It’s late afternoon and the sun beams in to the salon, brightening everything: the mirrors, the shiny nails in the latest purple, the curling irons, the eyes of women, smiling. The talk is of spring, of trips to Mexico, of moving, kids and work. There’s laughter. As Eileen Fox glances up from hand-painting her client’s nails, she sees it: the community and good vibes she has built.
Fox was 23 when she opened Cheek to Chic Salon and Spa in the mall in 2008. She’d recently finished training as an esthetician school in Kelowna when she saw an opportunity to open a salon in Vernon.
“I wanted to create an all-inclusive salon where you could get everything done and offer the kind of premium makeup found at boutiques in bigger cities,” says Fox, whose parents both owned businesses growing up. As she began to make plans to open Cheek to Chic, Fox opted to create her own line of makeup and skincare, and she also launched mobile hair and makeup service for weddings and graduations.
That first summer, things were good: The salon’s offerings quickly caught on and she had so much enthusiasm and energy for this business that seemed to have so much possibility. A few months later, the financial crash of 2008 happened. Eventually, things picked back up but over the next few years, Fox carried on, despite the strain of mall hours and rent, and a growing team. The business shifted from a 530 square foot space into one more than twice the size a few doors down.
“I was getting to a point where it felt like I was so burnt out, I didn’t know if I could do it anymore.”
By the spring of 2020, just ahead of months of pandemic closures, that ‘burnt out’ feeling had gone from hard to almost impossible. Then, a client mentioned Momentum, a Community Futures North Okanagan program for women entrepreneurs. The client, also a Momentum participant, told Fox about the learning and mentorship, the funding for business development and the forum for sharing struggles.
“Why don’t you look into it?” the client had said.
Fox, who had long recognized a need to gain more business management skills, was soon in the next intake, and the timing couldn’t have been better. That summer, with all the challenges of COVID, Fox would have to find a way to renew her joy for the business, and make it sustainable.
“For a long time I’d felt like I needed to be a part of some camaraderie with other business women, to have a safe space to bounce off ideas and share your wins and your struggles.”
Fox appreciated the program’s first steps, which include uncovering your values and gaps in processes, policies and operations.
“Working out the values was super important because that can get a bit lost and it grounds you. It reminds you of why you’re doing this,” says Fox. “With Momentum, I finally felt like I’d caught a break and could move forward.”
In addition to using some of the business development funding for employee contracts and developing an online store to sell her makeup and skincare, Fox set her sights on a location that would better serve her and her team. In January 2022, Cheek to Chic moved into a new 1,300 square foot space on Anderson Way—a game-changing step that’s given her and her team much more work-life balance and calm.
“Momentum helped me fight one more fight,” she says. “It’s so important to have the chance to be open and honest with other business owners who are going through the same things.”
Cheek to Chic is now hoping to reach markets beyond Vernon with its skincare and makeup, and Fox hopes to mentor other young women breaking into the salon industry.
Are you interested in Momentum, the business accelerator for women entrepreneurs? Visit CF North Okanagan at futuresbc.com.