Interview: JoAnn L.S. of Honeybee Hair Parlor
by Gabby Estlund
Last week, I sat with JoAnn L.S., short for Larpenter-Sinclair, 37, at Honeybee Hair Parlor to talk about her mission, her business, and how she’s changing the beauty industry for the better. JoAnn opened Honeybee Hair Parlor in early July 2019. She strives to create a sense of peace and openness to customers - and that atmosphere comes from more than just the free drinks and friendly staff. “I want people to feel really confident and comfortable in their own skin and feel seen. We can make your hair look perfectly executed and well done, and it might even look good on you, but it might not fit who you are. I think there’s a power in what we do to make people feel like they’re beautiful and have value.” Lining the walls of Honeybee Hair Parlor are several framed, vintage hair styling ads and photos, along with eclectic decor, like a kit-cat clock and colorful hooded hair dryers. Most of the furniture is recycled and revamped, which adds to the home-y vibe. We held our interview on an ornately upholstered couch, with a white mannequin head looking at us from behind, balloons floating above it. A sign on the restroom marked ‘Everyone’ hinted at the gender-inclusive atmosphere, and stickers placed on mirrors that read ‘All you need is good hair’ lent a hand of encouragement to freshly-cut and dyed patrons.
JoAnn was most recently an independent contractor at Haba Salon in Iowa City, which meant she essentially owned her own business under the direction of a larger practice. Before Haba, she was the master stylist, educator, and manager of G-Spot Hair Design, also in Iowa City. Previous to G-Spot, JoAnn spent about a year in the color department at Bumble & Bumble in New York. Bumble & Bumble allowed her to learn and grow, which she greatly appreciated. “I feel like people are in such a hurry to get to the point where they’re an established stylist. It’s really hard to go back to being a student once you’re busy, but Bumble & Bumble gave me that. I really love the culture there. I learned a lot, and it made me grow up a lot, and gave me a different perspective, and it was a really amazing company to work for.” New York wasn’t a place she wanted to stay, however, as Iowa is her home state. JoAnn was born in Des Moines, but has spent much of her time in Iowa City. She attended the Iowa City La’James, and finished in only eleven months. In a homemade lookbook placed on the waiting area table, old notes from her fellow classmates were taped in it that read things like “congrats!” and “good luck in the future.”
JoAnn had guidelines when she began seriously thinking of opening her own business last spring. “If I’m going to open my own place, I didn’t want it to be just because I didn’t want to work for other people anymore. I feel like throughout my entire career [opening a business] was a goal. I just had to get brave enough to do it.” I asked where she sees herself and Honeybee in the next five years, and she was quick to answer: “It would be really easy to say that I want to keep expanding, but really, to me, all aspects of the business are like a craft - I’ve been an educator, I’ve been a student, a manager, I’ve done so many different things. For me at this point it’s about being the best stylist and boss that I can be and creating a really supportive, nurturing environment for people who are passionate.” The products she uses and sells are a reflection of a part of Honeybee’s mission as well. “I wanted the brands that I have to be, when possible, vegan, and absolutely cruelty free, mostly naturally based but also where the performance was really versatile. I’ve worked with a lot of great brands in the past but sometimes I felt like they only work well for certain types of hair.”
She looks forward to making Honeybee a collaborative space, and hopes to host art shows and other events to incorporate local artists. Aside from working with artists in the community, JoAnn had another goal in mind when opening Honeybee, and asked herself, “What can I do to contribute to the culture of the town, and do something that’s a little bit different, so that there’s a place for people that maybe don’t fit into the niches that already exist?” She seems to have accepted that challenge and is working toward making a safe environment in her salon where everyone feels welcomed, but she didn’t do it alone.
“Once people knew what I was doing, [opening a salon], and knew that I needed help, I was really humbled by how many people reached out and helped in the process,” adding, “I couldn’t really ask for anything better.” She was fortunate to have connections with several local business owners who helped her get off to a running start, and Honeybee’s operations are in full swing.
As our time came to a close, JoAnn shared some thoughtful wisdom and advice to our readers: “Don’t be afraid of expressing who you are and what you represent, and don’t feel like you have to adopt a certain standard to be a person that has value and beauty. If you don’t get out of your comfort zone and explore, you might just stay stagnant forever.”
Photos by Gabby Estlund