Tianna Valentine was just 18 years old and fresh out of high school when she decided to open her own hair salon.
Her mother, Tamika Valentine-Pierce, was nervous for her young daughter, but didn’t want to stand in the way of her aspirations. “It was her dream to own a business,” she recalled.
Today, Valentine, 21, is the proud owner-operator of the Style and Grace Salon at 6336 Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood.
And although the business has had its ups and downs, it is now doing so well that Valentine has been able to give up her second job as a waitress, devote full time to her salon and hire three additional employees.
“I’ve always had a love for hair,” said Valentine, who began cutting hair at age 12. “I wasn’t afraid to start the salon.”
A devout Christian, Valentine’s entrepreneurial spirit is matched by her religious faith, which has played an important role in her success.
But so has hard work, determination and the support of her family members who stepped up when she hit a few bumps in the road. “I had to stick it out,” she commented.
Valentine’s salon is one of about 17 salons or barbershops in a 20-block stretch of Germantown Avenue. Typically, they are small, family-owned businesses that function as the town square in the predominantly black community, serving as places for conversation and candor.
An “open therapist” for women
Salons play a special role in the lives of women, Valentine said. “A salon is an open therapist to women as a whole to unify,” she commented. They help women “learn and grow from each other.”
A native of Germantown, Valentine graduated from Northeast High School and the private Universal Beauty School on Rising Sun Avenue in May 2014. Soon, she opened Style and Grace, a name she found on Instagram.
“It’s the woman I want to become – graceful and smooth, beautiful inside and out,” she explained.
As traffic rumbles up and down Germantown Avenue, Valentine’s shop offers an island of serenity amidst the clamor of the street.
Going for gospel music
Valentine eschews rap music because she thinks it’s degrading – the opposite of “style and grace,” she said. Instead, she plays soft sounds and gospel music in her shop, which help to set a relaxing mood.
Older women, she said, appreciate the calm. But when younger women come into the shop, Valentine puts on Beyoncé.
Life hasn’t always been easy for Valentine.
When she was young, her father was killed in a robbery gone bad. In 2015, when her grandmother died, Valentine was devastated.
“I shut down. I shut down my business and sold everything in here,” Valentine recalled. After some time off, she realized how proud her grandmother was of her and her business, so she reopened the shop.
Having “a great mom”
Through it all, her mother has always been there for her. “I had a great mom — my best firend,” she said. “Her contact name in my phone is ‘the love of my life.’ I don’t think there’s one thing she can’t do.”
Today, Valentine, the middle of five siblings, tries to give to others the same kind of support that she has received from her own family. “I try to use what God gave me to help others,” she said. “I like to give back.”
Her main focus is children. Once an education major at Community College of Philadelphia, Valentine holds back-to-school events for children. Last year, she said, she helped about 80 students.
Free facials and brunch
This year, in honor of Mother’s day, Valentine will offer free facials and brunch to her customers between May 11 and May 13.
With stacks of advertisements across her desk, Valentine also likes to help other businesses as well. “I like to encourage people to do what they want to do,” she commented.
Next month, Valentine also plans to renovate her salon. With most of the personal loan for her buisness now paid off, she hopes this will be the last year of leasing. She would like a bigger place, with a second room where women could learn more about health.
Helping women care for themselves
She is concerned that women don’t pay enough attention to themselves. “Women wear so many different hats, and the smallest is the one for themselves,” she said.
Despite her plans to expand, Valentine doesn’t intend to leave Germantown. “I love the scenery,” she said. “It’s the only place I see myself living. Compared to other parts of Philly, this is the safest place.”