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Cynthia Pantaleon/Contributed photo
Kristi Bennett cuts the hair of a client who has attended her salon since its inception in 2001.

Student’s mother overcomes financial hardships to follow her dreams

Small-business owner Kristi Bennett overcame many obstacles and saw her dreams come true 12 years ago at age 26, when she opened up her own salon, HeadRush.

Bennett, the mother of senior Mikaela Whitley, was slated to work at a salon in Dallas, but after Sept. 11, 2001, she chose to stay closer to home.

“I had an apprenticeship setup to work at Jean Philippe Salon in Dallas, but I decided to work closer to home in Denton,” Bennett said. “It was just a precautionary move at the time, but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Though Bennett finally figured out her dreams, she knew opening up a salon wouldn’t be a piece of cake. Bennett and her daughter battled financial hardships and lack of quality time with each other.

“Mikaela sacrificed a lot of her own time so I could build my dreams,” Bennett said. “There were days when I could only take off enough time to bathe, feed and put her to bed. We saw better days.”

Whitley can recollect on the tougher times but recognizes the product of those events and is proud of all of what her mother accomplished by following her dreams.

“It wasn’t always easy for us,” Whitley said. “While she was in school, we didn’t have a lot of money, but we made it through. I’m proud of all she’s done.”

Despite their struggles, Bennett persevered and opened HeadRush for business in 2001.

“My passion was always in hairdressing,” Bennett said. “I didn’t ever want to do anything else.”

Bennett can even remember wanting to be a hairdresser as far back as her childhood.

“I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser early on while I was in middle school,” Bennett said. “I used to tie-dye my Barbie dolls hair with Kool-Aid, so that probably played a part in my future career.”

Since then, Bennett has strived to give her customers the best service possible.

“It’s not about the money, it’s about seeing the clients happy and seeing our staff grow and excel,” Bennett said. “If our clients aren’t happy, we haven’t done our job.”

Bennett has made it a point to thank her customers by conducting an annual customer appreciation event. The event is complete with free chair massages, a dessert bar and door prizes for everyone.

“Instead of sending out discount cards to our clients, we thought it’d be a better idea to hold a client appreciation party,” Bennett said. “It’s our way of saying thank you to the amazing customers we have.”

Bennett also gives back to the community through charity events held at HeadRush such as the annual “Hair in the Arts” show.

“We host over 200 people, hold silent auctions, sell tickets and present a runway show,” Bennett said. “Each year we have a different theme for our show and pick a different charity to sponsor. This year we chose to benefit the Denton Animal Shelter.”

In its first year, Hair in the Arts raised $3,000 to benefit breast cancer research. This year Bennett is aiming to raise $10,000. Clients, staff and some DHS students volunteered all for the cause at this event last year.

“We helped set up the lights, the cotton candy machine and the popcorn machine,” junior Mary Tucker said. “It was an awesome experience and felt good to help out.”

Every year, HeadRush asks its customers to nominate someone who deserves a makeover, and a member of the staff will give them a haircut, color their hair and do their makeup free of charge.

“This lady came in and one of the staff members was doing her hair, and when he was done with her hair, she started crying and told us how she had saved up for four months just to get her hair done and said she felt like a whole new person,” Bennett said. “If we can make someone feel that good about themselves in two hours, we need to give that feeling to people who don’t think they can’t afford it.”

The way Bennett has given back hasn’t gone unnoticed by her customers. Junior Mango Qualls became captivated by the upscale, yet comfortable environment, HeadRush offered and enjoyed her experience even more when she met Bennett for the first time.

“I first met Kristi last year when I went to HeadRush the first time,” Qualls said. “She has a character that makes her salon homey. It’s just a really comfortable environment. She’s almost like a mother, but she’s also like a friend. All of the workers are really friendly to each other like a family, [and] I would definitely recommend the salon.”

The buzz about HeadRush has not only gotten around to students, but teachers as well. French instructor Shelli Webb also became a loyal patron of the salon after seeking out a change.

“I heard about HeadRush while looking for a new salon after my old hair stylist disappointed me,” Webb said. “Mikaela is the one that told me about HeadRush, and I fell in love.”

Webb also cites Bennett as one of the many reasons she continues to frequent the salon.

“Kristi’s so cool; I love everything about her,” Webb said. “I really love the way the staff members aren’t afraid to ask her questions and how they share a teacher-student relationship. It’s really awesome.”

HeadRush continues to grow, and though the future of the salon is uncertain, according to Bennett, one thing is promised: She will see her daughter go on to accomplish dreams of her own, even if they don’t involve operating HeadRush.

“I’d only want Mikaela to run HeadRush if it’s in her plans,” Bennett said. “I want her to find her happiness within her own dreams, not mine.”

And because of her mother, Whitley plans to open up her own small business one day.

“My mom inspired me to want to open my own motorcycle shop,” Whitley said. “She makes me want to be a better person in every sense and follow my dreams.”

TAYLOR BROWN is a senior at Denton High School and a participant in the Denton Record-Chronicle’s “Speak Out Loud” program for student journalists.

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