Denise Provenzano

Founder of Zano Salons and Spas with five locations, headquartered in Naperville, Illinois

Licensed: 37 years ago, after attending Capri Beauty School

Memberships: Cosmetologists Chicago, Intercoiffure

IN ADDITION TO BUILDING a small salon dynasty just outside of Chicago, Provenzano has actively served on the board of Cosmetologists Chicago for more than 10 years, currently serving as its secretary. The association credits Provenzano’s leadership as helping shape salon owner events and education available each year through America’s Beauty Show Back in Naperville, she’s shaping a strong business she eventually plans to pass down to her two sons and their families.

Who was your mentor along the way? “My sister Karen, who has raised four children and obtained her nursing degree while a single mother. She continues to teach me lessons on balancing career and family.”

How has being a woman made your career path harder or easier? “No barriers for me I believe if you can, you will. I think, as a woman in this industry, it’s acceptable to show your soft, kind side and be strong when it comes to making the tough decisions.”

What would you consider to be your biggest professional break? “Letting go of the guilt, and realizing I can be good both in business and have a good family life. Of course it helps now having my family involved in the business.”

What’s the best business advice anyone ever gave you? “I have a friend who told me, ‘Show up for everything.’ I still hear that as a mantra in my head, especially when I don’t feel like going to something. Invariably, that’s always when I make a good connection or find out something new.”

What business achievement are you most proud of? “Most recently I’ve been proud of how our company took the recession by storm. We’ve brought employees together for brainstorming sessions on keeping the business strong—taking charge of our destiny in a fun way. One of the greatest ideas to come out of that was the Zano Teen Club, where we developed special pricing for teens and attended school events to sign them up. Our teen club is 3,000 members strong, we’re tapping into our future.”

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? “Right now, I’m working on succession planning for the future of the continuation of Zano with my sons, determining what positions we’ll hold in the future. Currently, we’re trying to build the strongest organization possible with a series of thinktanks where we examine things like expenses, marketing, customer service and sales. We want all that in order before opening up a sixth location.”