October 18, 2021

Gina Rivera: Creating a wave of growth by leading intentionally

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Since the last decade, the business world has seen an exponential rise in women entrepreneurs sharing the center stage. It takes an iron will and an intricate understanding of the industry to become a leader who inspires others. One such leader is Gina Rivera, Celebrity Hairstylist & Founder of Phenix Salon Suites. Being in the business since 2007, Gina has been offering professional & upscale suite solutions to beauty and wellness professionals who desire to become entrepreneurs and be their own boss. Considered as one of the top leaders in the industry, Gina, with a dynamic mindset has been inspiring leaders and setting leadership benchmarks for others to follow. Phenix Salon Suites currently has 320 sites across the United States. Their first store is now under development in England, with another 75 planned. They are also looking into additional international markets with intentions to expand.

In an interview with PerceptivX, Gina shared detailed insight into her journey thus far. Below are the highlights of the interview.

PerceptivX (P): How would you describe Phenix Salon Suites? What do you stand for as a business? 

Gina Rivera (G): “Phenix Salon Suites is a leader in the industry and provides an upscale suite solution for beauty and wellness professionals who have the desire to become entrepreneurs and open their businesses. Further, Phenix Salon Suites provides the opportunity for sole beauty and wellness proprietors to own and operate their business in a suite at a fraction of the cost of owning a multi-chair salon. Our philosophy is to keep the Professional at the center of our decision-making process. We understand that if they are successful, we are successful. We believe it’s an honor to help others achieve their dreams of business ownership. 

We also believe in providing support in areas that we can. We currently have a national scholarship fund where applicants that are seeking to pursue a career in beauty can apply to have their cosmetology school paid for. As founder of the By Gina product line, a portion of our sales is designated to cancer research in honor of my mother who was lost to the devastating illness.”

(P): How did it all begin? Tell us a bit about your journey and what led you to start Phenix Salon Suites?

(G): “Coming from a family who has been in the industry since 1929, I was destined to pursue a career in the world of beauty. As a child, I would sweep hair from the floors of my parent’s salon. At 17 years of age, I attended beauty school and later worked in a booth renter salon where I was blessed to develop a strong client following. I truly liked making my clients feel special and I always worked to improve. Later I opened my first salon and I realized how much I enjoyed sharing my knowledge with new stylists and offering support where it was needed. Based on these experiences I realized that not all salons are created equal and a majority of booth renters are provided very little support to ensure their success.

I had a deep passion for the industry but also for advocating and supporting the goals of Lifestyle Professionals. I was particularly interested in helping those who had the desire to operate their own salons but perhaps lacked the financial resources. I knew the options for operating a business in the industry needed to be redefined for sole proprietors working in beauty and wellness. With this, Phenix Salon Suites was born, establishing a new experience and opportunity for Lifestyle Professionals to own and operate a business without the heavy financial burden of opening a multi chair salon”.

(P): What is the secret to your success?

(G): “While I view myself as a leader, I also view myself as a person that has overcome obstacles and at times, naysayers. The skills that have helped me on this journey are the experiences that I have had throughout my career dating back to when I was very young. I worked my way up as a hairstylist and then a salon owner. I focused and tried to learn every facet of the industry. There is always new information, so I am always learning and working to understand and create better opportunities for the Professionals that I serve. 

The main lesson that I have learned is that you must be humble and be a good listener. You need to have empathy for others. I think empathy is key to good leadership. Many great leaders are very empathetic people. Respecting everyone is important. For every leader, it’s important to be authentic and genuine as well. This is crucial in today’s business world. You are going to make mistakes and encounter obstacles, but you must be ready to learn from these experiences and move on. This is how you improve as a leader. 

“As your leadership abilities evolve, more confidence emerges and it becomes easier to express ideas and share opinions.”

– Gina Rivera

I think for me, the biggest barrier has sometimes been set by myself. To explain, I don’t believe that others can define your goals or where you want to go professionally. For me, I can get in my own way at times by putting limitations on myself. I have overcome this by always pushing myself to step outside of my comfort zone and attempt to achieve and learn new things. Rather than becoming dependent on others for my success, I believe that I must be accountable for achieving my own goals. Of course, there are always others that help you in their roles, but it’s important to stay focused and forge forward.”

(P): Who was your role model? How do you mentor other upcoming leaders?

(G): “My mother was my role model as a person as well as a businesswoman. She was a hairstylist, a business owner, and an incredible person that deeply inspired me to be my best. When it comes to mentoring, I have been doing complimentary speaking engagements in beauty schools across the country. I am doing this in an effort to share my story and encourage young people that have aspirations in the industry. For women leaders at any age, it’s really important to attend educational events in a person’s chosen industry. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in the game. There are so many resources available, it’s important to seek out these opportunities and continue to grow throughout your career. This is part of what defines a great leader.”

(P): What, in your experience as a mentor, prevents women from growing as leaders? How would you describe the growth opportunities at Phenix? 

(G): “I believe at times women can be afraid to speak up and express their opinions. However, as your leadership abilities evolve, more confidence emerges and it becomes easier to express ideas and share opinions. We have many amazing women working throughout our organization at various levels including executives, directors, managers, and coordinators. We also have women in virtually every area of the company from marketing to product development and construction. There are many avenues available to grow with the company into a variety of different positions depending on one’s area of interest. I also have many accomplished women on my International Artistic Team that inspire me to be my best every day.”

(P): What is the hottest industry trend and how do you plan to grow in this industry?

(G): “One of the hottest trends in the industry is the suite concept. Most professionals want the opportunity to be their own boss, select their own schedule and manage their own lives. We continue to expand our services to ensure we have items in place that can support this trend. As an example, earlier this year we rolled out Gina’s Platform app which is free for Lifestyle Professionals to download and use. We offer this industry-wide. The app provides the functionality for a professional to operate their entire business from the ease of their phone. From scheduling to credit card processing, client records, and tax reports, it’s very inclusive. We also offer maternity programs, discounts on products, and a variety of other services such as supplemental and disability insurance. We continue to evolve in ways that will support small business owners. 

My current goal is to continue the national and international expansion of Phenix Salon Suites which will allow for expanded entrepreneurship for Lifestyle Professionals. I am focused on the growth of my professional hair color line, COLOURS by GINA as well as the expansion of my By Gina tool line. 

When it comes to legacy, it’s very important to me. I am hopeful that one day my children, and their children, can help to carry on the vision and the culture of my company that I feel so passionately about.”


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