For Jenae Davis, her introduction into beauty started with styling doll hair as a child. This grew in high school as she experimented on her friend’s nails but even so she hadn’t yet realized that she could pursue a career as a beauty professional. Her senior year of high school she began researching cosmetology school. She worked to convince her parents to allow her to forgo a traditional college for beauty school, but that did not work.
Her junior year of college she enrolled in cosmetology school near her college. Jenae graduated from cosmetology school in May of that year and the following May she graduated from Illinois State University.
“The education I received laid a strong foundation for the type of stylist, educator, business owner, just the overall person that I am.”
“The education I received laid a strong foundation for the type of stylist, educator, business owner, just the overall person that I am,” she said. Despite having all white instructors, they were experienced in working with diverse textures of hair. They provided a broad amount of education outside of the normal curriculum and Jenae feels that it really influence her as a stylist.
Even with this amazing start Jenae still finds hurdles in her career today. Working in a predominately white town, Jenae has had people refuse her service because she is Black. This is one of the things, along with her education, which motivated Jenae to open a salon with the intent of it being diverse. “I wasn’t able to build a diverse clientele. When they would show up at the door and they were greeted by a Black person, they would not keep their appointment,” she reflects. She worked to build a diverse group of stylists and to let the work of her salon speak for itself. Although this has gotten better over the years, it is still something that Jenae deals with. “I had to get to the point where it is what it is. I’m going to do what I can do with what I have. It may not be a change in my lifetime but hopefully my children won’t have to go through that as they get older,” she said.
“I had to get to the point where it is what it is. I’m going to do what I can do with what I have. It may not be a change in my lifetime but hopefully my children won’t have to go through that as they get older.”
Another hurdle for Jenae was finding financing for her business. Her first salon was opened with a credit card. Although successful, her and her business partner wanted different paths in their careers. After opening her second salon, securing additional financing was more difficult than she anticipated. Despite having a business plan and proof of profit, Jenae was continually denied. Eventually, she learned that banks considered small businesses a great risk. Despite financial setbacks Jenae’s second salon has grown into a successful business that has reached it’s sixteenth year of operation.
Throughout these hurdles Jenae has built an amazing 20+ year career. Her husband is her biggest supporter. Jenae has always found ways to stay ahead of trend and travels to learn techniques to bring back to her salon.
Jenae also found supporters inside the industry such as Terry, her distributor. Terry encouraged Jenae to become a Paul Mitchell educator early in her career. Along with this, Jenae recognized Terry’s business knowledge. “It was almost like a little bird knocking on the door. I kept trying to get her attention as far as teaching and learning about business sense,” Jenae said. “I loved the way that she managed her business and the way she mentored her staff.” Jenae regularly drove 45 minutes to Terry’s location to talk about business.
Terry also helped Jenae see that she was a wonderful mentor to her stylists. Having employees leave can be hard and Jenae felt that they were leaving her. “My mentor said ‘They’re not leaving you. They’ve moved on to something greater because you told them that they could’,” she said. These words comforted Jenae see that training was something she excelled at. She has former stylists who work for celebrities and on the red-carpet events. “It makes me feel good that I gave back and built somebody else up,” she said.
“It makes me feel good that I gave back and built somebody else up.”
This passion for education grew into the need to advocate for people in the industry. “I want to keep us professional. I want people to realize that this is a career, not a side hobby job,” she said. Jenae has been member of the Advisory Council, actively working alongside Myra Reddy, PBA’s Government Affairs Director. She works to make sure that stylists have a voice alongside the large companies, especially since she knows what they are going through and she is able to see what is needed.
Jenae recently joined PBA’s Board of Directors and says it is an honor. In 2020, the Board’s goals changed rapidly with the onset of COVID-19. Her current focus is providing information and tools to stylist so they can work and provide for their families. “It’s the same thing, making sure that we provide, but it’s a different necessity,” she said.