Photo credit: Jen Painter Vaughn Accord, owner of Salon Mizu, tells his story to the attendees of August Edition of LadyDrinks
“I’m going to start ManDrinks.”
It’s the common refrain I hear from my male counterparts in the two years I’ve been running LadyDrinks women’s networking in New York City. I glibly respond, “Men have been doing that since time immemoriam. It’s called Friday night.” The statement usually garners a chuckle or headnod, in acknowledgement of its truth.
Once a year, however, we at LadyDrinks do invite our male counterparts to join us in our networking revelry. After all, men are an important part of the women’s advancement conversation. And so, the August Edition of LadyDrinks was called BYOG (Bring Your Own Gentleman).
Salon Mizu on Park Avenue in New York City was host to the event. Owner Vaughn Accord spoke to the crowd candidly about starting his own salon at the height of the recession and the strides it took to ride out the dips. In his storied career, Vaughn has tended to the tresses of luminaries such as Bill Clinton, Bob Dylan, and Richard Gere.
Photo credit: Jen Painter Vaughn’s salon at 505 Park Avenue, NYC
Since 2002, he has been cutting my hair for TV since I was a cub reporter at CNN. I would exchange stories about the politics of the day as he would cut my hair, and he would share his desire to start his own salon someday. In those hours seated in his chair, I’ve seen him through Estee Lauder’s buyout of Bumble and bumble franchise, Vaughn starting Mizu with his partner Damien, overcoming personal hurdles such as his wife surviving breast cancer, and launching his own men’s care line called V76. Today, his sleek salon at 505 Park Avenue. And from time to time, he’s still called away to style an Al Pacino or Paul McCartney.
Along that journey, I too branched off and became an entrepreneur. Always the journalist at my core, I interviewed Vaughn at the August Edition of LadyDrinks and asked him about his journey. And he shares these tips from starting his small business.
Photo credit: Jen Painter With Mizu hair colorist Nico Scibelli and LadyDrinks attendee Cassandra Droogan
1. Know That You’re Building a Culture, as well as a Business
When Vaughn and his partner Damien opened Mizu, many of the former employees from Bumble and Bumble came with them. Of course, they faced accusations that they were ‘stealing’ workers. However, Vaughn expresses that he was very clear in his message, even as he was building a salon—and he was also building a Mizu culture. With every hire, the crew became a ‘bouillabaise’ of egos, talents, and personalities. “It was important to me that everyone I hired had their head on straight. “ He turned to me and asked, “Why did you stay with me all these years?” I responded that the culture was very apparent from the moment I walk in the door. Everyone knows my name and addresses me by it. But I also know as Vaughn has gotten busier, I can go to another stylist and get the very same haircut, as she has trained under his watchful eye.
2. Not just a hair salon, a hair school
In Vaughn’s vision, Mizu would not just be a hair salon, catering to customers. The salon was also committing to catering to the the stylists. And so, on Mondays, Mizu is Mizu School, training aspiring haircutters such as Judy who sliced and diced my hair last Saturday. When asked what is the biggest accomplishment Vaughn is proud of, he says, “It’s seeing a stylist go from assistant to hitting the floor, and soon getting busy enough that they have their own client base.”
Photo credit: Jen Painter Amish Doshi at August Edition of LadyDrinks
4. Be Ready
Despite tough timing, Vaughn and his partner had ensured they had their investment dollars lined up before the recession hit. They were able to ride out the dips. One other dream Vaughn had shared with me over the years as I sat in his chair was his desire to start a men’s grooming line. And in the last year, he has launched V76 by Vaughn. He’s currently in the throes of distribution to major departement stores and e tailers such as Birchbox. I asked him what was the tipping point. He just said. “I was ready.”
Next LadyDrinks Sept 4th is called “Get Styled to Lead.” We are joining forces with women’s networking initiative “Running with Heels” to co-host this boutique. We know getting that next leadership position is as much about talent as it is about your outward appearance. Five specialists will expertly style attendees of this event. Buy tickets here: http://bit.ly/V9NPlU
A big thank you to Marisa Strafaci for helping to set up August Edition of LadyDrinks, Dj Shilpa for the amazing music. Akin Akinsanya of Panla for the amazing food. Petra Lewis for making the connection. Saurabh Abrol for the delicious prosecco from Wine Chateau Online, LD intern Vashti Barran for your help. And Shannon Donofrio and Harry Rittner, Laxman Narasimhan, Vidhya Narasimhan, and Deepak Awasthi for your generous event sponsorship.