Meet Lyza Ingram
More Than A
Who Is Lyza?
My given name is Elizabeth Nicole Ingram. I’m a rare and dignified Colorado Springs native, affectionately known to others as Lyza; Elizabeth Greek appellation which likewise means Oath to God.
I am the proud owner of Xpressions Beauty Studio wherein I also serve as a fiercely dedicated beautician. My team and I succeed in accomplishing the latest hair trends, styling methods, health maintenance and upkeep for a range of diverse hair types. I have been serving my community in this way for a decade and recently achieved becoming a chained salon with the opening of our second location: Xpressions Beauty & Barber Studio
Becoming the CEO of my beauty salon was no easy achievement. This level of success demanded I defeat the inner demons which warred with my positive aspirations and severely prolonged the attainment of goals I could have otherwise much sooner realized. My conquering over tribulations and the wisdom gained from my mistakes make my journey a cautionary tale; one which I will tell in complete honesty in the hope to inspire, discipline and enlighten all who dare to dream on a massive scale. I invite you to explore my milestones with an open mind and heart. Remove yourself from the zone of comfort and read on. This is my story…
Although I was given an amazing childhood, was deeply loved and generously provided, I still made mistakes along the way. Like most teens, I struggled with surrendering to authority. I was born with an impressively sharp mind, an old soul, and a strong heart. Naturally, when authoritarians sought to order me around, I felt my gifts were being constricted and often rebelled.
I did not graduate from grade school in a traditional manner. I was expelled from my conventional high school during my freshman year due to a critical misunderstanding; a repercussion that forced my attendance in alternative schooling. In retrospect, I recognize that traditional education wasn’t destined for me to experience. Rather, my school-age years were meant to align me with an unconventional education that would expose me to kids of extremely diverse backgrounds.
Attending classes, building friendships, and observing children of different cultures and ethnicities taught me what it means to love unconditionally. I formed incredible bonds with many children who were most unlike myself which was an unexpected revelation. I learned to respect and embrace differences of culture and withhold judgment for things I may not initially understand. I discovered there is beauty in patience and in exploring the unknown.
My alternative education was the first of many experiences that broadened my horizon and refined my character.
Immediately proceeding high school, I enrolled in the International Salon and Spa Academy (formerly International Beauty Academy) located in Colorado Springs. I was young and vivacious and in hindsight, too undisciplined to conform to the requirements of vocational schooling. I struggled with attendance and submitting timely coursework. Consequentially, it would take me six years to complete an 11-month cosmetology course.
During my six-year struggle to graduate beauty school, I made some poor choices that led me to collide with the justice system. . I recall listening in stunned silence as my public defender informed me of my indictments, “You’ve been charged with a Class-2 felony for Aggravated Robbery, Conspiracy, and Eluding. We have the option to take a plea deal…”
Devastation overwhelmed me as I measured the severity of my predicament. Fearful thoughts of loss rapidly invaded my mind like flood water overrunning the Louisiana levees. I thought first of my then 8-month-old daughter who needed me as much as I needed her. I thought next of my mother who I dearly loved and cringed at the thought of her disappointment and distress. Lastly, I thought of my dream career as a beautician. I didn’t want to lose everything I stood to gain. Nevertheless, as the situation was looming before me, I had no choice except to face my unknown fate.
As there were no better choices from which to choose, I rolled the dice and took an open sentence plea deal. This wager meant I would be sentenced to as few as 60 days in jail or as many as 12 years in prison. It was a huge gamble, but I was hopeful my sentence would be lenient given that this was the first time I’d ever been in trouble. On the day of my sentencing, I stood before the judge with as much courage as my nineteen-year-old stance could muster and equal trepidation. Thank God for my praying mother for I believe it was she and God who guided the judge’s hand. I did indeed receive the most lenient sentence of 60 days in jail, and 2 years unsupervised probation.
I served my short sentence in a local, county, jail. Although I was away for just two months, my incarceration is still a regrettable consequence for the irretrievable loss of time away from my daughter and family. I was released on Christmas day, 2000. I returned to a familiar home and loving family who graciously welcome me back. Not long after, I re-enrolled in Americana Beauty Academy. One year later I finally graduated. Three years after graduating, I received my full cosmetology license in 2004.
Paving The Way
With my diploma and license in hand, my confidence was restored as was my momentum to pursue my goals on a larger scale. I began a feverish search to find a salon in which to showcase my skills. My first legitimate employer was a beauty salon called Platinum Touch. It was a small establishment, located in the back of a liquor store but it was a valuable opportunity in multiple ways.
My booth rent was just $75.00 (the average rent was $125 per week). I worked alongside one other stylist; a bubbly woman from New Orleans whose hair skills far exceeded that of any other stylist I’d known up to that point. It was a privilege and an honor to work alongside her. Under her instruction, I gained many skills, expanded my knowledge, and gradually built a solid client base. My confidence in my abilities and in the future soared. I began to envision owning my own salon. Unfortunately, my tutor and mentor would soon move out of state. She was in the process of finishing her degree to change careers when we met. She moved out of state soon after she graduated. It saddened me greatly to see her go but, I wished her well. After her leave, I realized I didn’t want to be the only stylist of Platinum Touch, so I too departed the liquor store location.
I worked as a freelance stylist for a while. In due course, I joined Salon de Cheaux which was run by Sylvia; a woman renowned for her luxurious salon, and expert hair techniques. Here, I was afforded the opportunity to learn and grow and expound upon the teachings of my New Orleans mentor.
Ascending the Ranks
My experience in salons helped me garner critical knowledge about the inner workings of a beauty establishment. Each location, owner, stylists, barbers, and their clientele taught me something different. I realized I’d become a well-seasoned stylist, with enough experience to easily analyze different components of a salon’s workflow, and construct methodologies to help them improve. I recognized in myself that I’d ascended the ranks of a student, to apprentice, employee and was an arising entrepreneur.
I began researching commercial vacancies and rental rates throughout Colorado Springs. Scouting sites led me to a popular hair culture on the south end of town. Unsurprisingly, inside the vacant lot I’d come to tour, I found my associate, Jay laying tile. Jay is a well-respected business mogul who’d achieved ownership of several local businesses. He also specialized in launching and operating beauty salons. After learning of my aspirations, he wisely advised that it would be less risky on my investment if I first gained more experience in salon management. In retrospect, it is clear Jay recognized my potential. He offered me a managerial position in the salon he was preparing to open right there on the spot.
Though I was terrified of failing, I accepted Jay’s offer. Our game plan was simple: I was to focus on doing hair, and Jay would gradually teach me every aspect of salon business operation. We were a remarkable team. Under Jay’s tutelage my competencies in expanded and refined, and I took to business operations as a fish does to water.
I built an amazing team of talented stylists. Although we were young and all struggling to sort out our affairs, no one could deny we could slay some hair! It wasn’t long before word about the quality and consistency of our work began to buzz around town. As word spread, our list of clients grew rapidly.
Becoming an Owner
Approximately two years into our arrangement, Jay determined the time had come for me to take over as owner and operator. Though flattered, I still felt I wasn’t ready, and I feared to fail if left to run things on my own. There were still many things I wanted to learn, not to mention my personal life and finances were yet in a rut.
Notwithstanding my objections, Jay encouraged me to simply believe in myself and assured me all would be well. He urged me to consider all the milestones I’d achieved in those prior 24 months without his assistance. For example, although Jay had chosen the name, Xpressions, it was I who branded, marketed and established its communal presence. Furthermore, it was through my own prowess that my team had expanded their own competencies in beauty practices and were, therefore, able to secure a longer list of regular clientele. And, so it was, with trembling hands but a brave heart I agreed to take ownership. One year later, the official transfer and sale of the business were complete. I was the proud and terrified owner of Xpressions Beauty Studio.
I sought to make some immediate changes after I took ownership of my salon. I consulted with a graphic professional and had a logo designed, I then created a Facebook page, and started making aesthetic changes to the salon floor. I upgraded our furniture and equipment and implemented a distinct and classy color scheme I was sure would wow our clients each time they came into our salon.
I poured every ounce of hair knowledge I’d acquired over the years into my stylists to ensure the quality of our work would be outstanding and consistent. Moreover, I envisioned my salon to be a place where my team could learn good money practices too. I wanted to impress upon them the importance of investing in savings, life insurance, and other accounts that would grow their money with interest. When I was hustling on the streets, I never knew it was possible to make this type of money and so fast. I realized that if mishandled, one could easily lose their earnings as fast as they made it with nothing to show for it. Accordingly, as I learned how to responsibly handle my money, I taught my team. Eventually, I would start to invite financial experts to come teach us things as I realized financial education was a major element missing in salons and barbershops.
In addition to financial education, I aspired to educate our clients about how to properly care for their hair between their salon visits. I therefore created what was essentially a curriculum on different hair care topics, and a schedule that outlined when a class would be given at no charge. This was my way of giving back to my community of supporters who stuck around during the turbulent times.
Lastly, my vision to rebrand Xpressions included fashioning an upscale appearance. I did everything within my power and budget to achieve this, and to astonish our clients each time they visited. The community saw the effort we were putting forth to accommodate them and in turn, embraced us. It is true we may have been a little ghetto at times, but we never failed to treat one another with love and respect. We worked as a team. We cared for one another and it showed.
Arising a Mentor
Becoming a mentor was not self-proclaimed. Rather, I have been revered a mentor by young women who’d seen or heard of my progress. They began coming into the salon seeking work and advice about how to better their lives. Many asked me how I got started and what steps were required to turn my life around. I recognized their desperation because I’ve been where they are. Likewise, I recognized their stubbornness and a dual desire to abandon their destructive ways to be a part of something great; but were at a loss as to where to begin. I addressed their sincere questions with equally sincere answers. I explained the path to success is different for everyone, but achievable through hard work which demands consistency and determination. And, that once you think you’ve “made it”, there is still much to be done.
For all the positive aspects of my position, I want there to be no misunderstanding: There is struggle in business ownership, just as one might struggle to keep their 9-5. The only difference is in the level of responsibility enweaved in each role. My employees and mentees are who keep me from quitting when I am most tired or want to give up. I’ve struggled in many ways on many days. But, if I gave up on the salon, I would be giving up on them and myself. I knew they were watching and their observation of me drives me to push forward. They’ve also believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself because I am a real person with tangible issues and a relatable background. People connect to and trust realness.
Xpressions is transformational. I’ve witnessed women change the very foundation of their lives for the inspiration derived from Xpressions. They’ve improved their credit scores, purchased vehicles, ended their public assistance, furthered their education, received state certifications, and contributed to the culture of their community in many other positive ways. Some have even gone on to open their own salons. Bearing witness to such groundbreaking transformations has been surreal. I sit somewhere between amazement and disbelief knowing that attaining my dream has contributed to the successes of others. Through my salon, God uses me to change lives. Hallelujah!
Into The Future
It has been a decade and Xpressions is still here and thriving. We are the largest independent Black- owned beauty salon in Colorado Springs, and leading the industry by brand, social media, marketing, education, current styles, and the latest application techniques. We were also the first to create a new haircare line featuring products and accessories sold directly from Xpressions. Additionally, we were the first to introduce Virgin Hair extensions.
The beauty industry is ever changing. New styles and techniques are introduced all the time. As such, so does our brand and type of clientele. Therefore, you can count on Xpressions to continually raise the bar, as well as remain current with the latest styles and trends, and to provide you with the best hair care and education for maintenance.
Our consistent expansion afforded me the opportunity to open a new location to accommodate the demand. Together, my new business partner Charonda Wills and I succeeded in opening a second Colorado Springs location. Xpressions Beauty and Barber Studio is soon to celebrate 1 year of operation in April 2019.
For my part, I will constantly strive to become a trusted brand and a dependable communal presence, which never fails to deliver products and services of excellent quality. I pray the Lord is willing to bless my company with perpetual growth and expansion. Xpressions is more than a salon.
Love and believe in yourself, for you are strong and amazing.
– Lyza Ingram