When Donna Harris-Earl, a 50-year-old aesthetician, opened her 7,000-square-foot grand salon and day spa in Beaverton, Ore., in 2007, she was living her entrepreneurial dream — though it wasn’t long before that dream started to unravel.
Her vision had included a salon/spa with stylists and aestheticians, nail technicians, massage therapists, a naturopath and a beauty school. But state regulations made it more expensive than expected to run the beauty school; it was surprisingly hard to find reliable employees; and when the economy tanked a year later, customers were nowhere to be found.
Like so many of her peers, Harris-Earl had faced adversity before. After getting divorced, she put herself through beauty school and then supported her four young sons by working in someone else’s salon. So she wasn’t about to give up on her dream now.
Launching and maintaining her own salon cost her a half-million dollars, which she drew from savings and investments. For two years, she struggled and poured more money into the business in a desperate effort to keep it afloat. She even defaulted on her home loan, gave up her house and declared personal bankruptcy. But it took a personal tragedy — the suicide of her adult son — for her to decide that the salon was no longer worth fighting for.
“His death put everything else in perspective,” says Harris-Earl. “Having a big ‘go-to’ salon wasn’t that important anymore. The passing of my son helped me to let go of that business.”
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