Shellee Mendes is living proof that hard work does pay.
The Boston based hairstylist went from living in a public housing development in the Roslindale section of Boston, to being the only female African-American owner of a hair salon on Newbury Street, an upscale part of the city similar to 5th Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.
Mendes, also a mother, has to balance taking care of herself, her family, and her business, Salon Monet. Inspired by her earlier life struggles, she spends every Monday approaching people presenting this request with the flash of her radiant smile: “Hi, I’m Shellee from Salon Monet and today is Makeover Monday. I am choosing you for a fab makeover, would you be willing to let me highlight your beauty today?”
Mendes hasn’t forgotten where she came from. Almost 21 years ago, she was living in an apartment that was provided to her by a shelter that houses homeless or financially struggling women. She worked two jobs while taking care of her children and going to school to get her stylist’s license. As the owner of a full service hair salon, Mendes uses her passion to make someone’s day a bit better.
I volunteered for a makeover to experience the service for myself. I also spoke to Mendes about how she got started and what inspired her begin the kind gesture.
I own a full service hair salon, and we also do eyelashes and makeovers. I’ve gotten several awards including best hair extensions, best salon for ethnic hair and a few more other awards throughout the year. I’ve been doing this for about 18 years and I actually love what I do to this day.
What motivated you to open Salon Monet?
I used to work in the corporate world and I loved my job at John Hancock. It paid the bills, I had great benefits. It was great when my kids were small. But at the same time I always had a passion to do hair and that’s what I would do on the side.
I decided to get serious with it and I went to school, [and got] certified. I started working in the salons on Newbury. I jumped right in, came straight to Newbury Street. It wasn’t even like work.
Talk about Makeover Mondays. How did that begin?
A lot of times Sundays and Mondays most salons are closed. However, my salon is open on that day and I found myself doing a lot of color corrections and extensions on Sundays and Mondays. So I decided to do Makeover Mondays because that’s what we were doing a lot of.
Sometimes we’re a little too busy, but for the most part we transform people in the biggest way and I love doing that. We’ll change their hair, get them hair. We’ll change their entire appearance, bring them into our eye boutique, throw a little makeup on and transform them.
And the entire service is free? What are people’s reactions?
Yes, it’s free. Most of the time they’ll look me up and down and say “hmm…do I want to trust this girl with my hair and appearance.” Most of them will look at me and say no or they don’t have time and ask if they can book it at a different time. I say no because it has to happen right then and there. What I do is bring them upstairs and have them sign a consent form and I’ll do a consultation with them first.
Can you go over my makeover and how much it would cost?
What we’re doing with your hair is a wash, style, and deep condition. I’m actually cleaning up your ends as well. I’m giving you a treatment on top for your own hair and that’s usually $200 for everything. The eyelashes that we’re going to do on you is usually around $200 to $300 depending on the type of lashes you do. So we’re giving you almost a $500 package today.
You’ve been a business woman for the last 14 years. Where do you see yourself in the next 14 years?
The next 14 years I plan on expanding, and I’m looking at different locations in Boston. I will always be on Newbury Street, but I am looking to open another one somewhere in Boston.