Ricola Elizabeth’s plan was never to be a salon owner. A little over 10 years ago, Elizabeth was working at a beauty supply store and going to college. When she lost her job, she turned to social media for a side hustle.

“I used social media to sell hair extensions, and got a lot of comments, shares and likes,” she says. 

Empowered by the people, she started doing extensions in her kitchen, quickly building up a book of clients.

“I made more money in those two months than I did in an entire year at my previous job,” she says. “The excitement fueled me, so when I graduated from college the next year, I went to cosmetology school.” 

Filling a Void

After graduating, Elizabeth worked in a couple different salons, but found a huge void in the textured hair market.

“Most stylists specializing in textured hair don’t have a structured salon to work in—they are booth renters,” she says. “I wanted to provide a commission-based, structured salon environment where stylists can go through our associate program, gain education, and grow and learn while they provide services.”

So, she set out to fill that void by opening her first salon, Perfect Distraction Hair Gallery, in Atlanta in 2018. Seeing success, she opened her second location in 2022.   

“My structure sets me apart from other textured-hair salons in Atlanta,” she says. “My goal is to have six locations by 2026.”

Tech Fueled

Prior to opening, Elizabeth did extensive research on POS systems before choosing Vagaro

“They had the best reviews, and they accepted American Express, which is important to me, because American Express has high spending Card Members,” she says.

As a business owner, Elizabeth uses the American Express® Business Gold card to make eligible purchases for her business and stay on top of inventory. 

“When I was looking at the benefits of cards, American Express stood out to me,” she says. In addition to being a Card Member, Elizabeth accepts American Express at her salons. “American Express provides me with free signage and supplies, including window clings to let my customers know which card brands I accept. That’s a benefit to my business, and my clients know they can use their payment method of choice.”


Leveling Up

Recently, Elizabeth began working with a salon coach to help her create a 12-week leadership program. 

“I want to give my team members a career path and eventually have shareholders in my brand,” she says. “I may want to franchise as well, and my coaches can give me the blueprint for that.”

Elizabeth says passion for her profession is the secret to her success, and she looks for the same in potential employees. 

“I’m looking at personality,” she says. “Four out of the five steps in my hiring process surround learning the personality of the candidate.” 

Once she has the right person in place, she teaches skills and salon culture. 

“I focus on three things in our culture: fun, learning and making money. If you aren’t doing all three, we need to revisit goals,” she says.  


A Bright, Bold Future

Elizabeth is also looking for leaders when she hires. By 2026, she hopes to have six locations, and she’ll need team members in management positions in each of those salons. 

“The goal is for guests to have the same experience at each location,” she says. “And the experience for stylists must be the same at each location as well.” 

While salon ownership wasn’t her original plan, Elizabeth finds it a rewarding career. 

“I truly enjoy meeting stylists, motivating and inspiring them to grow,” she says. “No matter where their careers go, I know I left an impression on them and will always be part of their story.” 

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