Salon owner redefines small business success through commitment to community
Spend just an hour with Tricia Rivas, pictured, and you quickly appreciate everything great about small business. Rivas’ enthusiasm for her employees, clients and community is contagious.
The owner of Trixie’s Salon, with three locations in Des Moines and Altoona, knows small business success isn’t just about making money. It is also about making a difference in the community you serve.
The salon’s motto is, “Community, Community, Community. Support the community that supports you.” That is quite the understatement for this entrepreneurial philanthropist. Rivas sets the bar even higher than the typical small business’ commitment to its community.
Dozens of local nonprofit organizations have benefited from Trixies Salon’s generosity. It provides free salon services for homeless veterans, sex trafficking victims, hospice patients and their caregivers and even offers free hair and makeup services for underprivileged high school girls for their proms. It also supports local schools through numerous events and fundraisers. The salon regularly dedicates a portion of its proceeds to local charities, rotating recipients every six weeks.
Philanthropy is ingrained in Trixie’s work culture. Stylists are given two paid days off each year to volunteer with local charities and are engaged in selecting the organizations the salon supports. In 2016 she created her own nonprofit, the Dream Catchers Foundation, to coordinate the business’ philanthropic activities.
Rivas comes from a long line of hair stylists. She was exposed to the industry through her aunts and an uncle from a young age. She paid her dues working as a stylist at several Des Moines area salons in the early stages of her career.
When she opened the first location in 2010, there wasn’t a high-end salon in Des Moines’ southside. She knew that an Aveda salon would be a huge success in the neighborhood. Her business model focuses on a boutique design with only five to six stations, creating an inviting atmosphere for the stylists and clients.
Continuing education for the entire team is a key to Trixies’ success. It is a lesson Rivas learned herself as an employee and a commitment she makes to her stylists. She firmly believes that you should never stop learning how to run your business and enhance your marketing, social media and customer service skills.
Success didn’t come without its challenges. Rivas had her oldest child at the age of 16. Some people told Rivas her life was over as a teenage mother. Still she persisted. And she’s had fun over the years proving the naysayers wrong.
At the time, many people tried to discourage her from pursuing her dream of studying cosmetology and opening a salon. Her guidance counselor even convinced her to pursue nursing as a more sustainable profession for a young single mother. She listened, temporarily, and initially took nursing classes before ultimately attending cosmetology school on her own terms.
She encourages other entrepreneurs to never forget those who have helped them along the way. She credits her parents for being her rocks and biggest advocates during this trying time as an ambitious single mother. Eventually she married and had two more children. Rivas’ cheerleading squad has now grown even larger due to the family’s ongoing support of her entrepreneurial dream.
“Being successful isn’t a solo job,” Rivas said. “It takes a village. I have been beyond blessed to have a wonderful village.”
Over the years she utilized training resources offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) and its resource partners, including the Women’s Business Center at the Iowa Center for Economic Success, SCORE and the Small Business Development Center, as well as DMACC. These resources helped the business get started on the right foot and grow strategically. She now pays it forward by serving as a guest speaker at the Women’s Business Center and highlighting other business owners in her podcasts.
Rivas encourages small business owners to always celebrate other start-ups, even if it is their competition. And celebrate she does. She is one of Iowa’s biggest champions of small business through her involvement in local chambers, the National Association of Women Business Owners and FemCity Des Moines.
She also relies on a sisterhood of friends and women business owners for advice and motivation. This includes a very close-knit group of friends from the past 30 years. She credits Tiffany Tokarz, the owner of Modern Muse Consulting and her best friend since the sixth grade, for being her sounding board. The two future entrepreneurs met weekly for years discussing their entrepreneurial dreams. Little did they know the impact those informal counseling sessions would have on their future businesses.
In the next few years Rivas sees Trixies participating in more fashion-forward events, hosting small business social media classes, growing its Podcast audience and providing more education classes for local stylists.
Rivas always reminds herself why she started on this entrepreneurial journey. If success is measured by the ability to make a difference, then Tricia Rivas is a cut above the rest.
Jayne Armstrong is the district director of the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA) Iowa District Office with offices in Des Moines and Cedar Rapids. The SBA resource network includes 15 Small Business Development Centers, eight SCORE chapters, the Women’s Business Center and the Veteran’s Business Outreach Center servicing Iowa’s small business community. Connect with her via email.