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Thrive Global – Gina Rivera Feature Story

Sherrie Wilson

Gina Rivera: “Never be afraid to try new things; This can be scary at times but you must view it as an opportunity to grow”

Never be afraid to try new things. I realize that this can be scary at times. However, you must view it as an opportunity to grow. Each time you step out of the box and attempt something new, you create a learning opportunity and the potential to take your business to the next level. As a […]

Never be afraid to try new things. I realize that this can be scary at times. However, you must view it as an opportunity to grow. Each time you step out of the box and attempt something new, you create a learning opportunity and the potential to take your business to the next level.

As a part of my series about strong female leaders, I had the pleasure of interviewing Gina Rivera. Gina is a well-known icon in the world of beauty. Rivera skyrocketed to success when the company she founded, Phenix Salon Suites, became the fastest growing salon suite company in the beauty industry and the only one to ever be named to Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 500 Franchise List. The company, who has now been named four times to the list recently was ranked in the Top 25. Her company continues to flourish with over 250 locations nationwide and plans for international expansion underway. This success lead Rivera to being featured on the Emmy Award winning show UNDERCOVER BOSS. After receiving one of the highest Nielsen ratings ever for an episode, she was propelled into the limelight and generated a tremendous fan base inside and outside of the beauty world both domestically and internationally. In June 2015, Rivera presented her inaugural “Colour Your Life” stage show in Las Vegas. The show is a collection of her personal stories and reflections. It’s beautifully dramatized to accentuate heartfelt adversity and success with motivational messages that cross all boundaries and extend to anyone in pursuit of a dream. Rivera, a resident of San Diego, California, is no stranger to the camera and stage. She has filmed multiple commercials, music videos, infomercials and has been the subject of several photo shoots. Additionally, Rivera has appeared on the EMMY winning television show EXTRA and has also been featured on EXTRA at the Movies which plays in thousands of hotels throughout the United States and beyond. Professionally, Rivera is a seasoned speaker who has addressed large and small groups alike in the beauty industry setting as well as in business leadership settings. She has also conducted multiple national webinars addressing both the artistic and business side of the beauty industry for organizations such as American Association of Hair Care Professionals and others. Rivera is also a seasoned columnist who has been published over 250 times. She has been featured in well-known publications such as Fashion & Style, Modern Salon, Behind the Chair, NBC.com, OMagazine, Today.com, the Huffington Post, Hairbrained, Franchise Times and several others. Recognized as a celebrity by Facebook, Rivera has over 450,000 social media followers. And, her “Tip of the Week” has quickly become one of the most well-read columns on the web providing advice on how to succeed in business and life to fans and beauty enthusiast. Recently, Rivera embarked on the creation of her own product company under the name by-Gina. Her beauty line is distinctive with many one of a kind products that are unduplicated and sought after in the market including an amazing wet line known for its natural health packed ingredients. Her product lines has been featured at major resorts such as select Caesar owned properties in Las Vegas. In 2018 the By Gina Tool line was released and sold out on HSN (The Home Shopping Network) in just four minutes. Her unique set of products have also brought new technology to the industry including professional styling tools that feature nano-smart infrared technology. The Tools by Gina are rapidly moving off the shelves. Both the wet line and the professional tools have been used by Hollywood A-listers and have been featured twice at the GRAMMYs and the Coachella Music Festival. Rivera is committed to giving back which she does through the Priest James Foundation which she established to support cancer research. Her efforts are in honor of her late mother, Janice Peneschi, a hairstylist who passed away from the devastating illness in 2007. A portion of all product proceeds are dedicated to this cause. Rivera established her own International Artistic Team in 2013 that released and published its first collection “Reflections” in the spring of 2015. The team of leading international artist teach throughout the country demonstrating the latest in hair on the runways and in the salons. Additionally, the team has participated in fashion and beauty events at NBA All Star Week, Coachella Music Festival and the GRAMMYs to name a few. At the core of her success, Rivera is a hairstylist and artist. Her family has an 90 year legacy in the industry that currently includes 25 Salon Professionals working primarily as hairstylist and barbers. Before she was the President of a successful multi-national company, she was a hairdresser who began her career as a little girl sweeping hair from the floor of her parent’s salons. She is now a recognized force in the industry and a household name in beauty.

Thank you so much for doing this with us Gina! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My roots in industry began with my family who has been in the business since 1929. For generations my family has owned salons, beauty schools, and have worked as hairstylist and barbers. Even today, I have 25 hairstylist and barbers in my family. As a little girl, I grew up sweeping hair off the floor of my parent’s salon. Both my mother and my father were hairstylist. I always loved the artistry of the craft. Equally important, I enjoyed observing how people felt once they had a new style. It had the ability to change their entire outlook.

At the age of 17, I completed beauty school and became licensed. I began working in chair rental salons. Later, I met my husband and I opened my first Phenix Salon. I knew at that time that I had a passion for helping other Salon Professionals achieve their dreams of opening their own business. This passion evolved into Phenix Salon Suites which now is approaching 300 locations with more than 5,000 stylist operating their businesses under our roofs.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company?

My most interesting story was being approached to do UNDERCOVER BOSS. I really didn’t want to be a part of it. I was very content being behind the chair and being a wife and mother. However, I succumbed which required me to step out of my box and proceed with the show. Today, I am so glad that I made that decision. It was such a blessing in so many ways. It allowed me to honor some incredible people as well as take my company to the next level.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My most humorous mistake that I have made is when I had a 110-foot waterfall put in my very first location. It was beautiful and I loved it, however, it didn’t love me back! Trying to get it to operate correctly became a two-year nightmare. I spent more time up in the ceiling than I did anywhere else while trying to get it to work. I learned a lot to letting go of my stubbornness. Ultimately, I ended up going with a much smaller waterfall. I also hired a company that new what they were doing rather than relying on myself to be the expert.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

What makes my company stand out is the fact I have worked as a hairstylist behind the chair for 30 years. Likewise, I have been around the industry my whole life. I understand what it’s like to be a Salon Professional and have empathy for their situations. I have built my whole company culture around being supportive of Salon Professionals and their needs. I make sure that it’s not about me.

Phenix Salon Suites actually started when I was at a booth rental salon. While there, I went into labor early with my son. Due to this, I wasn’t at work to pay my rent and my boss called to see where I was. Once she found out, she congratulated me on giving birth to my son but then proceeded to tell me that if I wanted to keep my booth, I needed to have a check to her by the end of the workday. That was it. I was done! I decided to open my own shop and make it about the Salon Professional’s needs and not my own needs as the owner. That’s how Phenix was born.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I am extremely excited about launching Gina’s Platform. This is an app that will assist Salon Professionals with being more efficient in their businesses. It also has some unique features such as the ability to connect with various suppliers instantaneously for products, scheduling tools, payment processing tools, and daily motivational quotes.

What advice would you give to other female leaders to help their team to thrive?

Never be afraid to try new things. I realize that this can be scary at times. However, you must view it as an opportunity to grow. Each time you step out of the box and attempt something new, you create a learning opportunity and the potential to take your business to the next level.

What advice would you give to other female leaders about the best way to manage a large team?

It’s very important that you select people that are not only skilled in their area of expertise but also self-motivated and committed to your brand. Brand commitment and motivation begins with developing a strong culture. At my companies, Phenix Salon Suites and By Gina we have developed a very strong culture and when we rise, we rise together as a team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

God is always first in my life and this is followed by family. My husband Jason, also the CEO of my company, is my rock. He advises me on so many levels both personally and professionally. He is always in my corner encouraging me to move forward. My father has also been instrumental He is one of the most talented hair artists that I have ever known. He has an incredible portfolio of experience and has worked with many of the best -known names in the industry. His mentorship and wisdom are irreplaceable.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

My goal is to help other Salon Professionals fulfill their dreams of owning their own salon. Many people simply don’t have the resources to accomplish this. Our model allows sole beauty proprietors the ability to own a salon at the fraction of the cost of owning a multi-chair facility. The model allows for freedom, greater independence and more time with loved ones. I know the better my company becomes, the more lives that I can affect in a positive manner. I believe this is significant.

What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each.)

Honestly, my answer to this is that I am glad that I didn’t listen to those who told me that I would never make it in the industry. Those that told me, “you can’t.” Instead, I trusted my own faith and intuition.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Never ever let anyone tell you that you can’t.” It’s what drives me every day. “Yes, you can do anything that you want when you have passion and live for the goal you want to accomplish.

I am a very strong believer, so the quote Make God your business and not business your God!” is significant to me.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

One person I would love to sit down and talk with is Vidal Sassoon!