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Making it in Big Sky: Monica’s Salon

Tyler Allen

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By Bay Stephens EBS Staff Writer

Monica Kulesza heard the mountains calling and moved to Big Sky in 2006 to see what all the fuss was about. Here, she fell in love with skiing, her husband Ryan and their little boy, Emmet. But she found more to love in the outdoors including cross-country skiing, hiking, hunting, fishing, riding horses, pack trips and floating rivers.

Monica’s Salon opened its doors in May 2010 on the heels of the downturned economy, but says her perseverance paid off.

“I wanted to grow and have always had entrepreneur blood in me,” Monica says. “I saw a lack of salons, especially in Town Center.”

Today, Monica and her year-round team of stylists cut and style hair for all genders and ages, including coloring, as well as nails and facial waxing. The work, along with the lifestyle the Big Sky area affords, keeps her here, happy and making it in Big Sky.

“Just give me all the adventures!” she says.

As part of this ongoing series, Monica Kulesza shared her thoughts about what it takes to make it as a small business owner in Big Sky.

Explore Big Sky: What has been the key to your success?

Monica Kulesza: One thing I can count is that hair never stops growing and styles always change. That, folks, is a recipe for success … Oh, and be really good and passionate at what you do.

EBS:  Do you remember your first customer or first sale?

M.K.: Yes! Bethany. I still had drywall that needed wallpaper and air hoses on the floor. The space was still unfinished. I decided to not wait until the space was perfect to get started.

EBS: What are the biggest obstacles to operating a small business in Big Sky and what compels you to stick it out through the hard times?

M.K.: [The biggest obstacle is] a lack of qualified employees that are licensed in this profession and who live here. The recreational opportunities, the friendships and the community [allow me to stick it out].

EBS: What are some challenges of running a hair salon that most people wouldn’t be aware of?

M.K.: The emotional aspect. Really we do hair and we are therapists for life. Is there a dual license for that?

EBS: What’s one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a resident/business owner in Big Sky?

M.K.: I seriously have too many to list. I feel very blessed. Seeing the same clients come back year after year. It’s fun to hear their stories and how their kids are doing that are gone off to college and living adult lives.

EBS: Would you explain a bit of your approach to hairstyling?

M.K.: Consult, consult, consult! We live in a very active community so giving them something that is easy to style and low maintenance makes up most of my clientele. Consulting with the client is my way to find out what best suits their life and what they desire. Sometimes it’s a more high-maintenance color or style. We can do that, too! Knowing the processes of giving them what they want and above all maintaining healthy hair and nails.

EBS: What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve received and what advice would you give to small business owners just starting out in Big Sky?

M.K.: Never be afraid to fail; with failure comes knowledge. Just make sure your failures are on mannequins. Practice makes perfect. Start out with low overhead and just open your doors, stay open, work hard.

EBS: Where do you see your business in 10 years?

M.K.: Maintaining and growing our client base with the highest end services available. I have always dreamed of designing a salon from the ground up.

EBS: Where do you see Big Sky in 20 years?

M.K.: Probably unrecognizable from when I first moved here. Loads and loads of growth, hopefully all for the positive.

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