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Chili native invokes money diet' to create her salon business.

Byline: Nicole Sheldon

Some high school seniors are worrying about their pending college plans and making sure they graduate with a good grade-point average. Others have had enough and are just trying to skate by the skin of their teeth. Courtney Martin, however, was busy building her own business in her senior year of high school, thanks to the Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA!) program.

Martin, 23, says her business, Secret Services, had a similar premise to CBS's "Undercover Boss." The owner of a salon or spa would hire Martin to go undercover as a client and rate the business based on the way she was treated by employees to the cleanliness of the establishment. Martin would then report her findings back to the owner.

The YEA! program offers many valuable opportunities to participants, and while developing Secret Services Martin met with a tax professional, an attorney and a graphic designer to help her build her business. Each business in the program was also provided a local business mentor to guide them through the process.

"It sounds clich, but (YEA!) was truly a life-changing experience," says Martin. "It was nice to still be in high school but feel like I'm setting myself up for something greater when I graduate. And it was great to be around like-minded kids," she added, noting that she and her peers realized they wanted to be their own bosses and not be told what to do.

Now fast forward to 2015. Martin has stepped away from Secret Services and is on to her next business venture. At 20 years old, Martin opened her own studio salon, Infiniti Salon, in her hometown of Chili at the Chili Fitness Center, 3313 Chili Ave.

"There's a gym, a massage therapist, a chiropractor office and I added on a salon. So it's a complete health and wellness center," says Martin. "When I was 20 I filed for my DBA, opened the salon and went into business."

You may be wondering how Martin could afford to open a shop at such a young age. Her answer is simple: Money diets.

"I would go on what I called a 'money diet,' and I wouldn't spend money on anything except supplies that I needed for the salon or gas to and from work, and I would work seven days a week between all of the jobs I had," she says. "The money diets really paid off."

Hard-working is Martin's middle name; in high school she worked at a local coffee shop and ran a nail salon out of her home. A self-taught nail artist, Martin trained herself by watching YouTube videos and lots of practice.

After she graduated from high school in 2013, Martin worked in sales for a year at YEA!

"I matured very quickly because I was 19 working in a corporate atmosphere trying to sell a $30,000 program to 50-plus-year-olds who work in the Chamber of Commerce and have been in the business industry way longer than I have. It definitely matured me," she says. "I had very minimal training and was kind of thrown into it, but I loved the program, which made it easy for me to sell it."

While working for YEA!, Martin also attended cosmetology school at Shear Ego International School. During her time at Shear Ego she received training in all types of esthetics including hair, makeup and waxing, which are services she now offers at Infiniti Salon.

At the salon, Martin offers men's and women's haircuts, styling, hair coloring and highlights, blowouts, treatments, special occasion styling, manicures and pedicures, facial waxing and makeup application and lessons. Martin has also dipped her toes in a couple of retail ventures: Designing and selling her own formula of beard products and selling boutique clothing.

"My boyfriend was growing a beard and was struggling to find a good, quality beard oil that had a masculine scent and didn't make his face break out" or itch, says Martin.

Thus The Remedy was born.

"Around two years ago we started to make a custom beard oil line (called The Remedy) made out of 100 percent natural essential oils," she says. "We have two products for beards: beard oil and beard balm." Her shop also sells body butter, which has been picked up by other barbershops in the area. More recently, she began selling boutique clothing that she obtains from wholesalers in California.

According to Martin, Christina Peralta Velez of Skintopia Skincare Spa, whom she met through YEA!, has been a helpful mentor as she navigates the ins and outs of being a business owner.

"Christina gives me great business ideas and helps me if I'm struggling with particular clients, and she's been a really big influence when it comes to expanding my retail area," she says.

Martin says she likes the size of Infiniti Salon, and doesn't plan on growing much more beyond adding an assistant and junior stylist. Even though she is so busy that she books out eight weeks in advance, she says she can take on more clients but is nearing her limits.

"It's a studio salon, so I pretty much work by myself, and I really like that because I don't have to depend on anyone else," says Martin. "I'm usually packed to the brim with clients every day, so I'm never completely by myself or lonely."

Her long-term goal is perhaps inspired by her professional experience at YEA! when she was selling YEA! to Chambers of Commerce around the country.

"I would like to create an online platform for other stylists in the area, specifically Upstate New York, and create a Chamber of Commerce-type platform for stylists," she says. "They would be members of the website, and we would give them access to online education and pretty much a master calendar to all of the education that's happening in the area. The platform would be very education-driven and a good way to network with other stylists in Upstate New York. That's long-term, though. I feel like I'm already living out my goal." / (585) 363-7031

#Team PXY with Whitney Young and Corey James on 98PXY is a partner with Fast Start. Listen on Monday from 5:30 to 10 a.m. for their interview with Courtney Martin.

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Author:Sheldon, Nicole
Publication:Rochester Business Journal
Geographic Code:1U2NY
Date:Oct 29, 2018
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