Posted: January 28, 2021 Minimizing Waste and Maximizing Kindness in the Salon Industry
VER | 403 Water Street, Eau Claire, WI 54703 | (715) 318-9890
“At the end of the day, that's really what I hope for—that you feel empowered, you feel beautiful, and maybe for the first time in a long time, you feel like someone really saw you,” shared Bobbie Baker, describing what she wants guests to experience at her eco-friendly hair salon in Eau Claire, WI, VER. “I feel like that's all any of us really hopes for in the end, is to be seen.”
The name VER was chosen as an abbreviation for ‘evergreen,’ but it conveniently means “to see” in Spanish and “truth” in Latin. Although Baker was unaware of these translations when naming VER, she says the name worked out beautifully for her salon. “That’s kind of what we do every day—we see the truth about who you are and [help] bring that to life.”
In July 2019, VER opened in a 300 square foot space; it has since expanded to a 2500 square foot space—all amid COVID-19. Baker said, “[I went from] being responsible for myself, to having four staff members. I was pivoting financially and pivoting my role as a hairstylist and a business owner.” She looks back on her path in disbelief. While the thought to delay plans crossed her mind for thirty seconds, Baker said, “I would have regretted it for the rest of my life. Success or failure, either way, it's always going to be the greatest adventure and the most rewarding thing I've done with my life thus far.”
Growth has been Baker’s goal since the beginning. She was eager to create a team of leaders who trust themselves and trust each other. “I had this vision of an education-based salon. . .to provide a safe space [for stylists] to learn and to grow while practicing their craft. In the salon industry, at least in the Midwest, it's very common to graduate beauty school and go straight into a salon and expect to start working right away. . .that [business model] was never okay with me.”
Education is just one piece of Baker’s intentional business model. VER was created to spread kindness, foster inclusion, build community, and minimize waste in an industry that creates more than 877 pounds of waste every minute. As a Certified Sustainable Salon with greencircle salons, Baker says VER can recycle 95% of its salon waste.
“[Contaminated] aluminum foil isn’t normally recyclable and typically goes straight into the trash. That's a huge amount of waste,” explained Baker, “In our salon, we use about four 13-gallon bags of aluminum foil each week.” Fortunately, with greencircle, VER’s metal waste can be melted down and made into new products like car parts and bicycles. Hair clippings can be made into humanitarian products—like hair booms for oil spills. In addition, VER uses eco showerheads to cut water waste by 65%.
Baker’s care for the environment is paralleled by her care for the local community. If you stop by VER, you’ll see an Emily Dickinson quote on the salon window: “I wish you a kinder sea.” The image, designed by local artist, Samantha Hytry, was originally created for Instagram. Though it was never intended for the window, during the build out of VER’s new space, the quote was temporarily added as window decor. Since then, it has unexpectedly become a huge thing.
“VER was founded on a mission of promoting kindness within the community, and caring for people on a deeper level—beyond giving a haircut or color,” said Baker. “Under the surface, there's so much other stuff that’s going on. You're caring for more than hair; you're really caring for that person. . .it's not lost on me the responsibility that I have.”
Baker’s care for the whole person applies not only to VER’s guests, but to her entire team. Just like the business model, VER’s workplace culture is very deliberate. “[Our team] talks about the uncomfortable stuff. We talk about mental health. And every single meeting, we open with a self care ritual,” Baker shared. Adding, “I really want VER to be progressive. I really want to do things other places aren't doing.” Example A: All VER employees had off for Election Day.
After ten years in the industry, Baker says she’s never felt the way she currently feels about her career. “I like to do things big. . .I feel like I'm just at this point now—where I've spent so much of my life playing it safe—that I'm just like, ‘I'm done with that. I'm done with that whole idea. I’m done getting in my own way.’”
If you need a haircut or color and want to support an eco sustainable salon, book an appointment with VER. If you need to restock your hair products, check out VER’s online shop full of Davines products—sustainable shampoos, creams and primers, plus fun things like candles and journals.