Nick, Denise and Sam Provenzano, owners of Zano Salons headquartered in Naperville.
Nick, Denise and Sam Provenzano, owners of Zano Salons headquartered in Naperville.

When Denise and Ron Provenzano launched their first Zano Salons location in Naperville, Illinois, in 1985, their sons were young. “Like most new salon owners, our topic of conversation was always about Zanos whether we were around the dinner table or in the car,” Denise Provenzano says.

As Sam and Nick Provenzano got older, they became more involved. Since the family lived two city blocks from the salon, Denise would send the boys up to mop the floors after closing time. When they were in college prep school, Denise would start the boys and some of their friends working at the front desk. “They were well-behaved and good-mannered, and in the early ’90s we were starting to become computerized which the boys embraced while our staff members were still hesitant,” she remembers.

Finding their Own Way

Sam then Nick both went to college, with Sam earning a history degree and Nick focusing on marketing. And, while both sons would jump back on the front desk during school breaks and over the summer, Denise and Ron insisted they both go out in the world and find their own way before considering working full-time in the family business.

The eldest, Sam, focused on computer science and worked at a local company in an IT position for about three years. At that time, Zano Salons had grown to six locations with a corporate office, and Sam approached his parents about considering him for a technology position. The Provenzanos welcomed him on board, but quickly shifted his position to the manager of one of the locations so he would get more of a well-rounded education and learn leadership skills.

After Nick graduated, he worked in sales with a few different companies. He too came back looking to join the family business, and his parents put him in charge of their smallest salon.

The Business Today

Today, Sam and Nick are in their late 30s. Sam heads up the salon’s IT department, inventory, reporting systems and some of the salon operations, while Nick oversees sales and marketing from the salon’s call center. In 2013, Ron passed away.

Zano Salons' Fab Five (leadership team) from left Nick Provenzano, Sara Provenzano, Denise Provenzano, Sheryl Wieczorek, and Sam Provenzano.

In addition to encouraging the boys to follow their own ambitions, Denise had implemented another family rule along the way—“Don’t date the staff.” It was a rule that Nick eventually broke, dating then marrying Sara, one of the salon’s colorists, in 2009. In hindsight, Denise was happy to add Sara to the family and the Zano leadership team. “I am a hairdresser also, and she gets who I am and how I think,” Denise says. “In addition to being one of the salon’s top colorists, Sara slowly took over the salon’s education program, then contributed to business development.”

Loyola’s Family Business Center

While Denise remains the owner of the company, which now includes four salons and the call center, she considers herself, the boys, Sara and the salon’s CFO Sheryl Wieczorek as the Fab Five, or Zano Salons’ leadership team. Working with family can bring its own challenges though, and the Provenzanos have drawn advice from Loyola University Chicago’s Family Business Center.

The Zano team at a recent celebratory event.

The center is an internationally recognized pioneer and leader in family business program development. “Through the center, you have an opportunity to join a peer group—there’s a group for parents who are owners, a group for the next generation, and even a group for in-laws involved in the family business,” she says. “It’s a place where you can bare your soul, say anything and feel safe with a group of people that understand your unique situation.”

Recently, Denise started meeting with an attorney to explore stock sharing options to allow the boys more of an ownership stake in the company. While that process is in its infancy, Denise took most of last year and really stepped away from the day-to-day operations of the business, so she could focus on long-term opportunities, such as opening an academy or a new brand of salon that targets a different market.

“When you’re working in the company, sometimes it’s hard to see the end result,” Denise says, who admits the process also gives her a chance to observe her sons and see how they work together.

While Denise doesn’t know when she’ll turn over the reins completely, she does know she’s proud of both her sons and her company. “While sometimes they have different ways of doing things, I’m very confident that they have embraced the values Ron and I started with, and that they have the salon’s best interest at heart.”


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