Debra Neill Baker
Chairman and Chief Energy Officer
Licensed: 33 years ago in esthetics from Christine Valmy Academy.
Affiliations: ISPA, PBA
Soon after taking her first job as an esthetician, Debra Neill Baker realized she had too much energy to be in a room with one person at a time. She found herself carefully observed the relationship between the hairdresser and the client and soon made it her personal mission to help the salon and the stylist understand the power and influence they have through their clients. It’s a mission she continues today, as she helps lead Neill Corporation, the largest Aveda distributorship, the owner of SalonBiz software and the Paris Parker Salons, and the founder of Serious Business, an educational forum that draw more than 1,000 owners, managers and stylists each year.
How did your career lead to your current role? “Honestly, my career and life naturally unfolded into where I am today. Once I connected to the beauty industry, whatever role I was playing, I always loved it, felt like I added value and it led me to the next step in life.”
Who was your mentor along the way? “A mentor is someone who imparts wisdom and shares knowledge and I’ve had many, from my grandmother who raised me to my late husband Edwin Neill to my current husband Michael Baker. Each person has added to something different to my wisdom and knowledge.”
As a woman, what barriers, if any, did you come across during your professional growth? “I’ve never felt any barriers. I think the essence of our industry is linked more to the feminine. For me, it’s been more about being at the right place at the right time. I loved being a woman, coming of age during the 70s feminine movement and the beginning of the self-help movement. Heart and intuition are my strengths, and I had to work on those things I’m not as comfortable with, such as the financial side of the business. One of my philosophies is to be in the flow with faith in action. I’ve learned that when I focus on my strengths, the weaknesses were not so apparent.”
What would you consider your biggest professional break? “When I was 22 years old and came to work for Neill Corporation—that set me on my path.”
What the best business advice anyone ever gave you? “That we are only as successful as our customers and that we have a co-destiny with them. That was Edwin’s philosophy, and that’s been a part of our life at Neill Corporation. Everything starts with the relationship that you have.”