I’m always on the lookout for Christian women whose careers and faith seem to meld together in interesting and inspiring ways.
I recently sat down with Robyn Radeker, of Robyn’s Nest Hair Salon, in Middlebury, Indiana to talk about what it’s like being a hairstylist, business owner, wife, mother, and Christ-follower.
Hairstylist, Therapist, or Magician?
I’ve gotten to know Robyn over the past two years. She has been my saving grace in getting my tween daughter, Audrey, to submit to the occasional hair trimming.
On our first visit to her (gorgeous!) salon, I was prepared to play referee, when to my surprise, Robyn sat Audrey in her chair, caught her eye in the mirror, and asked, “OK Miss Audrey, what do you love about your hair?” She proceeded to give Audrey her complete focus and attention. She thoroughly questioned her about what she wanted her hair to look like (Rapunzel) and the challenges it gave her (so chlorine-damaged she couldn’t put a comb through it).
While I was initially a bit confused not to be included in this conversation, I realized pretty quickly that my involvement would be counterproductive…I was clearly in the presence of greatness. Audrey entered the salon mulishly refusing anything more than a tiny trim off the ends of her greenish-tinged rat’s nest and left a happy kid swinging her shiny, brushable, freshly-chopped do– leaving behind 4-5 inches of dull-yet-slimy strands on the floor. The braid and the “fairy dust” were the icing on top.
While I’ve certainly appreciated Robyn-the-Hairstylist’s skill with the scissors (and whatever spell she has cast over my daughter), getting to know Robyn-the-Person has been awesome, too. She is a fun, smart businesswoman with an amazing story and a heart to share her faith with others. (She’s also a really good writer with her own blog which you need to follow!)
Our conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
How did you start doing hair?
I’ve been doing hair since I was a kid. My Barbies didn’t stand a chance! Ha! They all ended up with short haircuts. In high school, I was late to every prom because I was doing everyone else’s hair. I cut my boyfriend’s hair and used his fellow basketball players as guinea pigs to learn how to use clippers! My best friend let me cut her hair, and I did her hair for every major event in her life! It was always something I loved but was never encouraged to do as a career.
We lived in a really small town and my mom did our hair growing up. I never saw hair done professionally until I was a junior in high school and I started spending time at the salon where my dad’s girlfriend was a manager. Once I was a model for a new technique and it went terribly wrong. My hair looked like a box of crayons! I then knew I needed to learn to do hair professionally myself- to keep others from feeling this way!
Why weren’t you encouraged to be a hairstylist?
My dad wanted me to go to college. He was an academic and it was important to him that I get a college degree, so I went to Ball State and studied journalism and public relations. But I kept cutting hair even while I was living in the dorm! My “salon” was a utility closet at the end of my hallway and there was a dry erase board on my dorm room door where people would schedule themselves in for a haircut. A college education just wasn’t where my heart was.
So what changed?
My grandma passed away while I was in high school. She was such an impactful part of my life and instilled the importance of striving for my dreams. Doing hair fulfilled me- it allowed me to connect with people in a close, personal way and enhanced my creativity. It became obvious what I should be doing!
After much encouragement from my boyfriend at the time, I took the leap! I walked off of Ball State’s campus, walked into a beauty school in Muncie, and signed up. They offered to set me up with a payment plan, but I wanted to pay in full so there wouldn’t be an out. My grandma left me some money when she passed, and I knew exactly where to invest it!
That took a lot of courage! How did your family react?
I was really fearful of telling them, but most handled it better than I thought. My dad, however, did not think this was a worthwhile career path. It took time (5 years) but he came around. He saw that I stuck with it and, later on, how I was able to do this and care for my family.
That must have been very affirming.
Several years into my first job, he came in for a haircut and actually left emotional at how good his haircut was. It was like, “Oh shoot! Maybe you know what you’re doing!” His approval was so important to me. That day affirmed that my leap was worth it!
When and why did you decide to open Robyn’s Nest?
I always wanted to be a stylist, but I also always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom that did “all the things.” I was working at a salon when I got pregnant sooner than my husband and I planned. Once I had my daughter, Kendra, I went part-time, but my boss at the time was challenging to work for. She didn’t seem to understand my guilt at feeling pulled in different directions or the challenges of working moms.
It was definitely a crossroads. My husband was a teacher and a coach which were not big money-makers so income was definitely a factor for us. I have never pursued this career for the money, but have always been so grateful for how it has provided.
Plus, at that time my faith grew by leaps and bounds! I got involved with MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers), which was pivotal. I met lots of amazing women on a great path for their family. I wanted to be able to do what I loved, which was doing hair and being a mom. After my second baby, Kam, came along, six weeks of maternity leave turned into six months (I had a very hard time leaving my kids to go to work!) which turned into lots of phone calls of, “Can you just do my hair at home?” So, in 2006, my stepdad converted my laundry room into the first “Robyn’s Nest.”
As a solopreneur, what advice would you give to others who are considering going into business for themselves?
Be willing to ask and pay for the help you need! For me to be successful in all my roles without guilt, I knew I was going to need to hire someone. Professionally, I couldn’t be Robyn-the-Mom and Robyn-the-Stylist at the same time.
I hired an assistant who was essentially a “mom’s helper.” I needed the assistant to make snacks, help prepare dinner, play with the kids, do laundry, pick up the house, and basically read my mind! For this to work, I had to be direct and clear with what I expected. It required that I develop managerial skills.
This assistant position evolved over the years. I loved mentoring these young ladies! I’m still in touch with many of the sweet girls that quickly became a part of our forever family.
Any other advice?
I learned that if you can involve all your passions in one, it decreases your stress level. Create structure and develop a schedule you stick with.
What are some of the joys and challenges of doing hair professionally?
The joys are the incredible people you get to meet and the lives you get to change, even if it’s just on a small scale. Designing the hair doesn’t compare to the honor I receive in being able to listen to my client’s hearts. I love the flexibility in my schedule and the opportunity to be creative. Plus, it’s fast-paced – which is good for me.
The challenges are when you don’t make people happy. It happens on occasion and I worry myself sick about it. Handling people’s expectations can be a challenge and so can setting prices that reflect my education and experience.
How has Robyn’s Nest and you, as a businesswoman, evolved through the years?
Because of the nature of my husband’s job, Robyn’s Nest has moved several times. The first two locations were close enough to each other that I didn’t lose many of my clients when we moved. Now I’m starting from scratch, which is a little bit humbling.
I discovered how much of my identity was wrapped up in my career. I was extremely busy before without openings in my schedule for months. Moving here left me with a whole heck of a lot of time to reflect! It felt like I had to rediscover who Robyn-the-Person was. It’s a new chapter! My kids are teens and don’t need me as much. I don’t yet need an assistant, and I miss that relationship.
Someday I hope to fulfill my big dream of having a ‘Steel Magnolia’s’ type of salon – I would love the opportunity to walk alongside young passionate stylists who also want to be more than just a hairdresser!
How have you evolved through the years?
In this season of rebuilding, I have been forced to deal with myself and sometimes it’s tough. Doing hair has always been my comfort zone. I’ve come to realize that Robyn’s Nest is a sanctuary for me. When I’m doing hair, I’m not a coach’s wife, I’m not a mom- I’m just me. I get to devote myself to the person in my chair! I get to share my education and help them feel better than they did when they walked in. With the stress of moving and settling into our new normal, I realized how much I need this.
I love that the word “sanctuary” has come up a lot because it’s something that I can feel when I come with Audrey. I love the feeling I get when I step into your salon. How would you describe the vibe you’ve created?
It’s more than just a haircut. It’s more than just a salon. It’s an experience that is about quality and comfort and connection. It’s about community. It’s my honor and privilege to help you feel your best, and it’s my goal to be relational enough that you feel you can be honest and open with me.
I want to do your first haircut as a child and later do your hair for your wedding. I want clients to feel like family. I want you to feel that your time here and investment spent was worth it!
My goal was to create a space that is fun and unique. The vibe happened organically but I think one reason I’m still in this business is that people feel safe, affirmed, and valued when they sit in my chair. I want clients to feel that they are worth it.
How do you think your faith impacts your work?
As a Christian, I am called to be honest and ethical in my workplace. That’s always been me as a businesswoman. I also have a legitimate love for people. Because I love Christ, I am empowered through the Holy Spirit to love others well. There have been times I have prayed with clients and I often share my faith. I try to remain transparent. I do not take those moments lightly.
This sounds like ministry!
Absolutely! I once had another coach’s wife as a client. She knew I understood the loneliness and isolation that comes with the territory. We also shared a similar childhood story. One day, I felt lead to ask if I could pray with her. I just knelt on the piles of hair on the floor, held her hand, and ended up leading her to Christ.
That gives me goose bumps! Is there a verse that is meaningful to you in your business?
Yes! In my business and my life! I love Phillipians 3:13-14, especially the part about not looking back but moving towards Christ.
I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.Phillpians 3:13-14 (MSG)
I have lived with the fear of not making my dad proud. He was also an alcoholic and that brought me much heartache. I struggled with wanting to be a stay-at-home-mom but also wanting to work as a stylist. I’ve dealt spiritually with how being a Christian can risk offending others.
It has not always been sunshine and roses in my role as a wife and mom. If I’m honest, my personal story is full of trauma and difficulty. I have made mistakes in all areas of my life! The list goes on. But my blessings are many. This verse speaks to me because when you constantly marinate in your past it limits who you can be in your future.
I know you are incredibly skilled and do amazing hair, but one of the things I appreciate about you is your ability to focus on the person in front of you. We all want to feel seen and heard and understood, and you have a natural way of meeting that need for people. I think that’s why Audrey responded to you so positively. She was only 8 and it hadn’t occurred to me kids need that, too.
Thank you for saying that! Early on in my career, I cut the hair of a little boy whose mom called me later to say he told her after they left, “Robyn will always be my haircutter because she’s the only one who talks to me.”
Oh my goodness, that’s adorable. And really profound!
That was a changing day in my life! I love kids and it’s important for them to love their hair too! Moreover, it resonated with me personally. It’s the Golden Rule, right!? Treat others as you want to be treated.
I can’t let you go without talking hair. What are some of your favorite hair products or tips and tricks?
I’m a Redken specialist, and I think they have a great product choice for all hair types. I love using an oil; it’s imperative for everyone. Products that can do multiple things are great- I really like Amika- the Wizard- it primes, detangles, protects from heat, creates shine, and prevents tangles.
Bottom line- PRODUCT IS IMPERATIVE! Also, people don’t give enough credit to blow-drying. You need a quality hairdryer and time enough to style while you dry. I’m also a big believer in shampooing twice!
What services do you offer? How can people make an appointment with you?
I am a family hairdresser, so I see everybody. I specialize in design cuts and color techniques. Facial waxing is also available. I enjoy doing special occasion hair and upstyles. Robyn’s Nest carries full product lines for sale, and I have a 100% guarantee on everything I offer.
If you don’t like your hair I will do all that I can to get it to where you want it to be. If I cut it too short, I’ll stand beside you while it grows out! HAHA!
You can find Robyn’s Nest Hair Salon on Google and Facebook, and I generally build my business with referrals. I have a referral program where you can shop for FREE products. I’m available by appointment only, but my hours are flexible. I can be reached at (765) 404-9383 or leave me a message on my Facebook page.
Anything else you want people to know?
A great haircut, color and salon experience is imperative! It’s not vanity. It’s self-care. YOU MATTER! And you deserve it. We all do something with our hair every day. A professional can help you get the best look or design for you and your lifestyle, to help you feel beautiful inside and out. I’m excited for the opportunity to do that for anyone who sits in my chair!
Hey friend! If you want to explore your Career + Calling visit my coaching page for more! I have a variety of coaching packages or I can tailor my services to your specific situation. I do one-on-one coaching with anyone who is looking to align their values, personality, and goals with their career choices.