Debra Neill Baker

Chairman and Chief Energy Officer, Neill Corporation

Licensed: 33 years ago in aesthetics, after attending the Christine Valmy Academy

VERY SOON AFTER taking her first job as an esthetician, Debra Neill Baker realized she had too much energy to be in a quiet room with one client 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, which is the largest Aveda distributorship, the owner of SalonBiz software end Paris Parker Salons, and the founder of Serious Business, a forum for inspirational business education that draws more than 1,000 owners, managers and stylists annually.

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.”

How has being a woman made your career path harder or easier? “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 feminist movement and the beginning of the self-help movement. Heart and intuition are my strengths. I’ve learned that when I focus, on my strengths, the weaknesses, aren’t so apparent.”

What would you consider your biggest professional break? “When I was 22 and came to work for Neill—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.”

What business achievement are you most proud of? “Creating a blurred life here work and home life are completely connected. It’s awesome, and it’s a relief, to have adult children who are grounded and successful. And I’m proud of Serious Business, the intent of which is to expose our industry to the most current thinking, people and ideas both in and out of our industry. Our core belief is that all business development is sourced in personal developments.”