In 2007, Julia Shivonna Green launched LaBella’s Salon in Gulfport with a hope and a prayer.
“Initially my ex-coworkers and neighbors were my only clientele,” recalls Shivonna Green – who found herself at a disadvantage not being from the area. “Oftentimes, I provided free services for advertising purposes, which did generate clientele.”
Shivonna Green graduated from cosmetology school in Tuscaloosa, Ala., in 1995, and after several years of working in the insurance industry, she left the corporate world to pursue her calling as a stylist.
“My oldest sister, who is deceased, introduced me to this industry when she was a cosmetology student,” says the Demopolis, Ala., native. “I was a model and began to take an interest in it as a teen.”
At the time, with two young children to raise, Shivonna Green sought a workplace near their schools with a family-friendly atmosphere.
“Unfortunately, finding a salon that fit my personality and allowed my kids to drop in every so often wasn’t as obtainable as I hoped,” Shivonna Green says — so she chose to go solo. After vetting several spots, she chose Norwood Village Shopping Center “because of its diverse community and being close to my home.”
The salon name, which Shivonna Green picked with help from friends from Cincinnati, means “beautiful woman.” To spread the word about LaBella’s, she walked neighborhoods, sent letters to churches to read in their announcements, placed signs and mailed postcards. The salon opened with very little capital, Shivonna Green says — preventing her from hiring contractors and necessitating long hours.
“We pretty much endured some very long days and nights to meet our opening date,” she says.
Given her own experience of relocation, Shivonna Green found she could relate to military women and spouses, who became her focus and helped her business grow.
“The beautiful thing about military personnel is that, whenever they were scheduled to relocate, they would replace themselves as a client with a friend or new coworker,” she says. “Eventually, my business started to increase due to opportunities that were presented by discharged, retiring veterans, spouses and civilians.”
Today, LaBella’s is two doors down from its original location and serves a largely African-American clientele. The salon specializes in healthy hair, precision-tapered short styles, vibrant color and natural-looking extensions. Besides services, customers can buy professional beauty products, such as shampoos, conditioners, holding sprays, oils, natural hair products, hair extensions, satin head wraps, and satin bonnets. Chi oil sheen, Chi holding spray and Design Essentials edge control are among its best-selling items.
After working alone for the first year, Shivonna Green started hiring contract stylists – with three employed there today. She says it’s not uncommon for LaBella’s stylists to help each other so they stay on schedule and serve the client better.
The owner names her number-one goal as providing a superior experience from start to finish.
“I also want to inspire through giving back and serving our community,” she adds, noting that the salon holds an annual teen workshop called Confident Girls, focused on teen pregnancy, drug use, friendships, leadership, bullying, body image, self-compassion, conflict resolution and college readiness. “Finally, as I have become a teaching salon, I would love to train the next generation of excellent hairstylists.”
IF YOU GO
12100 U.S. Highway 49, Unit 742, Gulfport
Tuesday- Friday, 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m.
Saturday, 7 a.m.-2 p.m.
LaBella’s Salon (Facebook)