old lessons and failing big
the first name
I still remember when I decided to call my company ma-luxe.
It was a word that arose from hanging out with cool boys who were into hardcore music.
I was fascinated by the term.
My mother is French Canadian and I grew up in a french community - admiring my grand-mother who seemed to embody an effortlessness in beauty I still carry with me as inspiration to this day.
I'd spent most of my late teens completely obsessed with online chatrooms where I met and kept in touch with lifelong friends, and we used hyphens for everything.
I was always making up words that meant other things.
A series of letters or pieces of words combined together to mean something special.
This was the way my friends and I communicated.
The first word that ever held a deeper meaning for us was roxfuk - and that eventually morphed into ma-luxe over time, because the former was too profane.
We loved Foxfire - a book written by Joyce Carol Oates about girl power that was later turned into a movie staring Angelina Jolie. We loved Seven Year Bitch, a band that completely defined an era for me.
I thought Selene Vigil was the ultimate riotgrrrl.
For my friends and me, roxfuk and ma-luxe became movements.
A way of thinking and behaving. A nod to bravery and determination.
These seemingly random words became our little army emblems.
When I got sick - I was diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of nineteen - they were my road map.
A reminder to be strong.
A guiding light that helped me move forward.
To this day when we face struggles, my best friend Beth will often turn to me and say quite simply...
Having said all that, I really do credit ma-luxe for having helped save my life.
my old friend
ma-luxe was in my life longer than most people.
It was my trusty companion through thick and thin for nearly eleven years.
A steadfast and brilliant teacher of life lessons - both big and small - and at times, the kind of frustrating relationship and co-pilot I've wanted to strangle.
I've watched it grow and come to life in new and fascinating ways.
Several times over.
And then I've watched it cower in dissolution.
I've witnessed its strength. Its ability to change lives. I've seen it touch people.
And then I've also seen it change people, too. I've seen it suck the life out of good, strong women.
I've seen it scare them.
And through it all...
From the initial concept in my hometown bedroom to the sole proprietorship and beauty salon in my first commercial brick-and-mortar space - it was 800 square feet - to the creative corporation and mega-project in a 4,200 square foot studio, it scared me.
For me, ma-luxe was life outside my comfort zone. It was a little box filled to the brim with my dreams.
My fucking dreams!
It was the ultimate leap of faith, an all-consuming love affair, and my place for pure, creative freedom.
All of my potential was wrapped up in this unique gift, and I got to venture out into the world every single day - to breathe and build and create - knowing I had a home.
Most people never experience that kind of tether when it comes to their creative work.
And I'll never take it for granted.
the flipside though
Every coin has two sides, and every story has several.
The best way to describe a series of perspectives is to liken them to a Rubik's Cube.
ma-luxe taught me that.
A lot of people will tell you that you don't know what it's like to sacrifice until you experience the BIG things in life, like worse-case-scenario or having a baby.
This is my soap box, so I'm going to just throw it out there...
When it comes to ma-luxe, I think my passion was obvious. I'm just not sure people really understood my level of investment, and I think it's easy to write off your dreams.
Why does it matter?
Because the bigger ma-luxe got, the less I recognized it.
The irony is that - at the end - I was ground zero.
When the curtains finally fell away to reveal a nothingness... As I stood there with my company in my hands, trying to decide how to move forward, it became obvious to me that it just wasn't mine anymore.
And that's entirely my fault.
I've been a sweat-equity member of the creative and business communities for as long as I can remember. We've taught ourselves over the years that you can fail, and that failing is okay.
In fact, we've gone so far recently as to encourage failure.
You SHOULD fail because that's how you learn.
And I agree with that.
When it comes down to it though, very few of us are actually talking about our failures publicly.
We're not telling the stories of our failures.
Instead, we're moving on as quickly as possible.
We're posting pretty pictures on social media and pretending everything is ok.
We're bending the truth - even slightly - to please others because we're afraid of being judged.
ma-luxe was too big of a force to be reduced by fear.
ma-luxe was my cloak of bravery.
In the end, ma-luxe gifted me failure. Isn't that kind of ironic?
ma-luxe gave me failure-equity - the experience of constructing and destructing a dream.
The best thing ma-luxe ever did for me was fall apart.
start up life and the wall
I have this undeniably clear memory of sitting in my brand new studio, holding my first group meeting.
I told the ladies of my collective that I was giving them a vehicle, but they were the drivers.
And looking back, I think I was being really naive.
Naive because I assumed in that moment - everyone present wanted what I wanted.
Naive because I wholeheartedly believed each woman was just like me.
I was ruthlessly hungry for big things and I felt resolved to permanently exist in entrepreneurship.
ma-luxe taught me that only some of us are lifers.
Regardless of what happens to us, we're wired to exist only in our own businesses. We're programmed to keep going - no matter the loss. And in some cases - like I was - we're hell-bent on it.
In reality though, everyone in that room was there for a different reason.
ma-luxe was a magnet.
I think people really wanted to belong to a kind of magic.
The only problem was, I wasn't quite clear on what our magic was yet. Of course, I was moving at lightning speed trying to figure it out - because I knew we had something special - but a start-up is not always crystal clear.
Start-ups are - in fact - confusing and messy.
I truly believed that we could build the magic together. I wanted to build a global company and I'd seen ma-luxe shift and blossom in new directions before, so I trusted the spirit-ghost I was feeding implicitly.
I was devoted to what I believed ma-luxe could become without ever feeling overly attached to any particular outcome.
And that's where ma-luxe broke.
I don't think I ever communicated how uncertain things would feel for some of the ladies around me.
My vision for the end result of ma-luxe never truly mattered to me.
I just felt so deeply devoted to the process.
I held an unwavering faith that if we focused on the work and kept moving forward, the end result would be incredible. I just didn't necessarily know what kind of incredible that would be.
And I expected that everyone around me felt the exact same way.
The truth is, I couldn't possibly predict, anticipate or ever fully understand the reasons why every woman was involved with ma-luxe.
I think some people wanted to ride the wave and experience success without really working for it.
I think others were deeply committed to the dream.
I think it was easy to get romanced by possibility. And I'll admit that - at times - I was the tactful cassanova spouting my honourable intentions.
I think some women had no idea WHY they were joining the collective.
Some joined because their friends joined.
Others just... I'll never really know.
And I've thought about this a lot... Because I accepted responsibility for the fallout when some members realized they were deeply unhappy at ma-luxe.
I carried those feelings with me.
Looking back, I am not sure that ever should have been part of my job.
A few months after I officially closed the business and stopped taking new clients, I found myself alone at my storage unit - where all of the furniture from the studio was chaotically packed away. I stood there, admiring the gigantic collection of random stuff I no longer needed, wondering how I was ever going to capitalize on the loss.
I thought to myself in that moment...
It didn't work out.
I tried something. I committed to something with everything I had - and it fell apart.
In that moment, I couldn't help but consider all of the women who'd been personally upset with me at some point or another for things not working out. And I realized the insane double standard.
My giant mistake at ma-luxe was accepting responsibility for the dreams of others.
In the end, I couldn't blame anyone for my failures.
I had to wrestle with the ending of ma-luxe all by myself - without casting stones or feeling resentment - and it was one of the most profound lessons I've ever learned.
When it comes to your head and your heart, you build your own box.
I let emotions overarch my business.
I allowed people to believe I owed them - even when I didn't. I sometimes even believed it myself. I continued to feed the narrative that I was single-handedly going to make all of our dreams come true, and it poisoned the well of what we were building together.
ma-luxe taught me an unbelievable amount when it comes to self-responsibility.
In the end, your dreams are yours. They belong only to you.
No one can or will EVER make those decisions for you.
When you throw your efforts against a wall, they're either going to stick or bounce back.
I learned that you can't blame the wall.
keep giving or give up
From the outside looking in, ma-luxe looked polished and put together.
At least that's what I like to tell myself now...
If we pissed people off, we understood for the most part that we were just being true to ourselves. If you loved ma-luxe and were a fan, chances are you're relatively blunt and unfiltered too.
And if you're not, chances are we inspired you to become more so.
Over time, I began to struggle with my voice and sense of authenticity.
There were cracks in the story of ma-luxe, and they started to get bigger and bigger.
I kept thinking things would even out and get easier, but that was never the case. The truth is, ma-luxe was an exhausting experience for me. It depleted me both mentally and physically.
I literally became a slave to my dream.
When we find ourselves in the throes of our big notions, we get challenged in every way imaginable.
The fear of failure can be so overwhelming at times, you just want to give up.
And at ma-luxe, I witnessed every form of surrender.
From complete denial and confusion to cold aloofness to flat-out breakdowns - it was hard to watch it all fall apart for the women I was genuinely trying to help.
And with every single resignation, I promised myself I would keep going.
I wasn't taking into account whether pushing forward was the right thing to do for me.
It was a true case of defiant motivation and I wanted to prove everyone wrong.
Over time, I lost sight of why I was building ma-luxe in the first place.
I lost sight of my own values and my sense of purpose.
What started to drive me was pure stubbornness and I let a lot of people cloud my judgement.
If I could go back, I would trust my intuition over the advice of others far more often. I had the opportunity to work with so many amazing women. Women who were making smart decisions.
The kinds of empowered decisions that were truly positive and impactful.
And until the very end, I never thought to do the same.
Instead, my spirit withered away. I stopped being creative. I resolved myself to being a business woman first - even though that wasn't my original goal - and I lost any and all connection with my craft.
Not to mention, I severely compromised my health.
I cultivated a story that was not at all mine.
When I finally did begin to assert myself, it was too late.
Not everyone understood my new - although far more authentic - personality.
They either knew me one way or they didn't know me at all.
A lot of my relationships never recovered, and it meant I had to move forward alone.
It was probably one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do.
I spent a good deal of time after ma-luxe convincing people of my skills and creativity. I realized that although I owned the company, nobody really knew of my contributions to it beyond being a hairstylist.
I think it's a fascinating thing...
I was the sole owner of ma-luxe and yet I felt consistently undervalued and taken for granted. I built a brand identity that did not feed me as a human and with that, I realized I was hiding from the world.
The truth is, I was desperately afraid of being vulnerable.
I was pushing all of these women to be brave. To put themselves out there. And yet, I wasn't listening to my own advice. The failure of ma-luxe ripped my protective layer right off - and I learned that being vulnerable is one of the most rewarding experiences I will ever have as an artist.
A lot of people thought I was totally crazy.
And the truth is, I was.
REALLY FUCKING CRAZY
While I was recruiting the original member lineup for the collective, I would meet some of the women at our demoralized, run-down space, right in the middle of chaotic renovations.
And it was amazing to witness the vast difference in reactions.
Some people thought it was incredible. They could literally see and feel the potential in the space.
And it showed up in their excitement.
Others highly doubted my new project would ever come to fruition.
Looking back, a few of my so-called biggest supporters were indeed my biggest naysayers, and I probably should have seen them for what they were - right then and there.
I was distracted though. I was trying to build something great.
At the time, I didn't realize the ripples I would cause in my industry. I was just so incredibly in love with my new space and the concept of my new business.
To me, it was simple. I wanted to make a positive impact on peoples' lives.
What was happening around me was different though. There were conflicting energies at every stage of growth.
The more I pushed forward, the more resistance I encountered.
ma-luxe taught me all about self-preservationists.
People wanted access.
They wanted to be there because it was awesome. They just didn't want to share it with anybody else.
I made the mistake of tolerating that behaviour even though I didn't feel the same way.
I genuinely wanted everyone to experience the magic of ma-luxe.
The only problem was, I was scared to lose people. I was apprehensive to move forward without my tribe, so I let people sabotage my growth and preserve the stagnancy.
At any point during the three years we were in operation, I could have decided to control that dynamic in a different way. I fearlessly built the boat we were floating around in, and then I became terribly afraid to rock it.
The irony is that, in the end, my fears manifested themselves in ways I couldn't even imagine.
What I was trying to avoid is exactly what happened.
After the ceiling in our beloved studio caved in, I spent a good six months in survival mode.
The truth is, I didn't recognize it.
I was deeply committed to seeing things through because I equated staying the course on my commitments with my level of integrity - but I was operating from a place of panic.
The only problem was, I was sticking to a lot of those promises alone - without the full gumption of an entire creative team behind me, and that affected the outcome of some of my projects.
There was a huge ricochet effect to my relationships in those months.
The actions of others affected my actions which in turn affected their actions and so on and so forth.
Looking back though, I'm not sure we could or should have reacted any differently.
It was - quite simply - a messy time.
As my influence started to wain, I began to see some people for who they really were.
ma-luxe taught me that when you don't have anything to give anyone, it is amazing how easily people forget you.
And this is where it gets good...
Because I learned that worst-case-scenario is doable.
I didn't die. I didn't lose my mind.
In fact, what I gained from the bottom of my business was a confidence in myself I never knew I could have. I was completely and fully written-off in a lot of ways - and the only thing I could think to do at the time?
In those moments, I was reminded of my purpose. I was re-introduced to my values.
And I was free.
be brave darling
There are many stories about ma-luxe out there...
This one is mine.
In my time as owner of ma-luxe, I enjoyed some of the best and most special friendships I've ever had. I can't quite describe the bond that occurs between creatives, but I feel lucky to have experienced it.
ma-luxe taught me that bravery is not ideal.
It is not a matter of making one brave decision - and the rest of your journey evens out.
Instead, it is light and dark and back and forth.
I learned that talent has very little to do with success. Talent is merely a starting point.
The rest is up to you.
I learned that the top and the bottom are solitary but necessary places for people who crave more.
You have to stretch your comfort zone - and that sometimes means enduring new depths to reach new heights.
I learned that contribution is a given.
We can contribute to the larger picture while enjoying our own personal versions of success.
We don't need to sacrifice one for the other.
We don't have to need what other people need. We don't have to want what other people want.
And we don't have to arrive and leave all together.
We can meet along the way. We can impact each other. We can be unforgettable.
We can support each other to the ends of the earth.
But not without our health.
Not without our overall sense of well-being. Not without our spirits fully intact.
And most certainly of all, not without our faith.
We can rely on those who fill us. We can lean on those who hold us.
We can conquer our dreams with those who will stand beside us.
Just never to the detriment of our own self-reliance.
And never to the detriment of our own self-love.