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Beauty From Within – An Empowering, Holistic Approach

Meet Shantenekia (Shan) Phillips, winner of our 2021 Inspiring Women in Business contest.  Shan is the owner, stylist and creative director of Alabasta Beauty & Wellness Salon in Oak Park, Illinois. Since opening Alabasta 15 years ago, Shan has focused on providing a holistic space for her clients in the name of natural beauty and women’s empowerment. In addition to her day job, Shan is an active member of her community as a volunteer for Sarah's Inn, a local domestic violence agency that provides legal help, counseling and additional resources to families in challenging situations, and as the founder of the “Heirloom Piece Project,” an organization that hosts pop up “shops” for women in need. Shan recently sat down with our team to share more about what motivates her as an entrepreneur who gives back.

Q: What is one way you make your customers at Alabasta feel beautiful inside and out?

A: I think that it is very important to set the tone from the moment any customer walks into the door. I make them feel beautiful by putting them in a soothing, holistic space that lets them know they can leave all the outside noise behind. Honing in on the little details matters, whether I’m playing calming music or giving my clients that one-on-one attention and service that they deserve.

Q: How do you balance your work/life balance as a business owner and volunteer for your community?

A: Being a full-time business owner is a lot to balance in itself, and when you add volunteerism to the mix, it can be difficult to carve out personal time. However, I believe that it’s extremely important to prioritize yourself. It can be very easy to forget to do this, but it makes a world of a difference in not only your work, but also in your personal life. This balance is something that I strive for at all times, whether that’s simply setting aside time for lunch or spending time with my family or friends.

Q: What is one thing you continuously hope to deliver to your clients?

A: I hope to always be present and stay connected to my clients – which may seem simple, but this commitment has such an impact on the relationships I build with clients. If I remain present at all times, I can organically understand their needs and how to best serve them. When you work in an intimate setting like a salon, the relationship with each client holds a lot of importance. One-on-one attention is crucial to effectively delivering the right experience for your clients.

Q: Why do you think it is important for small business owners to be active in their community?

A: I’m a firm believer in the phrase, “we rise by lifting each other up.” Giving back to your community through active involvement brings many benefits. Not only does it keep you connected and engaged to the needs of others, but it gives you the opportunity to express your company’s core values, culture and serving purpose.

Q: How does your work at Sarah’s Inn connect to Alabasta?

A: Sarah’s Inn was located just a few doors down from Alabasta during my initial time of service, and it has such a tremendous mission to provide a safe space for women in need. It seemed like a very natural fit to bring my passion for supporting women and helping them feel beautiful to this organization. While I’ve helped Sarah’s Inn in several ways over the years, I spent the most time volunteering as a crisis hotline operator on the midnight shifts, which at times has been very tough because of the often dire situations our callers are in. Ultimately, it is very fulfilling work.

I’ve also connected Sarah’s Inn and Alabasta through an initiative I started called the “Heirloom Piece Project.” The project gives Alabasta customers and women in the community a way to donate new or gently worn jewelry so we can host pop-up “shops” for women in need around Christmas and Mother’s Day. The response has been amazing! My customers and community members donated some of their best pieces for the shops, and the moms of Sarah’s Inn get a real lift from the simple act of choosing something beautiful for themselves. While the shops were originally exclusively at Sarah’s Inn, we’ve since expanded to work with other organizations for women in need throughout the community.  

Q: When emphasizing the idea of self-care and women empowerment, how do your most important pillars of business apply to the work you for Sarah’s Inn?

A: The most important pillars of my business revolve around making sure I put my clients’ needs first at all times. At Alabasta, I value the importance of being present and always making sure I am listening, paying close attention to detail and offering highly individualized care. These pillars naturally carry over to the work I do at Sarah’s Inn and with other organizations for women in need. To provide meaningful support, you can’t take a cookie cutter approach.

Q: What are your goals for Alabasta in the coming years?

A: Because of the pandemic, my storefront was shut down for four months, so I had to pivot to survive. Thanks to that shift, we now have a thriving retail business, which features handcrafted personal care products, artisan-inspired jewelry as well as cold pressed juices and smoothies, to complement our service menu! That retail arm was my saving grace and inspired me not only to explore other avenues for my business but also to plan to expand upon these ideas in the near future.

Because I was unable to physically see my clients for several months last year, I also took to social media to connect with them and share my insights, specifically on food and natural eating. I am a total foodie and being able to share my knowledge on the topic was an opportunity to not only keep engaged but to branch out into another area from a business standpoint. With that, I now hope to expand Alabasta into our Art of Apothecary brand that offers food items as well as education that helps sustain a healthier lifestyle through eating with more natural ingredients.  

Q: If you had the choice to do anyone’s hair or provide any salon treatment for them, who would it be?

A: My mom. She passed away 12 years ago, and it was her illness that started me on the path of wellness and approaching things more holistically. Whenever I have to reflect on my “why,” I always lead back to her.

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