Natalie James is many things. A wife and a mother of three, you would think she has her hands full. But that didn’t stop her from following her dream of becoming an entrepreneur. Founder and CEO of Toronto’s most exclusive blow dry bar – Vent Blow Dry Bar, Natalie has completely revolutionized the beauty industry for women in Ontario. Inspired by female entrepreneurs and wanting to leave her own mark in the business industry, Natalie opened the first-ever Vent Blow Dry Bar in 2017.
We are beyond excited that she agreed to an interview with us about what inspired her and what she’s hoping to accomplish through her company.
BWR: What inspired you to launch Vent Blow Dry Bar?
Natalie: Growing up I was inspired by people who created their own business. My father was an entrepreneur who built a successful design and architecture firm. I always thought that I would eventually follow in his footsteps. However, when I was 13, my life changed drastically when he went missing in a boating accident. The years that followed were challenging for me and my family and shaped who I am today.
Inspired by my father and my personal connection with hair and makeup, I began to envision a business that would focus on serving the best interests of others. I wanted to create something that wasn’t just for my benefit, but for my clients and staff as well. The impact of beauty on a women’s confidence is amazing. Therefore, I set out to create an experience through hair that would leave women feeling beautiful and empowered.
Vent is more than just a name. It’s an experience that’s designed to build women up to look and feel their best – inside and out. There’s a strong connection between our inner and outer beauty. We shouldn’t be ashamed of wanting to look our best. Confidence and empowerment are the positive impacts of a great hair day. Over the past years, I have had numerous discussions with our clients who shared personal stories of anxiety or insecurities related to their appearance. It’s rewarding to enhance their natural beauty and build their confidence so that they look and feel like the best version of themselves.
BWR: Vent Blow Dry Bar has become Toronto’s most exclusive blow dry bar. What are some of the aspects and strategies that have contributed to its success?
Natalie: Our philosophy is to provide more than a service. It’s all about giving our clients an exceptional experience! Our customers don’t leave with just a great blowout and make-up. They leave feeling relaxed since they were able to unwind and get some time to themselves.
The design of the salon was carefully thought out to suit our client’s needs. A full-service bar, USB charging stations at each styling chair and floor to ceiling mirrors behind each styling station. Luxurious setting and 10 chair styling bar allow us to host events, such as bridal parties.
Our mission is to fill the gap in the hair industry by providing an alternative to the full-service salon. It’s a place where women can get a professional service in a unique atmosphere complete with high-quality beautiful finishes. A space designed to save women time, empower them and build their confidence through a self-care experience unlike any other.
BWR: What is the most challenging part of being an entrepreneur?
Natalie: The biggest challenge has been pivoting from an established career to becoming an entrepreneur. Learning every detail of the business’ operation, leadership and accounting was a tremendous learning curve. Everything stops and starts with me. How hard I work has a direct connection to our overall success. That being said, I’ve also developed a growth mindset that has me seeking out new opportunities to learn and grow every day.
BWR: Not only are you a successful entrepreneur, but you’re also a mom of three. How do you balance your work and personal life?
Natalie: Balance between my roles is tricky. To ensure that I’m there for the most important things, planning is crucial. My husband and I make a great team. We divide and conquer to ensure that between us, our kids are always supported.
I learned quickly into my entrepreneurship journey that I needed to make time for myself. So, I set my alarm for 5 AM to capture the uninterrupted hours to focus on me. I start with a morning meditation, a short workout and some sort of personal development, writing or reading. This allows me to set my intentions for the day. I believe that if you win your morning you will win your day.
BWR: Your leadership strategy is to treat your employers like family. Can you tell us your reason behind your leadership strategy?
Natalie: I decided early on that our business was designed not just for the benefit of the business owner, but also for our employees. I wanted to have a business that treated our number one asset as our top priority. By making my team, or as I often refer to them – my work family, my priority, Vent can position itself to provide outstanding customer service. This coupled with Vent’s leadership practices has helped us maintain that approach.
As I was in the midst of the planning phase, my husband was completing his graduate degree in organizational leadership. It was through his learning that we evaluated the potential benefits of different leadership methodologies. We believe that by making our team a priority, that culture will transition through to how our team goes about their work and how our customers are treated. When you are having your hair or make-up done, you want the person doing it to love what they do and love the business they work within – our leadership strategy helps us achieve that.
BWR: What’s been your biggest accomplishment in your professional life?
Natalie: Creating Vent from the ground up, building a strong team of amazing stylists and ultimately working with our clients makes me extremely proud.I’m grateful to every client who entrusts us to be a part of their special life moments. I always knew that I had a vision, but without my team and clients, I have nothing. For that, I’m beyond grateful and proud of what we have created together.
BWR: You’ve mentioned that female entrepreneurs have been your biggest inspiration. What is it about them that inspires you?
Natalie: Throughout my career, I had the privilege to meet amazing people. I was always inspired by the stories of female entrepreneurs. Their sense of adventure and willingness to take risks intrigued me. They were women who had a vision and were driven by it to achieve great things. It made me want to follow in their footsteps and achieve my own vision and goals.
On a final note, what are your future goals? What does the future of Vent Blow Dry Bar look like?
Natalie: My focus is to grow Vent Blow Dry Bar. Expand my team and pursue new business opportunities. Something that I realized is that when you start your first business and learn what’s required, you start to see opportunities that you wouldn’t have previously noticed.
- Jennifer A. Mancuso: The Model Turned Lawyer
- Massage Therapist business idea
- Santia Deck: First Woman to sign a Multimillion-Dollar football
- 5 Daily Challenges of Women Entrepreneurs