favorite podcasts?
VV: Yeah, nothing to do with business though. There is this one, I think it’s just called ‘Heaven’s Gate’ and it’s about Heaven’s Gate, the cult. It’s super duper fun to listen to those cult stories.
MC: Have you ever considered creating a product to complement your business?
VV: I’ve thought about making shampoos and conditioners before. I’ve thought about doing workshops, where I can tell people how I started my business – women specifically – then, support others just starting their own business or vision. That’s really about it. I think about just scrapping everything and taking who I am and starting more projects that have nothing to do with my current business.
MC: So you were doing a podcast called Cunt Cash…
VV: Yeah, and then the name got really aggressive. I decided to change it to the E-word, which is equality and economics. I haven’t done anything with it at all, but I am interested in it. My biggest product that I would want to share with people would be how to help women ask for what they want and need, because statistically we don’t. We get paid less, we do more, and we do more work and the money is not there. I think it’s really important that women talk about money and ask for the money they deserve. I think equal pay is imperative. I think that creativity in how to get paid for what you want is important. I don’t think anyone just magically gets paid more. We have to put in the work. I want people to talk about women, money in the workplace, and women in business!
MC: You wear a lot of hats in your business and life, what’s your best tip for managing prioritization among projects and commitments?
VV: Though I wear a lot of hats, I do not do it all by myself. I would say 90% of the work is delegated. The 10% that’s not delegated is me seeing my clients. I see my clients, I share my clientele, I have multiple stylists that help me share the clientele. Every room you looked at, I had help painting it. Every bit of my shop I had help setting it up. The hundreds of plants that are on the property are watered by a team of people that all work here. I do nothing by myself, and that’s how I get it all done. I act like it’s really casual. I just make it seem like it’s the most easy, casual thing we could ever do, even if it’s a huge workload and then everyone’s kind of like, “Oh yeah, of course that’s all we’re doing.” And then nine hours later, we’re done.
MC: Do you ever need to take a break from all the projects in motion? And what do you do to recharge?
VV: I’m sure I do need to take a break, but I don’t feel like it. I feel like I’m playing every day. Like right now, this feels like we’re not working, we’re playing. I get to go to work in an hour, and that feels like I’m playing. I get to play business owner and play house designer and play plant lady. It’s all for fun and it feels that way. And, I love spa life – I like watermelon baths. I eat watermelon in the bath. I cut a watermelon in half. I take a spoon because it comes in it’s own little bowl. I just sit in the bath and eat watermelon. I’ll do that at 6 in the morning. I’ll do that on my lunch break. I’ll do that after work. I’ve done all three in the same day. I recharge multiple times a day.
MC: What is your favorite customer request?
VV: Just the fact that they come in and request me at all. I like that, that’s it. Everything I offer, I enjoy doing, which is why I offer it.
MC: How do you feel when someone comes in and wants bangs?
VV: There’s this great article in the New Yorker with a quiz we printed out to put in our waiting area – ‘Are You Emotionally Stable Enough for Bangs?’ It was a quiz for our guest to read. It asked really silly questions like ‘were you just in a break-up?’, ‘did you just lose your job?’, or ‘are you hiding a pimple?’ Just silly questions. If you say yes to any of them, it says you should not get bangs, but you probably will anyways, good luck.
MC: Do you have any funny or nightmarish stories from the salon that comes to mind?
VV: Yeah, I have funny and nightmarish stories. This first one is a Halloween story. A client was dressing her daughter up for Halloween and bought glitter spray. Sprays the kid, whatever, has a great time. A couple weeks pass, and my client had to go to the gynecologist, She’s on a lunch break to get to the gynecologist. she dashes home, cleans up a little bit, and then sprays women freshener under her skirt. She gets to the gynecologist, and is in the stirrups. The doctor says ‘I’ve seen a lot of things, but nothing like this.’ She gazes down and says she was glittered up like a disco ball. She had to sit there for the entire examination with spray glitter all over her. That story made me so happy.
I think hair is really emotional. And I think, to sit in front of a mirror for an hour, even if you feel beautiful is not fun after like 20 minutes because we start to scrutinize ourselves. My nightmare really comes from just wanting everyone to feel good. I know the position I put them in isn’t easy, even though I’m doing something really special for them. It’s challenging, but not a nightmare.
Oh, I have a great nightmarish one. So, I was joking around with one of my clients. His name is Mike Smith. He’s the coach at NAU for track and field. I was joking around with him and said, ‘Mike, I’ll give you $100 right now, if you shave your head.’ And he said ‘right now?’ I said, ‘you betcha,’ and showed him a $100 bill.
MC: I was here for this Oh My God, this is a good story.
VV: Yeah! So we tell him we’re going to give him a hundred bucks. He jokingly took the clippers off of his stylist’s station and wedged a giant chunk out of his head. Do you remember that?! And then we watched the chunk of hair fall off his head and he still thought he was joking until we all reacted and he saw the reaction on your face.
MC: It was hilarious, but also scary because we were like he did not mean to just do that.
MC: How do you define your style?
VV: I just look this way and everything around me looks this way. I just woke up and liked three things and then I ran with it. I like plants and I let my hair dry naturally and this building is really old, so my style is… Let’s try it.
MC: The best moment of your career so far.
VV: It’s a lot of small victories all day long. Hugging my clients when they leave, and everyone being so excited to see me. That happening day in and day out and the amount of love and support I get and the amount of purpose I have from that is one big victory.
Fast Five with Vanessa
MC: What advice would you give your 20-year-old self?
VV: I would say: stop smoking cigarettes, lay off the eyeliner, sleep more, drink less alcohol.
MC: What are the names of your two cats?
VV: Esther and Baby. Baby is a girl and Esther is a boy.
MC: What musicians are you currently listening to?
VV: I was listening to Abra when you guys got here. Haley Heynderickx I’ve been listening to a lot. I’ve been listening to one song by Prayers called ‘Dog to God.’
MC: What is something that reminds you of your childhood?
VV: Honestly, I’m so nostalgic that everything reminds me of childhood. Flagstaff reminds me of childhood. This is where my grandparents lived on both sides of my family. Everything, I’m freakishly nostalgic.
MC: What would you blow your entire paycheck on right now?
VV: The Prada banana skirt. I really like that skirt.
Vanessa has worked tirelessly to repair the historic structure that houses both her Flagstaff salon and home, making it a comfortable place for business and living.
After running the business from her upstairs apartment for a brief time, her vision quickly began to outgrow the home studio. Vanessa realized it was the right time to find a separate space that could serve her growing clientele.
With the potential for a bright, open layout, it’s no surprise that the studio Vanessa found in Flagstaff was the one directly below her apartment. Once the lease was signed, she put together a stunning space. Creating a warm and welcoming environment as her main concern, and she succeeded beautifully.
Upstairs continues the theme of comfort through the use of natural woods, soothing color palettes, and lots of cozy pillows and soft surfaces.