Leslie Robinson grew up in the hairstyling business and learned how to be an entrepreneur from her mother.
Robinson's mother, Sharon Suchak, owned hair salons in three Lake County communities. In 1987, Suchak changed her focus to hair replacement and became associated with Hair Technology, a San Francisco-based company. In 1990, her business became known as Mane Image.
When Suchak retired, Robinson bought her mother's enterprise and continues to grow the business. To accomplish that, Robinson purchased a 6,200-square foot building at 120 W. 79th Ave. in Merrillville. Mane Image occupies 3,000-square feet of that building.
"I lease out two of the spaces, so I'm a landlord and a business owner," says the 39-year old Valparaiso resident.
Mane Image only works with those experiencing hair loss, from children to senior citizens, Robinson says of her more than 1,000 clients.
"My oldest client is a 97-year old woman," she says.
Four out of every 10 people have some form of hair loss, she says, and 95% of hair loss is genetic. Other reasons for the loss of hair include birth defects, chemotherapy, medical conditions such as alopecia and thyroid problems and skin conditions of the scalp.
"Just as many women as men have hair loss," Robinson says.
The loss of hair is a very personal, emotional experience. That's why Robinson designed her salon with seven private styling rooms where clients can feel comfortable during consultations and follow-up visits.
All the stylists at Mane Image are licensed cosmetologists with extensive training in hair loss and its solutions, Robinson says.
"I am very lucky that my staff is so caring," she says. "They've gone to funeral homes to do the hair of clients who have died. They've gone to the hospital to do clients' hair. They are so close to these clients that they are like family."
In addition, the salon is open six days a week with hours beginning at 8 a.m. and ending at 7 p.m. for client convenience.
During the initial consultation, Robinson and her staff explore all the
solutions available to the client. These include topical treatments, camouflage products, hair extensions, hair replacement systems and wigs.
"We show our clients the various products and inform them how those products work," she says. "If we can help them, great."
Children do especially well with camouflage products such as DermMatch, Robinson says.
"Being a child, they don't want to wear a wig. This product fills in the spots without hair and colors the skin to match the hair," she explains. "It's waterproof so the children can play without any problems."
Hair integration, such as Ultra Tress extensions, offers another solution that allows hair replacement without covering up the scalp.
"This product allows the person with thin hair to double the volume of the hair," Robinson says. "The beauty of hair extensions is that they don't cause damage to thin hair and can be used again and again."
Clients undergoing chemotherapy often need a temporary solution for hair loss, and wigs are often the answer, Robinson says. Permanent hair loss clients who want a specific hairstyle may also select wigs.
Some clients opt for hair replacement surgery and Robinson refers them to Medical Hair Restoration in Oak Brook.
"They do such wonderful work," she says.
Robinson views her mother as her mentor.
"I learned to be goal-oriented from my mom," she says.
"At Mane Image, our goal and mission is to help as many people as possible to understand their hair loss and to pick out or have a solution to that hair loss," she says.
"I'm more interested in how my clients feel rather than how much money I make."
By Lu Ann Franklin
News article as originally reported on nwtimes.com