Christina Kirkey has always been interested in cosmetology. At just six-years-old, she loved getting her hair cut and knew she wanted to do it as her career someday. She was always “super girly” and loved creating fake in-home salons and spas for her parents. So, Christina worked hard to graduate high school early and attend cosmetology school. She now owns Pinup Studio, a hair and lash studio specializing in creative color, precision cuts, and all things lashes, in Raleigh.
Carly: What makes Pinup different than other salons?
Christina: I think the majority of what has played into Pinup’s success is the leadership. I am a huge advocate for employees FIRST and my job as the owner is to take care of them. Their job is to take care of the guests. If I am not properly taking care of my girls how can I expect them to properly take care of their guests? I don’t do competitive cattiness - A lot of that comes with this industry and I personally think it's ridiculous... there are over a million people here in Raleigh, there are enough clients for everyone to succeed and we should all be helping each other which is exactly Pinup is about.
Unfortunately, the road to entrepreneurship hasn’t always been easy. Christina worked multiple salon jobs before opening Pinup Studio. Working for someone else just wasn’t her thing. She wanted to create a community; a place where everyone felt heard, welcomed and loved. However, her dreams were placed on pause after her father passed and owning a salon seemed so far out of reach.
In 2018, Christina stumbled upon an open location for rent in Peachtree Plaza. Ironically, she had grown up around the corner and often visited Peachtree Plaza with her dad. They would grab lunch at Jersey Mikes and she’d paint at Bisque Art while he worked outside. Christina took this as a sign and took the leap. Christina says, “I guess when I visited the salon for the first time I felt like a piece of my dad was already on this journey with me.”
Pinup Studio has grown into a very successful salon with numerous talented stylists and a loyal client base. Two years ago, Christina had walked into a dull, black and white barbershop and has transformed it into the pink wonderland it is today. She is loving the creative freedom of being a stylist and salon owner. Seeing their chairs filled with guests brings her immense joy.
Carly: What have been some of the biggest challenges with opening your own salon?
Christina: Learning the back end part of running a business. I love the creative freedom of being a stylist, book work and numbers were never my thing at all. However, you have to learn the foundation so you can grow.
Christina also finds it extremely important to be active and transparent on social media: “I let people see the good, bad and ugly because it's not all pink, shiny, and champagne-filled happiness over here every day! But we are a tight family who takes care of each other, in a very competitive industry I make sure that's left at the door and that we are all there to help support and motivate each other to show up as our best selves.”
The future of Pinup is bright. Christina pictures a 3-5,000 square ft. salon in North Raleigh with an amazing education system in place to provide the ultimate growth for each stylist. She is working towards even more community involvement and providing stylists with a healthy work-life balance so they can continue to show up as their best selves.
Christina’s goal for Pinup Studio was to create a safe space for women to enjoy, to make a positive impact on the Raleigh community and to cultivate a group of employees who believed in giving back as well. Christina has gone above and beyond that.
Carly: What advice would you give to others interested in cosmetology?
Christina: Do your research on where you go to school. There really is no one school better than the other. Stick it out and remember you have to learn the rules in school so you can know how to break them when you get out! Working in a salon is nothing like school and so much more fun! This is a passion-driven industry, it has to be or you won’t make it so make sure your passion is there.
Carly: What advice would you give to others chasing their dreams?
Christina: JUMP!!! Do it and fail unapologetically and then get up and do it again. I have embarrassed myself more than I can count and if I didn’t just get out of my own way I would never be where I am. You are worth it and you owe it to yourself to take the jump.