Navajo entrepreneur takes second chance on her dream
She knew from a young age that she wanted to make people feel and look their best but she didn’t know the path to her dream would take so much out of her.
Goldie Tom is the owner of Goldie Lux Studio, located in historic downtown Gallup, New Mexico. The studio is more than meets the eye. Not only is it a space for hair and beauty, it also acts as a photography studio, an art gallery, a community space and in the future, it will also offer massages, permanent makeup and house a nail tech. There is no limitation to Tom’s vision.
“I want it to be a place where people know they can come and feel welcomed and feel comfortable about being where they are,” Tom said, adding that she also wants it to be a learning institution.
Tom plans on offering internships and hopes to mentor cosmetology students about the business. She didn’t have a mentor to help guide her and learning on her own was a hard road to go down alone.
“It was really catty and it was really frustrating because it was kind of like every man for themselves kind of thing,” Tom said. ”I felt like, we’re in the same industry, we should be helping one another out. We should be taking people under our wings to help them.”
When students are coming out of cosmetology school, there is rarely a space for them because they lack experience but they also lack a way to get critical experience, Tom said. She hopes through internships and mentorships she can give the students a jump start on their careers and show them that being a stylist is a real job and can make a successful creative career.
“I am an advocate for hairstylists because most people don’t see our profession as a real job. It’s seen as a hobby. But working as a hairstylist has got me through the past 10 years of my life,” says Tom. “It’s helped me pay my bills, support my family, travel the world, and has helped me actually open a salon and be in the position that I am now.”
She’s been stood up by clients who didn’t call to cancel their appointments, which is time she could have been spending on another client, she said. She’s been second guessed in her career choice by many people but she stands by it.
“I love it so much,” she said.
So much so that she’s known she’s wanted to be a cosmetologist since she was four or five years old.
It’s a dream and a passion that followed the little girl through grade school and into high school. Tom was always the one wanting to do everyone’s hair and makeup but when she was a senior in high school, that dream was put on hold and that passion turned into doubt.
Tom opened up to a close family member about wanting to become a cosmetologist and instead of the support she expected, she was met with a laugh and a comment about how she’d never make any money in that career.
It never crossed Tom’s mind that money equals success. With her support system gone, she spiraled. She was off her path. She went to school and majored in a few different areas but nothing really stuck, then she started working as a bartender, a cocktail waitress, then as a barista, a retail manager and finally a DJ.
But none of those jobs were filling the void and soon Tom just let go. At the same time, she was swallowed up by challenges in her personal life.
“It just kind of felt like the world was crashing down on me,” she said.
That’s when she decided that money or not, she was going to cosmetology school. It was an interest that always stayed with her and it was the thing that was going to save her.
But to really succeed, she needed to completely clear the air so she sought out the family member that laughed at her all those years ago and they worked it out. The family member apologized and Tom felt that she was ready to move forward.
Tom knows it happens all the time, that family members discourage kids and young adults from their dreams without even realizing it but she hopes people understand that words have power.
Her journey also taught her there is no timeline for success.
She’s done hair and makeup work at fashion shows in New York, she’s worked in film and now she owns a studio where she can make it whatever she wants it to be.
She’s been broken and she’s had to build herself up again but she shares her story because it’s important for her to remember that she worked hard to get to where is.
“I finally had the courage to overcome that and do what I really want to do,” she said.
Change Labs supports the creation of successful Native American small businesses that provide a social benefit to tribal communities.