For Black women, the hair salon is a cornerstone of our culture.
Many of us view our stylists as confidantes, the salon chair as a safe haven and hair appointments as therapy sessions. With this, Midge Welch is a therapist of sorts.
The hair stylist knows the critical role salons play in Black women’s lives, something she doesn’t take lightly. “I want my clients to feel like they’re home when with me and my stylists,” she said about her salon Issues, located on the south side of Chicago.
This sentiment was something Welch says was ingrained in her from the very beginning. “I’ve loved to help make people look good since I was a little girl,” she said. “I was always the one styling hair, doing piercings for my friends and really making them feel great about themselves since childhood.”
Growing up in the Dearborn Homes, a housing project in Chicago, she knew her passion would pave a way out for her and her family. At 17, she started her career in beauty as a shampoo assistant at a local salon, a decision she says changed her life. “That’s where I learned everything I know now as a stylist and business owner,” she says, attributing her work ethic and endearing bedside manner to her early employers.
This led to pursuing her cosmetology education to further hone her skills, something she says was pivotal to her success. “I learned how to be a real stylist in school–school is so important,” she said, pointing out that customer service is a lost art for younger stylists because a large portion don’t value formal education.
“Putting my clients first is the reason I’m still here,” she said, referring to how she injects empathy into every customer interaction she has.
After graduating, she opened her salon at just 23-years-old. Now, after being in business for more than 20 years, Issues Salon is a pivotal component of Chicago’s Black entrepreneurial ecosystem. Her clients have always known the value, now the savvy business woman is getting wide recognition for her heart-centered success.
In 2016, Vogue Magazine profiled her and the Black salon experience’s relationship to global culture and recently, CÎROC tapped her for their Black Excellence campaign in time for Black History Month.
“To be recognized by CÎROC as a part of what it means to demonstrate Black Excellence, and to be celebrated as a trailblazer in the city that has been home is honorable. Barber Shops + Beauty Salons are pillars in our community, and a safe space for us to bond through conversation and experiences,” she said. “I am appreciative to be seen on a platform like #CIROCStands by a brand that has been influential in the Black & Brown community that understands the importance of being a conduit for small business owners.”