Hello! We’re Ally & Amanda— your go-to blogging duo for all things Knoxville business. Every month, we brunch with a local boss who’s killin’ it in our community. They share their unique insight with us, and we share it with whoever wants to know! Whether you’re looking for some mid-week motivation or just a quick, insightful read, we’ve got the tales of trials and triumphs you’re looking for.
We’ve got another exciting interview lined up for you this month! Last week, we brunched with Jeremy Wann, owner of Geo Hair Lab, at OliBea in Knoxville’s Old City to discuss all things beauty and business-related. So far, Jeremy has made some bold choices in his career… and we’re loving every minute of it! Keep reading for an exclusive inside scoop on his eco-friendly, cruelty-free salon and the amazing work he’s doing for both his clients AND his community.
First things first… why the beauty industry?
“Ever since I was a little boy, I’ve loved the idea of transformation and refinement. When I was younger, I would come home from church early and sneak into my mom’s doll cabinet to give Jo from Little Women a new bob or something. She’d notice it like three weeks later and be so mad, but I didn’t really care because I knew she looked good,” he laughs. “So, yeah. I guess it’s been sort of an innate love. I think sometimes people are born with a passion for certain things, and this industry is that for me.”
What made you decide to open your own salon?
“It wasn’t until I moved to Knoxville and met my friend Jen that I even considered beauty school. Jen had the best mullet! I started talking to her about where she got her hair done and she offered to book me an appointment so I could see the place for myself. When I walked in, there was so many people and all the clients looked so happy and I just loved the overall atmosphere. It was the first time I felt like I’d found ‘my people’ and a sense of community I fit in. So, I quit my job to go to beauty school— and ate ramen noodles for another year and a half to save money— and honed my skills and built a reputation for myself over time.
At around 27, I felt like I was at the height of my game… but I was so passionate about my job that I was starting to feel a little overworked. So, I took some time for a much needed “stay-cation” and just vegged out and ate a lot of pizza and watched a lot of eye-opening documentaries about social issues that directly related to things I was interested in, such as the beauty industry. Long story short, I learned a lot about hair waste and industry consumption during that time and ultimately realized that I was in the beauty industry, but not everything I was doing was beautiful…”
Is that what led you to open a cruelty-free and sustainable business?
“Definitely. That time off gave me a new perspective on the industry and a reason to really consider my next steps toward being an advocate for the things I care about. In the end, I decided to open my own salon centered around responsible beauty. It was something relatively easy that I could do to ensure that our great, great grandchildren have a nice place to live. The Earth gives us so many beautiful things that I see it as a sign of respect to give back. Once I started thinking that way, I couldn’t stop.
So, I decided to go with a sustainable business model, which basically means functioning without ever having a bag of trash, as well as a cruelty-free business model, which means not doing anything ‘ugly’ to animals in order to make ourselves feel beautiful.”
What can new clients expect from a visit to Geo Hair Lab?
“The number one thing I hear from our current clients is that they always feel very welcome at Geo. I want the salon to be a place of community for people who want to feel their best; not just a place to get your hair done. I think that’s a really important part of creating a welcoming environment, which is often the first thing people notice when they go somewhere new.”
Tell us a little bit about your involvement with the non-profit organization, CareCuts.
“It’s a wild story with wild people involved!” he jokes. “Basically, I was just really concerned with helping as many people feel good about themselves as possible, even if they couldn’t afford it. But being a new business, I have to be rational about what I can give, so I thought it’d be years before I could help people on the scale I wanted to. I kid you not, it wasn’t more than three months in when my friend Michael told me about this amazing opportunity to host Care Cuts, a homeless ministry that ironically needed a new home. I met with the founder, Marti Baker, the next day and we decided to give it a try once a month at Geo. The rest is history!”
Last but not least… imagine you just got a fresh new “do.” Where’s the first place you want to go after?
“Honestly, I’d go straight to my best friend Val’s house and make her take a bunch of new selfies with me before going out for drinks together. That’s what best friends are for!”
To learn more about how CareCuts of Knoxville helps the homeless, visit carecutsknox.org or call (865) 599-3866.