Salon offers free cuts after Nautilus trims jobs

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — When entering a job interview, one of the key qualities any candidate should have is self-confidence.

Having that confidence can be hard after a person loses their job and is struggling to find money and time to get the simplest things done, such as their hair.

Melissa Shepherd, owner of The Hair Junction in Independence, hopes to help those affected by the most recent layoffs at the Nautilus plant in town.

Shepherd grew up in Grayson and moved away for 19 years before returning a few years back. “After living in different places, I realized that some of the best people are right here in Grayson. This county has just been so good to me.”

Shepherd has had family and friends affected by the closing and downsizing of the local factories and saw what a burden it placed on them.

After hearing about the most recent layoffs at Nautilus, she decided she wanted to help those people out.

This month, she decided to begin offering free hair cuts to any employees that had lost jobs at the plant.

“It's hard to get back out there,” Shepherd said of the tough job market. “If I can help someone feel good about themselves, and they can go into an interview with more self-confidence, they have a greater chance of landing that job.”

Many local businesses are changing tactics to bring in new customers, but Shepherd's idea didn't involve profiting from them.

She began thinking of the idea after hearing of the layoffs a few months back, and consulted with a friend in Ashe County, N.C., who has been in the hair business for years.

Shepherd said she approached her friend and asked for advice on what she could do, and how to see the plan through.

After the talk, she knew she was doing the right thing.

“It's all on an honesty basis,” Shepherd said of the customers who can receive a free hair cut. “Obviously, I don't know everyone that was laid off, but if a person comes in and says they were, they can get a free cut.”

After losing a job, it can be tough for a person to come up with money for groceries and house payments, much less to get a hair cut.

“There isn't much money to go get something to help them to feel confident for a job interview,” she continued. “This... it's just a little bit of my time and my way of giving back to the community.”

Shepherd believes wholeheartedly that if a person enters an interview with their confidence up, it helps them along. If they go into it with a lack of confidence, the interviewer gets that vibe, she said.

Plans are to run the promotion through the end of May, giving those affected about six weeks to collect.

While she does recommend people make appointments, she welcomes walk-ins at her salon, too — but it could be 30-40 minutes wait.

Once the first round of the promotion ends, Shepherd said she isn't opposed to doing it again in a few months for those who are still struggling to get back on track.

“I'd like to see other businesses give back, as well,” she said. “If it wasn't for my customers, I wouldn't be here.”

She added that when a neighbor is in need, people — and small business owners — need to help each other out.

One added benefit to the promotion, Shepherd hopes, is attracting new customers. While the people may be getting their hair cut for free this time, they could become potential customers later once they get a job.

Shepherd insisted that it's not just about bringing business in.

“With the economy the way it is, this shows even a small business owner can help out and give back in some way.”

Shepherd took over The Hair Junction in March 2008, after working there for six months prior.

She has been in the hair business for almost 16 years.