Niki Klaczany had graduated summa cum laude from Rider University with a bachelor's degree in psychology.
But she was working for a software company in order to pay the bills.
So, naturally, when Klaczany spotted a “For Rent” sign outside her Hoboken apartment in 2013, she signed the Bloomfield Street lease on the spot in order to start … a hair salon?
“I thought, ‘What am I doing? I really like to do hair — why am I stuck in this job just because of my student loans?’ ” Klaczany said.
She had, after all, earned her cosmetology license in high school and had always been hairstyling on the side.
She just hadn’t ever seen herself as a business owner until then.
“I jumped out of pure frustration and anger,” Klaczany said. “I had no plan and no money, but I just said, ‘I’ll figure it out as I go along.’
“I was tired of doing something I didn’t love.”
Over the next 11 months, Klaczany, her father and a few of her dedicated friends would construct the salon from the ground up.
“I originally wanted the space to be a hub for bridal hair and makeup services, but then I discovered blowout bars,” Klaczany said.
Luckily enough, Hoboken did not yet have one.
“I had no idea what was going to happen, but somehow, it worked out,” Klaczany said.
Today, Up & Out Blowout + Updo Bar is open seven days a week — and still increasing in revenue every month after having grown four times in its first year.
That’s not an easy task in such a high- profile location as Hoboken.
“We don’t cut or color, so we damn well better be good at what we do,” Klaczany said.
While its 10 employees specialize in curly blowouts using just a blow dryer and a brush, Up & Out is more than just shampoos, curls and braids — the salon also offers spa hair treatments, bridal hairstyling, makeup artistry, on-location work and house calls.
“Our clients are often repeats — we know their dogs and babies and significant others,” Klaczany said. “They like us as people and we just happen to do a good job.”
Now that Up & Out is no longer the only game in town, such familiarity becomes that much more important.
“There are a couple (blowout bars) here now,” Klaczany said. “It just lit a fire under us to further hone our craft and keep up with all the trends.”
The threat of market saturation also inspired Klaczany to get creative and reach out to likeminded businesses in the area — such as Work It Out Gym in Hoboken and 942 Summit, a gluten-free tea room in Jersey City — to create pop-up Up & Out stations within their shops.
Cross-promotion and the youthful demographic, Klaczany said, is one of the better perks of being a business in Hoboken.
“I’m not sure if every area in New Jersey is meant for something like this,” Klaczany said. “In New York City and major walking cities it makes sense, but in smaller towns, I’m not sure if a salon can survive and thrive just on a blowout.”
Then again, few people encouraged Klaczany to start Up & Out, either.
Seeing as she was just 25 years old when she started the business, Klaczany struggled to find support within the business community.
“People thought I’d dig myself into a hole and constantly told me not to go through with it,” Klaczany said.
“And it was a huge thing to tackle — you don’t know where to begin. … There are so many questions. … How am I going to do payroll? Retain clients? Apply for licensure and inspection?”
But Klaczany looked to other millennial business owners for motivation.
“When you’re young, you’ve very moldable, your opinions can shift and you can adapt to the changing times, what an area needs and the cool trends,” Klaczany said. “The younger you try something like this, the better.”
But she still surprises people when she introduces herself as the owner.
“They’ll say, ‘But you look so young!’ Then I tell them my story,” Klaczany.
What’s most rewarding, however, is when Klaczany gets the chance to encourage younger clients that are interested in starting businesses on their own, too, to “go ahead and do it.”
“I tell them to trust themselves,” she said. “When they take advice, listen, but don’t make immediate decisions.
“It’s your own business — you have to live with the decisions that you make.
“You have to run it your own way.”
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Niki Klaczany learned firsthand how difficult it is to build a business in New Jersey.
“I learned a lot about construction and code — how difficult it is to get permits; inspections; what’s legal; all that paperwork,” she said.
“And rules are different here in Hoboken than they are in New Jersey than they are nationally.”
But all that wouldn’t stop her from opening up more Up & Out locations in the near future.
“I’ve been trying to expand for the past year,” Klaczany said. “With this one, I wasn’t too cautious. It was just all excitement because we didn’t know what we were jumping into.
“Now, I’m just waiting for something to feel right.”
NJBIZ asked Niki Klaczany of Up & Out, Noel Descalzi and Lisa Bruno of Work it Out and Krista Zevoteck of Grandma Downtown what it takes to be a successful, millennial, woman business owner in New Jersey:
NJBIZ: What, in your opinion, do successful women always do well?
Niki Klaczany: Interdependence. When working together, I think women are more likely to say, ‘I’m the boss, but what do you think? How can we tackle this together? Because I can’t do this alone.’
Noel Descalzi: They are driven and motivated 90 percent of the time.
Krista Zevoteck: They support other women to be successful. I get emails all the time from people asking if I’m hiring because they see a promising startup and how fast it’s grown. One girl, the same age as me, even made me cry because I felt so proud of myself that someone was emailing me and asking me for career advice.
NJBIZ: What are some common mistakes that women tend to make?
Lisa Bruno: It’s very easy as a young business owner to think you know everything, but you have to listen. You can learn a lot from other people.
NK: I’ve been putting in the effort to learn how to turn off for a little while — to not worry or stress and learn how to trust the salon is not going to burn down. I have to say to myself, ‘Chill out, calm down, and go do some yoga. Yes, I’ve got work to do, but you need to make this happen.’
KZ: Thinking small and doubting their skills!
NJBIZ: How can women truly “have it all”?
NK: I haven’t put too much thought into my future because I’m super-focused on the salon. When I wake up from when I go to bed, I’m working on the salon. On the weekends, I’m working weddings. The rest of my schedule is based on what fires need to be put out. I will eventually figure out a way to find more time, and even though I do miss out on events, and I’m not able to see my friends or family as much, everyone I know understands. Everyone knows this is my priority at the moment. I wouldn’t feel good about not doing all that I could.
ND: We’re still in the process of figuring out where balance lies. We’re on all the time. We manage both studios, we have large staffs, brick and mortar locations are a lot to take care of — there’s really always something. But we’re in the process of learning our boundaries.
LB: I’m actually still trying to figure out the 26th hour of the day.
KZ: There was a certain part of this whole adventure when I became a hermit and it got to me. I have to make time for myself because you need it to keep sane.