A passion for hair styling combined with unparalleled talent and a penchant for hard work has become the recipe for success for our NJMOMpreneur of the Week, Tina Pearson, owner of the Tina Pearson Salon in Edgewater. With a resume that includes being the lead stylist for BET networks, prestigious celebrity clients like Naomi Campbell, Nia Long, and Gabrielle Union, and an eponymous product line, Tina has become a leading expert in the beauty industry with a loyal following. We caught up with this married mom of three to ask why she decided to open a salon in her hometown, what she’d ask Michelle Obama if she found her sitting in her chair, and where to find the best cupcakes this side of the Hudson.
Tell us about your family and where you live. My great-grandfather, a jazz musician, came from Memphis to Harlem, and people in the entertainment industry were purchasing homes in Mount Vernon, NY, which is where I grew up. I used to throw these annual outdoor summer barbecues in Mount Vernon. My husband, Keith Mency, and I met at one of these, and we have a beautiful blended family now—Abrai is 30, Emani is 27, and Keith is 19. Keith and I decided to settle in Edgewater, a beautiful town with an easy commute into the city. It’s right on the water, and we have more space here, yet it’s still close to the heartbeat of NYC, which is very important to me.
Did you always know you’d work in the beauty industry? I didn’t always want to be a hairstylist, even studying business in college. While on break from school one summer, I realized that I wanted to go to a beauty school. It seemed like this decision was out of the blue, but I’d always enjoyed doing my friends’ hair, plus I liked how happy women would look when coming out of a salon. I also realized the importance of waking up every morning and looking forward to what you do for work. After finishing beauty school, I started working in my neighborhood, and that salon owner taught me so much about excellence. Eventually, I did a photo shoot, and they published my work in a magazine. Then, a celebrity hairstylist hired me in the city, and I juggled a BET network job while still working at the salon and doing editorial, video, and television work. Ultimately, it led me to open my Upper East Side NYC salon, which focused on textured hair, while I continued my freelance career. I lived in Edgewater then, but I could never find anyone to do textured hair in my NJ neighborhood. Having had many NJ clients who’d traveled to the city to get their hair done, I realized there were many women like me, so I decided to open a second salon in Edgewater. We just wrapped up seven years here.
If you could have anyone sit in your chair, who would it be, what would you do, and what might you ask them? Michelle Obama would be first and foremost. I’d take her lighter to a caramel chocolate brown with caramel highlights, and I’d give her a bob. I’d ask her how she did it as the first black First Lady, what tools she had to draw upon, and who those friends she could trust during her most vulnerable moments. And I’d also love to have Zoe Saldana in my chair. Her hair is textured, and she wears it clean, healthy, pretty, flowy, and without too much fuss, which is my favorite way to do hair.
Tell us about why you decided to launch a product line. There had been an influx of products focusing on textured hair, and the timing was right to launch Tina Pearson Haircare because I knew the ins and outs of working with textured hair and the ingredients needed to help it look its best. I launched my first product—a styling serum—then followed that up with a leave-in conditioner. Both were so successful that we now have 9 SKUs doing amazingly well—they’re suited for all hair types. We sell them in the salon, on our own, and on other websites.
Does your family get involved in your business? My husband isn’t an official partner, but he’s my life partner. He has been a part of my business every single step of the way, supporting me as needed—from putting together furniture to being right by my side when we do street fairs and expos to being the director of facilities and maintenance by default. Abrai, who works for a fashion brand and is the mother of my 20-month-old grandson, did administrative work for me while she was growing up. Emani helps me out with digital advice and social content.
What do you find most rewarding about being an entrepreneur? I have the freedom to do what I want to do, create my own schedule, and create the life that I want to live. This sense of freedom can be the best thing, but it can also be the worst. I can choose to drive to the beach and do nothing all day, but I’m probably going to pay for that tomorrow. As an entrepreneur, you get to decide.
What’s next? I’m in the process of writing a book. I’ve spent so much of my career behind the chair, making women feel better about who they are and receiving as much as I’ve given, and in all that time, I’ve learned a lot about business, self-care, and the role that business plays in one’s state of well-being.
What are your favorite things to do or places to visit in NJ with your family? My favorite place to go is the Jersey Shore. We’ve been going to Ships Bottom in Long Beach Island for years, which is so low-key. We visit with friends who have a house on the bay and relax and enjoy our time together, whether it’s eating good food, playing on the beach and jumping in the water, or riding on the boat. And we love to eat—Terravita Edgewater is a BYOB with excellent service and food. Seafood is my favorite, and their crab cakes and salmon are amazing. Another family favorite is Sweet T’s Southern Eatery, a Montclair restaurant that serves up soul food with a lighter take. Everything is great there, but I usually get the salmon cakes and grits, and those grits taste so good it’s as if grandma is in the kitchen making them.
What are some of your favorite local shops in NJ? As You Wish Nail Spa in Hoboken is akin to an in-and-out service but with a spa-like, attention-to-detail environment. The pedicures are the best. I feel taken care of and catered to. And Fudgarten in Fort Lee is a favorite because it’s healthy, fast, and good food. They have everything from salads to bowls to shakes, paninis, and good coffee. And Tonnie’s Minis in Newark—with a new one opening in Edgewater this summer—has the best cupcakes in the world!
What is your best piece of advice for a mompreneur just starting? When planning your life out, figure out what you want to accomplish and make a list of what you need to do to make that happen. Give yourself a timeline and start chipping away at it. As an entrepreneur, you’re responsible for your happiness and your wealth. Also, know that when you’re running a business, there’s no perfect balance between your personal and business lives—you can’t always be present in both, and you have to be okay with that. Be clear with what you want, and build your business accordingly.