Braid Community Spotlight: Janely Martinez
Hi Braiders, Joli Hunt from the Braid team here. I had the chance to chat with LA-native Janely Martinez, founder and owner of Orem-based hair salon Chismosas. After years of working for others in the beauty industry, she decided to strike out on her own and is here to tell us all about it.
Joli Hunt: Why did you start Chismosas?
Janely Martinez: After almost 8 years of doing hair, I decided that I didn’t want to work for someone else anymore—I wanted some job flexibility. So many of us in Utah Valley are from different places. But, somehow, the Utah Valley culture can overtake us and we start to “drink the kool-aid.” We start forgetting what makes us unique, and what makes us special, because of pressure to be the same.
I grew up in Los Angeles, where I didn’t feel pressure to be anybody else. I’m not saying that Utah Valley doesn’t embrace differences, but I think that we can do better.
Joli: What does “chismosas” mean?
Janely: Chismosas means “gossip.” It’s a word that is used to demean or control women—anyone who wants to speak. If you’re a “chismosa” or a chimoso,” it can be an insult and is often used very negatively. So, for me, it’s about reclaiming that word—there’s nothing wrong with women talking. What do you do at the salon? You talk! You let your hair down, you “chisme,” or “spill the tea.”
Oftentimes, someone with different-textured hair (which isn’t harder to do, but it takes more patience) will get charged double for a haircut—because salons aren’t familiar with how to work with it. I don’t like that—I want to give people the services they need without making them feel different.
Joli: What has been the biggest difficulty for you as you’ve started your business?
Janely: I didn’t have a lot of time to decide to open; I kind of opened out of desperation. I’ve worked at multiple salons in the Valley where I have experienced racism, sexism, and microaggressions from both clients and employers. At my last job, they let me go at the drop of a hat and I didn’t know what I was going to do. When I looked at available salon jobs in the area, I realized that I didn’t want to work for someone else again. Less than a month later, Chismosas was open.
Joli: What resources have been the most valuable to you as a new business owner?
Janely: I will say my husband was really helpful. I’m not a paperwork person—I’m a creative. He was really great. Braid has been super helpful—I know that if I have any questions, I can reach out to anyone in Braid. I’ve had a lot of people who have offered up their own services, and a lot of the women in my life have come forward to cheer me on. That’s why Braid is important—we are stronger together. I could not have done this by myself; I could not have done this even a year ago. With the resources that are available to me now, and with the support that I have from the people who love me, it has been totally different. And part of it was finding the self-confidence to say, “Ok, we can succeed. We can move forward; we can do hard things!” A 22-year-old version of me definitely couldn’t have done this, but this version of me is doing it!
Joli: What are your short-term goals?
Janely: I want to have an official grand opening. I consider right now a “soft” opening…I want to have a party! I want to have keychains; I want merch. I want this to be more than a salon—I want it to be a label that people wear with pride. I want to know that me talking, me speaking my truth, and me standing up for myself—and for what’s right—is never wrong. And I want that to resonate past the walls of the salon.
Beauty is so much more than what is happening to your hair—it’s what is happening inside. So, I want people to feel like they leave my salon restored; I want them to leave just a little stronger, a little more equipped to deal the stuff we know we are going to have to deal with. Because it’s hard. When you are a woman of color, you never know if someone’s negative actions toward you are in your control—people already have their mind made up the second they look at you. So, we have to have the strength and the power and the confidence, in ourselves and in our looks. Our hair is so powerful; it’s our lion’s mane. Even shaving your hair could make you feel powerful.
I have a couple female clients who say to me, “When my hair is too long, I don’t feel powerful because I’m not giving off that masculine energy that is so powerful to me.” And I want to provide that. And the same goes for the girl who has hair past her knees; I want to provide a service to her, too, because that’s what makes her feel powerful. I want to restore women of color. And I want them to have a place where they can always go, a place where they’re not going to be asked to fit into a box. They don’t need to fit into my terms or what’s within my scope of skill. No, this is YOUR comfort zone, and I want to apply that to you. I want you to tell me what to do. Sometimes people feel pressure to do what the stylist wants them to do, and I don’t want to do that.
Joli: Can you tell me some long-term goals and expound on your plans with branding?
Janely: I want to create a single space—specifically for women of color, but for whoever feels marginalized—and if I can make that space bigger, I will! But as long as I can do hair and talk to people, then I’m fine. If Chismosas becomes something bigger in the future, then I am open to it, but my objective is simple.
Joli: What do you think has been your most valuable experience over the last 7–8 years?
Janely: At one point I realized that some people will try to get you down. But, those aren’t the people that you need to listen to—they’re wrong. Because while constructive criticism is a real and valuable thing, some people just want you to accept their dysfunctions and negativity. You don’t have to be okay with that, whether it’s your boss, a coworker, or someone with authority. They’re not trying to create a better space for you—they’re doing whatever they’re doing for another reason, whether they’re sexist, whether they’re racist, whether they simply don’t like you.
If you’re absolutely trying to be a respectful and courteous professional, and they’re not doing the same back, then that’s on them. It has nothing to do with you, and remembering that will get you through the hard times. It’s not going to stop happening, unfortunately, but I feel like knowing that has given me the power to realize that I don’t have to deal with them. I think it took me a long time to figure that out, but I wish it was something I had known sooner. I’ve had to leave jobs because bosses were sexually harassing other people. Sometimes leaving is what’s best even when people around you say otherwise. People tell you, “You have to have a job! You have to put up with the hard stuff.”
But there are things we don’t have to tolerate. The sooner we figure out just how powerful we are, the better.
Joli: What would you tell other women who are starting their own businesses, or who are stepping into the professional world for the first time?
Janely: You just have to quit being afraid of yourself—you need to quit being afraid of failure. Because people are failing you already. So why don’t you just fail yourself for a change, and then you’re the only one to blame!
But really—we have it in ourselves to forgive, and who better to forgive than yourself? So, if the worst possible thing happens, then forgive yourself. If you are sincerely doing everything you can do and you have realistic expectations, then good things will happen.
Joli: How do you balance your work life with your home life?
Janely: I’m married and I am the full-time caregiver for my grandmother. Carving out time for myself is a high priority, because you can’t give from an empty cup. So if it’s “I’m going to spend an afternoon at the movies” because that’s what I need to do, then I’ll do it. Sometimes carving out time for myself means making a meal that I really want to eat.
As a hairdresser, I’m always working with my hands, so my home version of doing hair is cooking. I love to do it—I love to feed people and I love the action; I love going to the store and picking everything out. I’m not one of those people who go running to de-stress—that sounds crazy to me! Maybe other people look at cooking and think it’s an equally-crazy de-stressor, but that cooking is therapeutic for me. My grandfather was a chef—he owned his own business and I grew up watching him cook. My family always told me, “Don’t open a restaurant, never do it.” And I didn’t! I opened a hair salon instead. So I still might not be following their advice the way they want, but it’s fine.
Joli: Do you find inspiration in your grandpa having his own business?
Janely: Yes, and that’s why I wanted my salon to reflect my Cuban heritage. That’s why the name is Spanish, because I want people to know what they’re getting into right away. It’s not your normal salon—this is my salon! And if you haven’t heard about me, you’re gonna!
The wallpaper I’ve chosen is very Havana-inspired and my logo is inspired by a gold Cuban necklace that I wore as a baby. Every chance I get, I try to draw from everything that my family has taught me. I wasn’t around when my grandpa had his business, but I know everyone I know because of his business. He was the most popular guy around because everyone knew that his restaurant was the place where they could go. That’s what I want to create too.
At my grandfather’s funeral, the place was full! It was almost like a party because he was so beloved. He created a space in his community. When he came to this country, there wasn’t much of a gathering-place for his people. So he made a Cuban restaurant in L.A. where Cubans could come and get the food that they missed from home. And I feel like me being here is the same—I want to create a space for people who feel left out. I want them to come and feel safe, knowing that they’re going to get what they want, because that’s what he did.
Joli: I like what you said about the name “Chismosas” letting people know what they’re getting into. I think that’s going to be attractive to a lot of people who identify with Spanish culture, but also to those who see the name and are curious about your salon.
Janely: I’ve spent so much time doing the blonde weave—and I can do it! If you want to come to my salon, I can take care of you. But I want to be able to take care of everyone’s basic needs. I can’t braid, I don’t do relaxers, and I don’t do extensions. So, to the women who want platinum-blonde 32-inch extensions, I cannot help you. If you want box-braids, I can’t help you either. But if you want your basic needs met—if you want a haircut, a deep conditioner, or highlights—then come! If you want me to blowout and straighten your hair, come. I will take care of your basic needs, and I won’t overcharge you. My scope is wide, but if I’m not a specialist for what you need, I can refer you to someone who is. I’m not afraid to pass along clients.
Joli: What are you most excited for in the next few months?
Janely: I’m excited for everything to be done and up. And I’m excited for pictures—all of my girlfriends in L.A. want to see the salon. I’m so excited to share with everybody. I’d love to do a grand opening party where we dance, eat, and celebrate.
We really make a big deal celebrating women who get married, but we don’t take time to celebrate women in their other successes. Maybe I’ll set a party-trend to celebrate women in their business successes.
I’m also just excited to take time off when I want to. Being my own boss, I get to decide what looks balanced for me, and it’s not up to someone else that doesn’t have my best interest in mind—it’s up to me!