Meet: Chanel Cezair
CONTINUED CONVERSATIONS ON SELF-CARE
Chanel Cezair is a fierce woman with a passion for business, people, and truly knowing yourself. Business owner, community mobilizer, artist, mother — Chanel wears many hats and still values self-care through it all. In 2010, Chanel made the bold decision to move to the city (Toronto) and open Studio67 — a space that would be both a hair salon and community hub. Since opening its doors in 2015 her business is thriving and has hosted many community events including Syzygy's Self-care Supper.
Tip from Chanel: kindness counts more than you think and acts of self-care should be for you not for what anyone else thinks (hint: bubble baths are not her thing). Take some time today to learn from this badass boss and her take on self-care.
How do you take care of yourself in the pursuit of your dreams? You're a founder and CEO of a burgeoning hair studio and art gallery in Queen West (congrats!). You are also a new mother. How do these identities influence your approach to self-care?
Practicing self-care in your career is really, really hard. For me, de-compartmentalizing things are important for self-care. We usually hear this term in a negative sense, but keeping work at work and your personal time to your personal time allows you the ability to focus on what you are doing, and not think about all the things you need to do in the other areas of your life. That is the only way to find enough time to do anything for myself and fulfill the things I am doing for others.
I think it is important to ask for help. I think women in careers think we can and have to do it all. That is the big thing I was told when I was growing up. That attempt at life is unforgiving and punishing. Being able to ask for help and receive it is so important versus the concept that it has to all come from me.
Self-care is taking the time to check-in with yourself and being aware of your limits: the things we “do” and the things we don’t “do.” What are your self-care boundaries and how do you protect them?
I make sure I take the time to do the things I need to whether or not they fit the mold of what society has said self-care looks like. For instance, having a bubble bath would be exhausting for me. I would be thinking about everything I could accomplish in that amount of time. Instead, having a quick, delicious lunch alone in a busy restaurant re-charges me so I can be on my game again.
I protect those self-care acts by being true to them and true to what I need. I sit down and think about what makes me who I am, what makes me be the best person I can be, and I actually do those things for myself. You've got to know yourself to take care of yourself.
As the CEO and founder of Studio67 – the leader of 8 employees - how do you create a business environment that allows for self-care to be practiced by yourself and for your employees?
For myself, I have compartmentalized even my approach to business. When I work behind that chair I am working behind the chair, when I am doing the business end of stuff, I am doing the business end of stuff. The small amount of time I am not at work, I am not at work. I don’t answer the phone, or email as everything really can wait.
For my employees, it is very different. I want them to at least have the basic level of things you need to live beyond a state of survival. Firstly, everyone deserves that. Second, people have a drive and people will work as hard for you as you will for them. Period. I am very big on providing benefits. It doesn’t have to be a big corporate thing. Small businesses can all have benefits. I am also big on vacation – everyone gets 3-weeks vacation minimum, always. You can take more, but you have to take three. Why are you working, if you are not living?
I try to keep every conversation and request as open-ended as possible so that people understand that they are making their own professional decisions. They can come to me for guidance, but it is ultimately their decision. I think that is the only way I know how to assist in self-care as a boss. The worst in a workplace is when you don’t feel like you have that option to take care of yourself...that creates resentment towards yourself and your workplace.
Finally, I won't allow clientele to disrespect my employees' time. And, my employees know that. If their client is talking on their phone and is late for their appointment, I will step in. Whereas in a lot of salons, you are trying so hard to accommodate guests that your employees get run over. I can't watch it. That is exactly why you have a boss - to take care of you.
You are 2+ years into growing your business. Looking back to the first year of launching the studio, what would you tell yourself or a young woman entrepreneur about self-care?
It is okay to take the time to grow. The impact of what you are going to make during the time it takes to grow a business will be so much bigger if you take the time for self-care.
When I first opened, I was working full time, and by that I mean all the time. It feels counter-intuitive as a small business owner to do otherwise. It is backward from what we have been taught. You will be so much better if you are fulfilled – any way that your business goes. Plus failure is not terrible. It’s really not. When people open a business it is all-engulfing so you really don't see a world outside of that. So the idea of your business being gone is devastating. It seems like such a failure. And it is so not. Releasing that pressure will make you able to let go and take care of yourself as well as your business.
I read on your website, “Beauty is as beauty does.” Similarly, for self-care, there is no right or wrong way to do self-care as long as you do it. Self-care has to be exercised and customized. It's a process not an overnight fix, but in the media and especially in the beauty industry, we're often made to feel as if we need some sort of epiphany, a radical makeover to be a "new and better" person. As a leader in this space, how do you counteract this mentality?
When you have taken care of yourself, you feel at your best, and you can feel empowered. Really and truly, in this world, after you get to a point that is beyond just survival you are trying to be the best person you can be as everyone is trying to have the best experience that they can have. To be able to be the best person you can be is the whole idea of self-care. That is the mentality I try to uphold in the salon.
Did you see Oprah’s speech at the Golden Globes? I legitimately felt like she opened up the television, stared directly at me and said, times up. I was like, this is a revolution. It wasn’t that we need to change what is happening in one industry in particular, it is all industries.
2017 was a year: Donald Trump was elected and the #MeToo movement was born. It was a year of both oppression and resistance. What is a piece of advice you would give women who are striving to make self-care a priority this year?
It makes you better at whatever it is you’re trying to be better at. This life is yours. It wasn’t until recently that I switched to thinking, I want to be in a positive relationship for me. I am just as much of a child as my son is. I was somebody's child and we’re all children on this planet. If you think about people in a manner that is parallel to creating a positive experience for a child, then you can see yourself as something that is deserving of these positive experiences.
It is okay to say, 'I want to be happy for me'. I want my experience to be the experience I want my child to have. I want my experience to be the experience my mother wanted for me when she looked at me as a child and said, 'I want you to have everything as you are perfect'.
We hosted Syzygy’s Self-Care Supper at Studio67 this fall (thank you!). When we walk into Studio67 there is an energy. A lot of it for me has to do with the intentionality behind how you build the space – from putting in a roundtable for women to the fact that it doubles as an art gallery. What role does Studio67 play in your vision for the hair salon industry in Toronto?
Usually, once your hair is coloured, you are moved to a seating area to wait. It is usually by the window as you want your salon to look busy. You are sitting in the window looking like your absolute worst, reading trashy magazines and talking to no-one.
In Studio67 you can be in the back, around the round-table, doing work, having a meaningful conversation – discussing ideas instead of gossip, eating lunch etc. all while you are getting your hair done. As soon as women start talking to each other and becoming friends and allies things start to shift and change. I want to encourage that as much as possible. It is a very inclusive and intentional space.
Why is sisterhood and spaces for sisterhood important to you?
Safety, security, comfort, love, and friendship. I think women are on this cusp where they have this ability to really become one with each other. To create safe and secure spaces for people to be exactly who they are together is just so beautiful. I think it is very important to nurture spaces for women. I think that is why Studio67 is so special and successful. The industry opens up a lot more sisterhood-based spaces in general. There is an inclusiveness that it gives to women. It is easy to be who you are in this space. I think that feeling is important everywhere. I think young girls and women around the world know that it is changing and they are so powerful. I think that women need to understand each other’s power and nurture it.