By Sheryl Young
Abby Harris can remember wanting to be a hairstylist since she was a teenager. Not only has her dream come true, she even opened her own salon four and a half years ago, and it’s still going great.
Bella Mia Hair Designs is in the New Tampa Center plaza on Bruce B. Downs (BBD) Blvd. at Cross Creek/ New Tampa Blvd., just two doors down from Publix. Harris bought the salon from her previous employer. He was selling, and she saw a golden opportunity.
“I started with one stylist besides myself, and now I have nine,” Harris says. Still only 33 years old, she has steadily built a local following while also retaining most of her original clientele. Her business has thrived with walk-ins and referrals from her current customers, those of her stylists and still more word of mouth from the popular shopping center.
Bella Mia is a full-service hair salon offering everything from simple women’s, men’s and children’s haircuts, to specialty perms and high-end coloring and highlighting. The services offered also include eyebrow and lip waxing. Harris is a certified cosmetologist by the state of Florida, which helped her master skills in other beauty business areas (including makeup and facials), but she has decided to have her salon concentrate on all things hair.
“I went to a vocational high school for cosmetology, after shadowing two aunts who were in the business,” Abby explains. “Then, I did hair on cruise ships for a while. It’s what I’ve always loved. The majority of my stylists also have been doing this for anywhere from ten to twenty years, and have all been with me for at least three years. We all take pride in the professionalism and family-friendly atmosphere at Bella Mia.”
The salon didn’t have the name Bella Mia before Abby took over. She explains, “I renamed it Bella Mia because it means ‘My Beautiful’ and we want everyone to leave here feeling beautiful. Plus, my father is Sicilian and I wanted to do something that reflected my Italian heritage.”
Abby and her staff also get involved in the community, in order to touch base with new and prospective customers, as well as to be visible in the community surrounding the salon. Bella Mia gift certificates are donated to many needy causes and the entire staff participated in the recent 2012 Taste of New TampaTM, where non-food vendors pay for booth spaces to reach out and introduce themselves to thousands of local residents.
“I want to start doing even more in the community, because I’m very proud of my staff,” she adds. “The quality of their work and our relationships with our customers are what sets us apart from most other hair styling salons. So many of us, customers included, get involved in each other’s lives — we know when someone is pregnant or having other important events going on in their lives.”
Highly Trained Stylists & Customer Satisfaction
But, Abby and her staff never rest on their laurels in their industry.
“We attend all of the Redken hair shows, like the 2011 Symposium in Las Vegas, and we stay up on our education with in-house training, too. We’re currently introducing an ammonia-free, extra-fortifying color line. It’s truly a new color technique breakthrough!”
Although most of Abby’s stylists have been with her a long time, she also offers an extensive training program for new hires, as well as goals for experienced hairdressers.
“I have an apprentice program and a level program,” she says. “A new stylist will work under another as an apprentice for ten months. This also can benefit the customer, as there are pricing levels which vary according to the time demands and levels of the stylists.”
For example, Bella Mia’s Jennifer Trombley is a “Level 4” stylist. “I’ve been doing hair for about fourteen years and with Abby for three,” she says. “I liked that Abby was offering a team environment. She has helped me continue my styling education, and helps us as individual stylists. And in turn, it’s exciting for me to help the younger stylists grow.”
Abby says that another advantage of Bella Mia is that these hair artists work for her; they aren’t just renting booth space. “It keeps them respectful of each other, and of me,” she says, “and there’s a level of responsibility each of them brings to the salon’s success. In other words, it’s working.”
Stylist Sarah Romine was with client Amanda Re when we checked in. Amanda said she had been a customer of Sarah’s for six years, fand followed her to Bella Mia from another salon.
“I asked a friend who they thought could work well with my bleached hair, and they recommended Sarah,” Amanda said.“And we’ve been together ever since…through boyfriends, marriage and babies.”
A long-time client of Abby’s, Dena Pisaneschi, was already using her as her stylist when Abby purchased Bella Mia.
“Abby does a great job on my hair,” Dena says, “besides making everyone feel at home. The salon has a very friendly feeling, and is very close to West Meadows, where I live. I highly recommend it.”
Abby and her husband, David Harris, also are new parents. Their son, Luca, is 7-1/2 months old. “David pinch-hits here when he can,” says the proud mom. “He’s very supportive.”
Bella Mia carries Redken and Wayne Grund products. In addition, for customers who like their hair products sulfate-free, they also can find the Redken Pureology® line at Bella Mia.
For more information, stop by the salon, located at 19038 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, in the New Tampa Center or visit BellaMiaHairDesigns.com. For appointments, call Bella Mia at 632-3552.