Meet Susan Soto
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELLED
I came into the skincare industry, and to the Dermalogica tribe, in a mysterious way. Or perhaps I should say these things came to me.
I had a degree in fine arts. I drew and painted, and had designed clothes and created a small apparel boutique line. But before long, I found myself entrenched as a corporate “road warrior” for a major retail clothing brand. I was on the road all the time, and was a 24/7 workaholic. It was lucrative, demanding, and exhausting.
So, I decided to take a year off to decompress. I started painting again, worked in my garden, took pottery classes, began writing a novel. I felt hopeful and joyful for the first time in many years.
Then, life changed again. A twist in the road. About 15 years ago, my daughter, Robin, for whom our salon is named, found herself in the midst of a divorce, with my new grandson in the mix (he’s 17 now—and just started driving!). She needed help with her salon business in the Atlanta area. And, my baby needed me so I took off my mud-, paint- and clay-caked gloves and overalls, moved south, and joined her.
At first, I simply answered the phones and greeted her clients. What fascinated me were the relationships which formed with clients, feeling their energy. I felt that energetic connection, and wanted to engage it in a more direct way.
So, another turn in the road. I went to school to get my esthetician’s license. I was blessed to have a teacher who took what we were learning beyond the mechanics. Under her vision and guidance, I realized that our profession is about so much more than sloughing off dead cell debris and plumping up collagen. It actually is all about being fully “present” for someone, in an energetic sense. This shared presence and energy-exchange is transformative. Then I discovered the training videos made by Jane Wurwand for IDI and Dermalogica. I also felt this dynamic, transformational energy from Jane.
It takes faith in something bigger to keep it all together. In 2009, our salon had the opportunity to move to a larger, better location. My daughter and I both knew that this was the next mysterious twist in the journey. I decimated my retirement funds for the relocation and the remodel, and we made the move, even though the American economy was literally going down, down, down in flames as we packed the boxes. No banks were lending at the time. American Express had just cut our business credit limit by half (it has since been restored!). We added services, in addition to growing in terms of space, and doubled our income in the first year.
This personal connection gives us empathy for entrepreneurial women who need microlending. My family was blessed to have our own financial resources, but many people do not. It gets back to feeling a connection. Of course, I was excited to have our salon participate in www.joinFITE.org. We are planning our second FITE event now. We have helped fund 5 women so far, in Peru, Benin, El Salvador, Sierra Leone, and a woman here in the USA, in West Virginia. FITE is a way of connecting today, right now, not tomorrow. As an Atlanta based entrepreneur, I’d like to encourage everyone to vote and bring Grameen Bank to Atlanta next, so we can help even more women stat or grow their business!
We also work with Travelers Aid / Atlanta, which is a national non-profit fundraising organization which raises money for people who are stranded in Atlanta for any reason, or are homeless. The Atlanta branch of Travelers Aid also provided relief to countless evacuees from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And, our salon also supports women in the arts in our community.
I often laugh with my clients and tell them that this is my last and final career. Although, you never know…
Susan Soto is the owner of Robin Stiles Salon in Atlanta, GA.