The Balayage Bae

Failing Upwards

Working Mom, HairAnne Sweeney

I wouldn’t really peg myself as the type to give motivational advice. I’d like to think I’ve made enough mistakes to offer up some wisdom but my self doubt usually stands in the way of that. There is one area, however, that I truly feel I have the validity to throw my two cents at.


Yes, I am a pro at failing. And no I’m not digging a hole of self pity. I’m not sad about my failures, because without every mistake I have ever made, I wouldn’t where I am now. I look at every failure as a new beginning, or failing upwards.

In 2016, I left a stable job to start a new hair salon with a fellow hair stylist. We had worked together for just six months, but had become instant friends the first time we met.

We shared a dream of being badass “momtrepreneurs” who owned the coolest hair studio in Portland. It was far fetched but we went for it anyways. She sold me on this amazing dream but I had no idea what a nightmare it would turn into.

We found a small studio space just a few blocks from our previous workplace. I saw all the potential this one room salon had. It was in a house with two other salons which I found so appealing and in the same neighborhood as my last salon, so my clients wouldn’t have far to go. We named our salon, Under The Moon - Beauty Studio. It was a name we thought was inviting and suggested a calming atmosphere. For the next month, we worked our butts off to get our space ready for clients.  Everyday and every ounce of energy was put into building this new business. I figured, “This must be how Steve Jobs felt when he started Apple.”

Yeah...that feeling evaporated into thin air just as quickly as it showed up.

Shortly after we opened and began taking clients, I noticed a bank statement had arrived for us in the mail. I opened it, only find that all our money was gone. The money in the account was coming in from both of us and we had agreed to use our business debit card for business purposes only. I read every line through and not a single transaction was business related.

Uhhhh….What the f**k?! I did the math. 60% of that money was all money brought in by me and my clients. I confronted my partner and she couldn’t give me a straight answer as to why she had spent all the money. Out of pure frustration, I agreed to let it go and move on, but not without getting my own separate business account, of course.


Side note: there were countless moments that became red flags but I would have to write a whole book to cover every single one. **shrug**


Things continued to get worse. My business partner wouldn’t show up for her clients, she would use products I purchased without replacing or paying for them and would tell me outrageous lie--about anything and everything. I was doing everything for our salon; our logo, advertising and marketing, social media, etc. In addition to all that, she was constantly picking a fight with me over everything. It was like I couldn’t do anything right in her eyes but to me and the rest of the world, I was the only one trying to run a business.

I was drowning and I couldn’t find a way to swim out. I had invested almost all of my money, my time and my integrity into this salon and I could see it sinking right before me. I knew I was going to have to make a decision for my future soon but I kept putting it off because my pride was standing in the way. The thought of failing made me sick. I wanted to be a successful business owner at the young age of 24 but the pressure of carrying my entire partnership was getting to me. All the excitement I had in the beginning and faded into resentment towards my partner.

The next month, which would soon become my last month with Under The Moon, I received a call from our landlord. The last few months, my business partner had been paying her portion of our rent either late or not at all. The landlord and I discussed what could be done but in reality, I was already looking at other salons to move to. Becoming an independent contractor sounded like the best choice, but the salons in Portland came with a hefty rent. I felt helpless but knew I needed to get out this situation as soon as possible. Things were getting stranger and more upsetting everyday. My business partner and I barely spoke, but when she would communicate with me, it was constant excuses and lies for not showing up or for taking credit for things she never did while putting blame on me for what she couldn’t do. The other people in the building began to notice her behavior, too. Soon,  I was approached by the owner of MODA Studios and she offered me a part time position at her salon.

YES. A thousand times yes.

That same day, I told my coworker I was leaving. The salon would be hers and hers alone and she could buy the items I purchased for it from me. I gave her four weeks notice and immediately let our landlord know I’d be moving downstairs. I was taken aback by her upbeat response to my resignation but also didn’t feel that surprised. I knew she had only used me to build this business for her and taken advantage of my good nature.

Removing toxic people from your life is, at the very least, an inconvenience but at most, it is an incredibly difficult thing to do. I had lost so much in walking away from Under The Moon; time, money and even some clients. What hurt most though, was feeling like one of my closest friends had betrayed me and in turn, pushed me to fail at being a business owner.

It has been over a year now since I left Under The Moon and I have come to realize this: I never failed. I am doing better now than ever before in my career as a stylist and that is because I have worked everyday to rebuild and rebrand myself and my reputation. I took every negative experience in owning a business and learned from it. I would not let myself be as naive as I was in 2016, but I remind my myself that I am much stronger than I give myself credit for. Spending 8 months running a business while dealing with a slew of negativity from your business partner really does a number or your mental state, but I never let it break me. I had moments right before starting at Moda Studios when I felt like maybe I just wasn’t good enough for this industry. I thought maybe had I been a better stylist, I wouldn’t have had to walk away from my salon. Maybe if I had put more time or money into the space, it would have been a bigger success.

I have a bad habit of thinking about what I could have done differently, even though I know there was nothing that would have made a difference. But now, I’ve taken my “what ifs” and turned them into realities in my career. Whether it’s learning and practicing new techniques, budgeting my money better or just having more self confidence to make up for what I had lost before.  


About a month after I had left, Under The Moon permanently closed its door permanently and I never heard anything from my former partner again. It came out a few months later, that she had been using drugs and was supposedly in rehab. I felt sad knowing such a terrible thing had gripped her but I still couldn’t shake my resentment for the way things had ended with our salon.

I don’t regret opening the business though or all the hardships that came with it. If anything, it only made me a better person, I may be less trusting of people, but still better. I think as long as you pick yourself up each time you fall, you can’t ever say you failed. Every decision we make, every mistake, teaches us something new and that is one of the most important things we can do in this world, keep learning.