Natalie James is the fearless founder and CEO of Vent Blow Dry Bar in Toronto’s Liberty Village. She left her 9 to 5 job to fully commit to her vision of becoming a business owner—not only to achieve her dreams of entrepreneurship, but also to help women gain confidence and have a positive experience at the salon. We asked her about struggles, inspirations and what advice she has for other women looking to take the same leap.
How did Vent Blow Dry Bar get started?
I often wondered why there wasn’t a place to get a quality, professional blowout in an environment that made me feel like I was being treated to something special. I was approaching 40 and had a busy career but often felt there was more to life that I wasn’t experiencing. These feelings, combined with the utter shock of turning 40, caused me to do a lot of reflecting and soul searching.
Being a busy mom of three young children at the time, I had little to no time to do my own hair, but held a life-long love for all things hair and make-up. I made a conscious decision to do everything I could to chase my dream of entrepreneurship, even if that meant risking everything.
What have you learned about inner and outer beauty throughout your experience?
Being born with a rare condition, which left me with a physical deformity affecting my entire body, has taught me a lot about inner and outer beauty. My condition caused one side of my body to grow larger than the other, in equal measure from my neck to my toes, almost as though two different bodies were fused together.
In a search for answers, my parents took me back to see the specialist that I had seen when I was born. After numerous tests and doctor’s visits my hopes for a cure were shattered when a doctor told me that there was nothing that could be done. With good intentions, the doctor looked at me and said, “You’re a pretty girl, just be grateful it didn’t affect your face.”
From that point forward the doctor’s comments became my inner dialogue as I began the battle with my own body. Spending most of my life uncomfortable in my own skin, I found my expression and confidence through hair and makeup.
Over the past two years, I have had numerous discussions with our clients who have shared personal stories of anxiety or insecurities related to their appearance. It has been very rewarding to enhance their natural beauty so they look and feel like the best version of themselves.
What distinguishes Vent from other blow dry bars?
At Vent we are focused on the one part of women’s hair regimes that we require most frequently and that’s blowouts. We are focused on providing a professional hair service for women (and a few good men), but more than that, we aim to provide an experience where women can relax, unwind and get some much-needed time back to themselves.
Vent’s salon design and construction was carefully planned and includes a full-service bar, USB charging stations at each styling chair and floor to ceiling mirrors behind each styling station. A luxurious setting and 10-chair styling bar enables Vent to host events, bridal parties and large groups in a luxurious setting.
What advice or tips would you give to any young women or entrepreneurs?
My advice would be to align your business or side gig with your passion. When you base your idea off something you love, you will be more focused and motivated to put in the long hours and make the sacrifices that are required to be successful. For me, starting when I was in my 40s posed a whole slew of challenges, but that being said, it was the culmination of life experiences and timing that encouraged me to take the leap.
Do you have any advice or tips for hair care?
I think the single most important thing to remember about our hair is that there is not a one size fits all routine for everyone. Hair care should be customized to meet the current needs of our hair. The change of seasons is always a good time to reassess and make the necessary adjustments. Aside from that, I would say to have fun with your hair. Often times women get comfortable with a style and never change things up.
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We saved this for the perfect sunny day ☀️ It was such a pleasure to style this beauty @astridloch. Not only is she unbelievably stunning, she is also super sweet 💕 . . . . #beachwaves #torontoblowdrybar #itfeelsgoodtovent #bachelorinparadise #blowout #blogto #torontolife #torontobeauty
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