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Uncertain Future Doesn’t Daunt Toronto’s Newest Salon Owners

Opening a new business during a lockdown wasn’t really the plan for two hair stylists in Toronto, but with more time to plan and think, two friends decided there is actually no better time to start something new.

Jennifer Larche and Shye-Ann Hunter just launched Hair Collective at 16 Sousa Mendes St. in the Junction Triangle (a new building alongside the West Toronto Rail Path), and even though they can’t open their doors, they are ready for clients with curbside product pickups.

“I don’t think we anticipated being in lockdown for so long,” says Larche. “We are just playing the waiting game.”

Larche and Hunter worked together for six years in two different salons and became friends. During the second lockdown, they started thinking about striking out on their own.

After closing in the first lockdown, hair salons weren’t permitted to reopen until June 24 and then they were closed again on Nov. 23 in Toronto.

Although there had been hope that salons would reopen on April 12 in Toronto, the third wave of the pandemic crushed that possibility.

The hectic pace during the reopening in the summer got Larche thinking about her future.

“It made me re-evaluate my work-life situation,” said Larche.

Hunter told Larche about her ideas and they decided to work together.

They started planning in January and hoped to open in February or March.

“And then lockdown happened and that re-shifted everything,” says Larche.

While some family and friends raised concerns about starting a business now, Larche said they have savings and a potential new business loan coming from a government program called Futurpreneur.

As a new business, they don’t qualify for any pandemic funding from the government.

But one of the advantages of starting a business now is that rents are cheaper and there are more vacant spaces, said Hunter.

It is also harder to plan when you are working full-time.

“The initial lockdown played in our favour because we were here planning a business, which would have been hard had we been working,” said Larche.

Despite the third wave, Larche and Hunter are looking forward to the future and while they wait to open fully, they’re taking product orders, have set up a waiting list for clients and are offering haircare tutorials.

Now they simply wait for lockdown to end.

“We are ready – hopefully soon,” says Larche.