New Identities hair Studios founder Kelly Rockquemore started her 20-year career as a hair salon owner in a tiny space on Fowler Ave. in Tampa. But Kelly says she always wanted, one day, for her beauty business to stand out from the thousands of salons in the Tampa Bay area.
Today, there are New Identities Hair Studios: the original location in the Shoppes at Amberly in Tampa Palms and the other on Big Bend Rd. in the Apollo Beach/Riverview area now becoming known as South Shore. Both are full-service salons with a total of 40 employees providing all types of hair styling, color and highlighting treatments, bridal party hair and make-up, waxing services, friendly front desk operations and much more.
And, the enterprise definitely does stand out, both in the accolades the salons have received and the work they do in the community.
Together, the two New Identities shops are the Official Styling Salons for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Cheerleaders, have been named in Salon Today magazine’s “Top 200 Salons in the USA” for 2011 and their stylists have been featured on TV shows like The Learning Channel’s “A Wedding Story.” But, that’s just the tip of the New Identities iceberg.
Although Kelly retired her styling chair to care for her now-eight-year-old son, Dax, and practices at being a gourmet chef, she still plays an important role in guiding husband Marc Rockquemore, who is the CEO and business manager for the two salons.
Rockquemore, a former financial consultant, says he never dreamed of spending his days in a beauty salon, but now loves it and has been involved in the business since 2000.
“If you had told me this years ago, I wouldn’t have believed it,” he says. “But where we’ve taken the studios, and how we’ve become involved in giving back to the New Tampa and Riverview communities has left me feeling both humbled and blessed.”
The original salon is well-known in the New Tampa area for being customer care conscious, employee-friendly and community-driven. In 2005, the Tampa Bay Business Journal named New Identities as the Small Business of the Year. They also have been named among Redken Hair Products’ “Top 20 Salons in Florida.”
There is a specific method, Rockquemore explains, that’s gotten New Identities to its current level of recognition. “We like to take stylists fresh out of school,” he says. “We train them through a series of levels, where they develop their techniques, build their own client base and become part of our family. Every new employee is made aware that we love participating in charity events, donating our profits and time back to those causes. It’s very much a heart thing.”
Store manager Amy Finch, who splits her time between the two locations to keep things running smoothly, says both salons offer customers some unique perks. “We have a referral program,” she says. “A new customer can get $20 off their first appointment. And, if a client refers a friend, we give the client a $15 coupon to apply to services or products. Plus, if you pre-book three appointments, you can have a running 10-percent discount.”
Finch also described some of New Identities’ charity work, including a recent event for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
“It was an after-hours event, during which we donated hair, make-up and waxing services and asked the customers to make minimum donations to the Komen Foundation.”
The two studios have also done events for Locks of Love, Metropolitan Ministries, many children’s charities and The Spring of Tampa Bay.
Rockquemore says his family has been touched by breast cancer, and he also has strong convictions to spread knowledge about domestic abuse. He feels that by embracing the Tampa Bay community, the community has embraced the salons back.
Finch also described how being the official salon of the Bucs Cheerleaders works: Four stylists attend each game, about two hours before kickoff, to style the girls’ hair. These duties are shared between the stylists from both salons, who get to stay at the games for free. The cheerleaders also get a few free appointments at the salons.
Unique Employee Training & Promotion Opportunities
We went to the Amberly Dr. location, where Amy, along with stylist Katie Abbott (who’s been with New Identities for four years), explained the training program the Rockquemores have established.
“The stylists become associates at ‘Level 1’ then graduate to various levels as they gain experience in their techniques and establish a client base,” Amy says. “Each Level 1 associate is placed with a more experienced stylist.”
Katie started right after cosmetology school and says she has loved being at New Identities.
“I was paired with another stylist and we worked alongside each other until I was ready to work alone,” Katie says. “The ongoing training is exciting. We have classes in color and cutting every year with national and international Redken artists. All of the stylists from both salons get together to take the classes.”
And, Rockquemore assures there is no glass ceiling for employees at New Identities. “The training program includes incentive levels, not one-for-all flat pay,” he says. “Our stylists can be on a 12-year path to become educators for the salons, and shareholders in the company, like Cindy Walters.”
Walters, a New Identities stylist, has appeared on FOX-TV’s “Ambush Makeover” and is a resident Guest Artist at several hair training schools including Paul Mitchell The School.
High Employee Satisfaction = Happy Customers
Customer Joan Moore says she has been using her stylist, Cori Norton, for three to four years.
“I come in two or three times a week, just for blowouts,” Moore says. “Cori gives my hair control and volume. I’ve been a regular here for quite some time, have utilized several New Identities stylists and landed with Cori.”
Cori started as a receptionist, as have many New Identities stylists. She’s getting ready for promotion to Level 3.
“I went through the associate program and have been a stylist here for five years,” Cori says. “I love it. We’re really a team, with good camaraderie. And, Marc and Kelly are great owners, whose system allows room to grow.”
Current receptionist Jessica White recently graduated cosmetology school.
“I’ll begin associate training here soon,” she says.
We also spoke with “the two Heathers” – stylist Heather Linero and her customer, Heather Borum. Linero has been at New Identities for 6-1/2 years. Borum found her two years ago while looking for a great hair straightening treatment.
“But now I come even just whenever I need a cut,” she says.
Rockquemore is careful to point out that while some customers choose one stylist, he has many customers who use several different New Identities hairdressers on a regular basis.
“This prevents negative energy between the workers, and promotes a family, synergetic feeling.”
The original New Identities Hair Studio is located at 15307 Amberly Dr., in the Shoppes of Amberly plaza in Tampa Palms (same plaza as Lifestyle Fitness). For appointments and more info, call 979-0760. For the South Shore location, call 741.1177. Or, visit NewIdentitiesSalon.com.