Once upon a time more than 20 years ago, Michele Musgrove, MODERN SALON Media’s associate publisher and editorial director, had my role—as editor in chief of SALON TODAY. At the time, there was a general perception that salon and spa owners were close-lipped about their best business-building ideas and reluctant to share their financials.

Determined to prove that perception false, Michele conceived of a competition that would celebrate the best and brightest business minds in professional beauty and encourage readers to spill their numbers and share their successful ideas.

Like many great ideas, Michele borrowed the competition’s concept and tweaked it to make it her own. The inspiration came from a woodworking magazine in our publishing company that had a Wood 100 competition.

Why 200, then? “I liked the alliteration of the Salon Today 200,” Michele says.

She also decided that the competition would measure salons’ growth figures–the percentage of change in annual gross sales from one year to the other. To verify theses sales figures, Michele decided to ask for copies of applicants’ tax returns. When she first proposed the idea, many people in our offices and within the industry told her it would fail. No one thought salon owners would divulge their sales figures in a public forum, let alone pass along their tax returns.

Michele persisted and ultimately proved the naysayers wrong. She developed the idea, designed an application, promoted it, and soon her inbox was flooded. In January 1998, the first Salon Today 200 published.

In the two decades since, the Salon Today 200 has become the most prestigious business competition in the industry. Its data is constantly sourced by a variety of speakers in industry presentations. Its honorees have been celebrated with a party and a certificate ceremony at Serious Business for the past eight years. Salon Today 200 owners and managers have been tapped for best-practice business panels at multiple trade shows. It’s helped many owners find their voice.

In the coming year, I’m committed to paying respect to our ST200 legacy by spotlighting former honorees and reporting on where their businesses are today. And, we’ll continue to seek creative ways to share the wisdom of this year’s honorees through our email newsletters, through stories on salontoday.com and through posts on SALON TODAY’S Facebook page.

Wishing you all a productive and prosperous 2017.