Confidence goes with a good haircut

Tricia Zinke didn’t plan to be a hairdresser. Immersed in music from a young age — from singing to playing the trombone — she always thought she would become a professional singer or musician. To follow that path, in 1998 she spent a year with Up with People, a group that travels the world performing musical shows and doing service work.

“We would take a cast picture at the beginning of the year, and we all had to look the same at the end of the year,” explains Zinke. “But we were all broke, so a couple of us trimmed everyone’s hair.” With the latter experience in mind, Zinke decided to go to beauty school to help pay for college when she arrived back in Asheville. The beauty bug had bitten.

Today, Zinke owns Asheville Hair Design, a full-service salon on Hendersonville Road. A year and a half in business have presented many learning experiences, especially concerning management and money, she says.

“I’ve had a lot of different jobs, but I’ve never been in a management position before,” says Zinke. So she had to build her communication skills and confidence for the new role. At first, Zinke was over-accommodating with her employees. “I wanted everyone to be happy, so I would sacrifice myself to make that happen,” she explains. “But I’m realizing that the people who work here don’t want a friend; they want a boss.”

That shift in thinking has provided both personal and professional results. “I’m a lot stronger now,” she says. “I’m much more confident when I speak my opinion, and I’m better at focusing my team’s energy.”

To discover her “leadership voice,” Zinke worked with Kimberly Hunter, a Mountain BizWorks business developer. “She keeps me on track, and helps me define my role in my business and actualize my goals,” says Zinke.

One of those goals is to work against the stereotypes associated with the hair industry. “I don’t tolerate drama, gossip or cattiness,” she says. “I don’t want my stylists to feel like they have to watch their back all the time.” Instead, she aims to create an environment where stylists feel comfortable and can focus on their clients.

Another challenge has occurred on the financial side. Like many new entrepreneurs, Zinke underestimated the costs of starting a business when she drew up her initial budgets. “It turns out that to [install] sinks in a business requires an $800 permit from the city — that’s just one example of a cost I wasn’t aware of at the beginning. And those little things really add up.” Fortunately, she was able to receive a loan and line of credit from BizWorks that helped cover opening costs.

If she were to do it all over again, however, Zinke says she would take more time to do her homework. “I should have gone back to every single salon owner I know and asked them what they had to do to open their doors.” She recommends that owners of other start-ups do the same. “Ask questions and find as much information as you can,” she advises, “whether it’s from searching the Internet or pounding the pavement.”

Today, Zinke focuses on growing her team and establishing consistent growth. “I want to surround myself with people like me — stylists who don’t just give a good haircut or color, but who focus on actually transforming a client’s energy into a more positive state of mind.” A self-described “hair snob,” Zinke is a big proponent of the power of a good cut. “You can walk into the salon having a crappy day, and walk out feeling amazing. Sometimes I feel like the hair whisperer!”

Asheville Hair Design is located at 900 Hendersonville Road, Suite 103 in Asheville. Learn more at or by calling 274-4006. To learn more about small business loans, coaching, and classes from Mountain BizWorks, visit or call 253-2834

— Mountain BizWorks supports small businesses in Western North Carolina through lending, consulting and training. For more information, visit

Anna Raddatz is development and communications coordinator at Mountain BizWorks.

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