Lexington, KY – Hairstyles are ever-changing, but the dedication and work ethics of Donna Barber and Lisa Maffett, owners of the hair salon Clip Art, located at 110 West Maxwell St., haven’t been altered a snip since the business opened 30 years ago.
Barber and Maffett have been friends since their days at Bryan Station Junior High. After their requisite training as barbers, they worked together for five years at the Barber Shoppe, on the corner of High and Lime, before launching their own business.
As it does in every conversation, Maffett’s vivacious personality shines through when she talks about Clip Art’s humble beginnings.
“One day, Donna just saw this cute little place (Clip Art’s current location), and we just decided we’re doing this. The owner wanted a five-year lease, but, honey, we had no money,” she said with a laugh. “He settled on two.”
With $2,500 pooled from Barber’s father-in-law and Maffett’s father, they acquired what few tools and equipment they could afford and opened their door in February 1980.
In a recent interview for Business Lexington, Maffett and Barber shared their three decades of insight and experience as local business owners.
BL: What were your motivations in starting your own business?
Barber: Peace – and flexibility. Freedom – my family was always on a football field somewhere, and I wanted to be there. (Donna’s husband was a football coach at Bryan Station and later at Dunbar, and her son eventually received a football scholarship at Syracuse.) Don’t get me wrong; we work hard and long, but (we have) flexibility.
BL: What’s the best aspect of owning it all?
Barber: We love the community we have inside this place. We give people time to relax Ö do nothing for a little bit Ö and be taken care of. Heck, I get my hair cut here just to be treated like a client.
And it is a family here. Betty (Bryant) has been here 17 years, and Nancy (Haney) for 10; it’s a family affair. They both walked in and saw the way we do things here and knew they’d fit right in. It has worked great for all of us. And (with) our clients, these are long-term relationships. Lisa still has her first client.
BL: And the most difficult part?
Barber: Well, when we wanted to buy the building in 1984 – a client bought it in 1982, and we rented it from him for 2 years – we had to get our husbands to co-sign the mortgage. We had worked, run the business, proved ourselves – but two women? We couldn’t borrow the money we needed to buy this place on our own. And then there were issues we didn’t expect. We have been broken into twice. They took everything – (not only) the equipment, but the styrofoam cups and paper towels, too. Now we have a security system that we pay for every three months.
BL: Any lessons learned?
Maffett: From the beginning, when we looked at the pile of equipment we needed to get going, Donna kept pulling this and that off the pile because we couldn’t afford it. We still pay C.O.D. for most things. And our business is built on goodwill. We’ve had to draw the line once in a while, but we don’t do what we can’t afford.
BL: What helped you out the most?
Maffett: Without a doubt, we cannot go without mentioning our husbands. Jim (Lisa’s husband) is a contractor, and we have pictures of the four of us, long-haired in those years, scraping, sanding and painting. Besides all the work they did, it’s been their support all these years. George (Donna’s husband) was definitely part of our success. And then later on, Betty and Nancy brought their reputations with them and have just become a part of everything. We’ve found a niche with the downtown professionals, too, because we open early, work during lunch, stay open later – anything to cater to their needs.
BL: Any advice to someone thinking of starting his or her own business today?
Barber: Be ready to be dedicated – and grow alligator skin. Work hard and then work harder.
BL: What does the future hold?
Barber: We’ve just remodeled. We’ll just keep on keepin’ on.
110 West Maxwell Street sports a Bluegrass Trust emblem on its facade and, without a doubt, the legacy of the building now includes the hard work, dedication and 30-year reputation of the Clip Art crew.