On this week's podcast, Marcus sits down with Kat Cline. Kat owns Aura Holistic Hair and Apotheca. Listen to this week's podcast and find more about how she brings a Holistic approach not just to the products she uses and sells but to how her business interacts with our community.
Kat: Hi. My name is Kat Cline. I own Aura Holistic Hair and Apotheca.
Marcus: Awesome. Well, welcome to the podcast, Kat.
Kat: Thank you for having me.
Marcus: Yeah. No, it's awesome. I know we've known each other for probably a couple years now. No?
Kat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus: Yeah. If I remember correctly, you just came to one of our networking events. Was that-
Kat: Yeah, one of the open houses.
Marcus: Yeah. So, for those of you that aren't plugged into our network, we actually host open houses at our facility. Well, we did that when we were at 412 Dauphin Street. Now that we're at 920 Dauphin Street, we have still carried that tradition over, and we love them because we get to meet people like Kat. So, entrepreneurs. At the time, you weren't salon owner at the time. You were-
Kat: I was a salon owner, but I was mostly focusing on a solo venture, and it's definitely expanded and taken a new direction.
Marcus: We're gonna get into that.
Kat: But because of your networking events and meeting other fellow-minded business owners is really what made me aware of how I wanted to do business.
Marcus: Very cool. Yay. We're serving a purpose in this word, Jared.
Kat: You are.
Marcus: So, here's the deal. Everybody knows one of the things that we want to know is we want to know the story of Kat. So, tell us where you're from. Where'd you go to high school? Did you go to college? If you didn't go to college, did you go to cosmetology school, all that stuff.
Marcus: I know some of the other answers, but are you married? Give us some of your backstory.
Kat: Okay. So, I was born in North Carolina, but don't know anything about it because I grew up in the military. So, most of my upbringing was Hawaii, Massachusetts, and then settled down near the Fort Rucker area, so graduated from Enterprise and went to Troy University and got my BFA in photo studio, but quickly realized it just wasn't the direction I wanted to take, and I was at home working part-time, and my mom was like, "Okay. This is not working. You have to choose a career, figure out your life goals. You talked about hair. Check it out." So, I went and got my cosmetology license. My mom was super supportive, so she gets free haircuts for life. Dad pays because he said I would never make money as a stylist.
Marcus: Oh, snap. That's awesome.
Kat: So, he had paid for every haircut, or traded in some way, shape, or form. He's never gotten one just for being bad.
Marcus: That's hilarious.
Kat: Yeah. So, that kind of was how I started the hair career, and then about the same time, I was just going through a lot of health issues and a lot of health not quite crises. More of chronic long-term issues that I wanted to work on and address, so I got really involved in nutrition and all the healthy side of things, and so that's what morphed into eventually embracing the holistic aspect and not feeling like I'm living two separate lives, but merging them together. So, as of right now, it's me and my kitties, I have two, and my dog, Nova, and I have a lot of fish. But that's where I'm at, here in Mobile.
Marcus: I have loved watching your escapades with Nova on Facebook. I think it's so cool, because for those of you that ... I mean, if you don't know Kat, Nova is ... Have you figured out what mix?
Kat: We think she's American bulldog/American pit bull terrier mix, or some variation.
Marcus: Okay, but she's deaf.
Marcus: She's a beautiful dog, but you're teaching her sign language and all this stuff, and I just think it's just so much fun.
Kat: I will say, as my little plug for deaf dogs, I can't guarantee this for everyone, but 90% of the issues that we've had adjusting to each other have been because she's a 10-month-old puppies, and nothing to do with her deaf status.
Kat: So, other than that, learning signs has been easy, and if we can get her past puppy phase without me pulling my hair out, because it's important for my job, then we'll be making some good progress.
Marcus: That's funny. Well, you mentioned that you got your cosmetology license, but I know enough about cosmetology to know that you either have to do an apprenticeship, or you have to go to school for that. Did you go to school here locally for that?
Kat: I did. I went to school at Blue Cliff.
Marcus: Okay, you did. Very good.
Kat: So, it was like a 14-month program that got extended because of a car wreck, so unhappily breezed through that, finally. Not breezed through it.
Marcus: Yeah, and how did you find that program there, just for people that might be interested in going down that path?
Kat: My mom was like, "Hey, you should go and look," and she had seen it, and so when I told her, she was like, "You should consider doing hair. You talked about this before," and I was like, "Okay, fine." She's like, "Oh, I already sent out for someone, so here you go," and she had already filled out the paperwork, the inquiry stuff where they mail you the little info packet, and she handed it to me. So, my only concern was financial aid, so I went and talked to them, and they got me all set up with that, and it was kind of just done after that.
Marcus: Yeah, and the program was good?
Kat: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Marcus: Very good. All right. So, back on track, what was your first job, and were there any lessons that you still remember from that? Not first haircutting job, first-
Kat: Just first job? Okay.
Marcus: Like crap, scrubbing floors, flipping burgers.
Kat: First job was Sonic, a little carhop. Not the skating part, because I'm not coordinated.
Marcus: Oh, come on. You weren't on the roller skates?
Kat: I can't. I have no coordination at all. That would've been awful. No one would've gotten their meals if I was on skates. So, that one was super young. I was like, I think just gotten a car, so 16, and really didn't understand the ways of the world, and it was a good eye-opener, and not to be negative, but the biggest thing I took away from that job was they had me clock out and sit around on the clock all the time, and I didn't know at the time that that was totally not acceptable until I ended up getting taken off the schedule because I wasn't one of their main people, and my mom ... We started talking about stuff, and she's like, “That's not okay,” because my mom's a restaurant manager.
Kat: So, she was like ... We talked to the Labor Board and everything, and they confirmed that's unacceptable, and so that was my first ... Like I said, it's a negative, but I got so positive out of it that as a business owner and an entrepreneur, I never want to make those mistakes with employees, and so from day one, we just hired our first employee in November and did it strictly by the book, W-2, knew what I needed to do for scheduling, and learning the labor laws, because I had already experienced that from other businesses, and that was ... I don't want to do that to someone else.
Marcus: Yeah. No, it is. I mean, hiring my first person, which I always considered Tad my first employee, but the true truth is that there were a couple of people that worked for me part-time before that, but he was my first full-time employee, and it's always kind of a bit nerveracking because you don't know all of those rules and regulations, and if you're hiring a salaried employee, it's a little bit different than if you're hiring somebody hourly or W-2. So, it was a little bit easier because when you're doing hourly, there are all kinds of things that you have to kind of keep in mind and whatnot, but ... No, it's cool. Now, how did you get started with your business? Why don't you tell us a little bit about what it is now, and then how did you get started?
Kat: Okay. So, the way ... It morphed directions multiple times. So, where it's at right now is that we are a holistic haircare and skincare boutique.
Marcus: What does that mean?
Kat: I'm about to go into all that, because I know it's a mouthful, but basically, we sell organic or eco-friendly or local, handcrafted products that are designed for shampoos, conditioners, face wash.
Marcus: I really appreciate all those samples you brought us, too.
Kat: Yeah. I'm sorry.
Kat: I was slacking. I gotta get better at this. This is why I'm here, right?
Marcus: I'm just playing.
Kat: But basically, we have bath bombs, bath salts, lotions, skincare for the face, meaning cleansers, toners, moisturizers. I know that leaves you guys out a little bit feeling clueless.
Marcus: No, it doesn't.
Kat: Oh, hey.
Marcus: I use a little eye cream and some moisturizers and toner and stuff.
Kat: You're doing good then. There we go. But we do take care of the guys, too.
Marcus: I'm really 75. I look like I'm about 40-something.
Kat: Oh. I was about to say, you're doing pretty good. Yeah.
Kat: But we also have men's grooming products. I specialize in men's grooming, so we've got the aftershave bomb, beard bomb, all of that good stuff. So, basically, I got into all that because of what I was saying earlier. I had this approach that I needed to ... The health issues that were chronic, and I learned quickly that modern healthcare is a great tool to have, but it doesn't treat chronic illness. It's not even preventative medicine. It's like acute care, emergency care, and a lot of the chronic stuff gets swept under the bus, and since that's a hot topic, that's all I'll say about that, but basically, it came down to my nutrition was the number one thing that just reversed my life.
Kat: I have psoriasis, psoriatic arthritis, endometriosis. All of these are extremely pain management-focused illnesses that should not allow me to cut hair and do so every day, and they shouldn't allow me to run a business. So, when I took my health into my hands and said, “Okay. Nutrition is where I need to go,” it was like all of a sudden ... It's been a journey. It's been seven years, but I've come so far, and when I started cleaning out my food, then it was like, “Oh, I can't do anything halfway. I have to go all in.” So, then I was like ... I slowly started adjusting my cleaning, and then I realized my skincare, and then I'm like, “Oh, I'm going to work every day, and I'm using-”
Marcus: Chemicals that ... Yeah. Kat Cline: “... one of the most toxic care lines in the industry,” and so it was not working, and so I had a friend that was like, “Oh, there's this brand,” and so when I decided that I wanted to open my own space, it was a no-brainer. It had to be a holistic model, and I prefer the word holistic because I feel like organic's a buzzword, and there's FDA organic, and that's what makes you certified organic, but there's just as many companies that don't have thousands of dollars to become FDA-certified, and there are still cleaner options. To me, holistic also encompasses the local aspect, and so I have as much focus on either locally-owned businesses being represented in the shop, such as Keller Works is one of our main vendors.
Kat: We just got some awesome lip scrubs from Port City Honey. We've got a local artist, Lisa Warren, and then we also have some stuff from Whisper Apothecary, and then if we couldn't find a local option, then we at least focus on the ... I think they call it the solopreneur or the micropreneur, where it's very, very less than 10 employees, handcrafted, small business-type models, and so I have Wild Craft, which is a Canadian line, and then our beard line and aftershave line is Simply Bee Organics from Colorado.
Marcus: Very cool.
Kat: So, very much about the small person.
Marcus: Yeah. No, I think that's wonderful, that you're supporting solopreneurs or micro businesses, because oftentimes it's very difficult for them to get the footing that is needed. I'm just curious. I don't color my hair or anything like that, but have you found that the holistic products hold up, and are your clients pleased with the change?
Kat: So, I am definitely hippie, but I like to call it hippie chic because I have super high standards, and I don't like something that doesn't work or doesn't perform well, and so I've made it a focus, and the goal is that yes, the products have to meet that standard, because when it comes to that, it's not that I'm snobby. It's that I want the best of the best, and I want it to work, and when I put it on my skin, I want to feel a difference. I don't want to have to wait six months, and then it's dry or it's itchy, and that's a lot of the concerns with the products that you see in some of your big box stores that are marked organic or on the shelf.
Kat: It's just that the quality is not always there, and I've found that with the smaller companies, they spend ... Because they're not trying to make shortcuts, they want to have this amazingly awesome product, that it performs even better sometimes. So, I've been grateful that a lot of my clients actually come to me because the lines are more luxury, and not just because they're organic, and so I've been able to meet kind of people where they're at on different levels. So, I've got different price points, but also knowing that regardless of the price point, that it works, and it's effective for what you're buying.
Marcus: That's the biggest thing, right? I mean, if you're spending less money but it's not working, then who, sorry, but who gives a shit? I mean, it's gotta work, otherwise it's not worth doing.
Kat: Especially, too, holistic-based products, there's that stigma, and it's somewhat true that they're a little bit more of a price point difference. They're a little bit higher, but that's kind of where our focus is, too, with testers and samples, because everyone hates going and buying shampoo, and then it doesn't work for them, regardless of whether it's organic or holistic, but then you add the holistic price tag to it, which I'm glad to say with most of my products it's only a couple dollars more. There are some that are different depending on what you're looking at, but having that option to try before you buy so that you know you're getting something that works for you, because if it works for you, great, but if it doesn't work for the next person, the next person wants to know that before they take it home.
Marcus: Right. Yeah, absolutely. All right. So, if you were talking to someone that wanted to get started in running their own business, what's the one bit of wisdom that you would impart to them?
Kat: That's a good one.
Marcus: I've been told that I'm somewhat good at this, but I'm not gonna break my arm patting myself on the back.
Kat: Well, you should because sometimes we don't get enough from other people. So, with the business question specifically, I would say do your homework, do your research, and ask questions, but at the end of the day, just jump and do it. If you think you've got this idea, and you've got enough information, and you've done it, and it's something you're passionate about, go for it because the whole ... If you wait for that button to say I'm ready, it's never gonna happen. This is my third year in business. Our anniversary was on the 10th of January.
Kat: I feel like enough business owners don't talk about this, or they don't share it. There are days I have no idea what I'm doing, and I'm just literally figuring it out as I go, and I think the more and more I talk to other business owners, they feel the same way, but right now we're in this, not to knock it, but the glamour of the entrepreneur and how awesome we are, and I think we're so afraid to show that vulnerability of it's hard, and it sucks, and I don't know what I'm doing some days, but the days I don't know what I'm doing, I stop and take a timeout, and I go, “Okay. This X problem, how do we tackle it one step at a time to get to the next step?”
Marcus: I mean, I think I've said this before and the podcast. The truth is most business owners, if they knew what it took to run a business, would never step-
Marcus: They would never do it, and this progressive thing where as you're stepping into things, you're learning new skills, and you're learning about how it is to run the business, or whatever bit of information it is that you need at that moment, and you're constantly taking those steps of faith. I don't know. I mean, if you're of the Christian faith, then it's the lamp unto your feet. Right? So, you only have as much knowledge as what a lamp can light around you, so it's a five or six-foot radius, and there's complete darkness around that, and you really don't have any idea what is out in the darkness, but you just keep taking those steps in faith in the hopes that you don't step on a landmine somewhere.
Marcus: But yeah, you're not alone in that. I mean, I think everybody deals with that. What are you currently working on, anything you can talk about?
Kat: My current goal right now ... We just launched our web store in the end of December, so I think it's been a baby for a month. So, my current goal right now is that we have where you ... getting that wrapped up and put a bow on it all the way so that you can go online, do your purchases, be checked out, done, and you can come pick it up in the store, and it's ready, and there's no wait and no hassle if you're running an errand and you're swinging by. We also just brought in two makeup palettes. We're trying to work on bringing some more makeup in, and my employee does makeup lessons and makeup for Mardi Gras and all that good stuff.
Kat: So, that is our focus on the business level, but as a whole, my theme for this year is community, and so our steps that we're taking for this year specifically are to have more social events that are totally free, just to bring the community in and offer them information and knowledge, work with more local vendors, basically focus on Mobile and what's happening right now, right here, and how t make that either something that is a part of the business, or that the business can give back and offer.
Marcus: That's cool. Who is the one person that motivates you from the business world?
Kat: That's a good question. Do I have to pick just one person?
Marcus: I will give you an out. You can pick multiple people, but it can't be my parents or my grandfather. I get it. Your parents are great, but what's-
Kat: No, no, no. Okay. It does go back to, though, I love the group of progressive business-minded people, the younger entrepreneurs, and by that I just mean the under 50s that are the crowd that we're hanging out with. I mean, the ones that-
Marcus: I made the cut, folks, slid in right under the roof.
Kat: But the progressive thinkers, the people that I'm meeting at your open houses, the ones at the exchange. All of them have just been such ... The networking events, I've never walked into one, and part of that might be my mindset. I always walk in with, I want to make one connection or meet one person today, and I'm showing up with the expectation of it's gonna provide me what I need, and that's never failed me. I've never gone in to sell. I've never gone in to talk about my business specifically. I've always gone in with a mindset of there's a knowledge or a nugget of information or someone specific, and when I've done that, I met Abe Harper who introduced me to the business counselor that helped me get my business plan all together and tied up in a bow so that I could turn over to a bank and get funding, and I got a bank that gave me money before I hit the two-year mark, which most business owners-
Marcus: That's not common.
Kat: ... don't see that, especially-
Marcus: Who was the counselor?
Kat: It was Mel Washington with the Small Business Association.
Marcus: Shout out to Mel.
Kat: Yeah, I love Mel.
Marcus: One of these days, he's gonna come on the podcast. But anyway, go ahead. I figured that was who it was, but go, right?
Kat: So, those people, I've met you, and I've loved your guys's events because I've met more of the artsy people. I've met Johnny Quinn at The Container Yard, and they're super creative, and then you've got the tech people at the exchange, and I've gone in there, and I've met so many amazing people. You're probably like, "What the heck is this hippie, artsy salon chick doing at the exchange where it's all tech-oriented, and they're talking?" In fact, I met Abe Harper at an event that was technology in the career place, and it was like, why am I there, but I was there to meet Abe. I just didn't know that. I've gone and met amazing connections every single time, and sometimes they are not helping me come in and buy a product. Sometimes they're just saying, "Hey, you really need this nugget of information today," but I didn't know I needed that nugget of information until walked in the door. So, that's why I was apprehensive about picking one specific person, because I love-
Marcus: No, it's totally ... I mean, you had a great answer, but I word that question in a very specific way because I used to say, “Well, is there somebody who's motivated you,” or something along those lines. I left it kind of generic, and I always got these, “Well, my mom and dad were the wonderful people, and they raised me great,” and I'm like, “No, I don't think you understand. We get that your parents were awesome, but I want to know who motivates you from the business world,” but your answer was perfect.
Kat: Awesome. Well, thank you.
Marcus: Yeah. Are there any books, podcasts, people, or organizations that have been really helpful in moving you forward besides Mel Washington?
Kat: I have a salon coach. She's with the Salon and Spa Institution, and her focus is the salon industry, which has been extremely beneficial because as much as I love my business entrepreneurs, our industry is so weird and so quirky in some ways that having someone who understands that perspective has just been just so helpful, and then also, Kute Blackson is, I guess, a motivational person, but he wrote You Are The One, and it's just a super amazing read, and if you're into Audible, let him read it to you because he is the narrator, but he's just all about embracing who you are and being authentic, and owning that.
Kat: To me, I had so many people when I first started that I was working four days, and they're like, "You will never grow your business working four days," Especially right now, the hustle and grind, don't sleep, we're gonna work, work, work is in, and I'm all about ... My salon coach has been supportive in this, and then there are other motivational speakers that are starting to embrace the owning what you do and being good at what you do, and doing things your way as long as you can show that it makes sense, and I've had my days where I've put in extra hours, but I am back to working four days a week, and I take care of myself, and with my health issues I have to, and so I would just say that focus, that mindset, is the ones that have just over and over again, just that reminder.
Marcus: I think it's important. I mean, let's pause for just a second on what you're talking about. So, I think it's important to note ... I just went through Emerging Leaders, and as part of Emerging Leaders they identify ... I think there's four different types of businesses, and I could be getting this wrong, but anyway, there's four different types of businesses, and one of those is a lifestyle business. It's somebody who starts a business because they want a certain lifestyle, and they want their business to fit around that lifestyle versus having a business that is more growth-oriented, where they're trying to achieve hockey stick growth and make millions of dollars.
Marcus: I think it's really important to note that that is perfectly okay.
Kat: I agree.
Marcus: If you want to just work three or four days a week, and you can make a living and work three or four days a week, then do it. Quite honestly, for the longest time, Blue Fish was a lifestyle business. It was all about me being able to just kind of take care of the boys and be there for them, and then at night or on the weekends or whatever, when I could, I would pull myself into web development mode and designer mode, and I would do the things that I needed to do. But the reality is that it was very much a lifestyle business, and it's changed.
Marcus: Now my focus is more on growth. I'm definitely doubling down and wanting to grow the business, but there are different types of businesses that don't feel like ... If you're listening to Gary V. or some of these other guys, I'm just gonna say, because he's the one, I think, that is the most prevalent in that mindset of just constantly cranking out content, working, and doing all kinds of stuff, and so it's difficult to ... If that's not your mindset, it's difficult to listen to that and feel like there's some sort of balance.
Kat: Yeah, agreed.
Marcus: What's the most important thing you've learned about running a business?
Kat: Oh. Pick one, right? I would say breathe consistency. Just show up, honestly. I saw that all together because sometimes it's everything coming at you at once, and like you said earlier with the lamp kind of illuminating this little area around you, but it's also like you're being pulled a hundred different directions, and sometimes it's past what you can realistically see, and you don't ... Someone's pulling you, but you don't see what the arm is connected to. So, it's really easy just to get, oh, I'm here, I'm there, I'm here, I'm there, and not feeling like you're moving forward and accomplishing anything, and so the biggest thing is literally just stop, take a breath, and just one bite at a time, but do that consistently. You can't just put it to the size and forget about it. You have to just make sure you're hammering that through over and over again, I'm showing up, I'm showing up, I'm showing up, no matter what.
Marcus: Yep. Consistency is definitely key in business. How do you like to unwind?
Kat: Pick one.
Marcus: Come on, now.
Kat: Yoga. I know, but I'm laughing because you're on my Facebook, so you already see a lot of this.
Marcus: We're talking to an audience here.
Kat: I know.
Marcus: This isn't ...
Kat: Mostly yoga. I love kayaking [crosstalk]
Marcus: Do you want me to answer this for you?
Kat: Yeah. I know, right?
Marcus: Yeah. It's spending time walking Nova-
Kat: Nova. Marcus Neto: ... cooking wonderful paleo meals. She likes yoga, and occasionally you go to the beach and walk along the beach.
Kat: Not as much as a business owner, so I'm hoping that changes a little bit more again.
Marcus: Is there anything else you'd like to add to my answer?
Kat: I have two cats, because you seem focused on my dog.
Kat: I would say the biggest one is cooking. It's my de-stressor, and everyone's like, “Oh, my god. Share food with me,” and I'm like, “It doesn't work like that.” I can't schedule a meal. It has to happen on a whim. I don't follow recipes, so people are constantly like, “What's the recipe,” and I'm like, “I eyeballed a little bit of this and a little bit of that and threw it in the pot, and this was what was in my fridge, so I made it work,” and that is my breath, get it off my chest.
Marcus: I mean, because there's a zone that you get into when you're doing something along those lines. People that have never worked in the food industry won't necessarily understand this, but when you're putting together multiple pieces of a meal, and you're trying to get them all out at the same time, there's all kinds of focus that it takes in order to get all those pieces together and have them all ready at the same time so they're all hot and ready and tasty and stuff like that. So, I'm very much the same way. I really enjoy cooking and spending time in the kitchen.
Kat: I've seen some of your stuff too lately.
Marcus: Yeah, it's tasty.
Kat: I love the plating aspect. I don't even plan it, and I think people think I'm doing it on purpose, but it's like second nature. When I put it on the plate, it just has to look pretty. I think that's the artist in me.
Marcus: Yeah, very much so. Where can people find you?
Kat: I am currently located at 2616 Old Shell Road. We're not at the Florida and Old Shell Road intersection, but we're a few doors up from there.
Marcus: Next to it, yeah.
Kat: We're kind of in between UMS and Not Just Beads. We're right smack dab in the middle.
Marcus: Okay, and Facebook, website?
Marcus: That's AU-R-A-O, if I remember correctly.
Kat: Oh, Aura, it's A-U-R-A-
Marcus: R-A. Kat Cline: ... H-O-L-I-S-T-I-C H-A-I-R.
Marcus: Yeah, aura, like an aura around the person. Yeah. Well, I want to thank you again for coming to the podcast. To wrap up, any final thoughts or comments you'd like to share?
Kat: I would just say stick to your guns. Go after your passions. I feel like so much we get bombarded with what to do and what not to do, and what's right to do and what's wrong to do, and I think when you take out the moral side of things, I'm not talking about all that, but as long as you're not hurting people, and you're helping people, if it's something that makes you happy, then absolutely go after it and figure out a way to make it yours.
Marcus: Very good. Well, Kat, I appreciate your willingness to sit with me and share your journey as a business owner and entrepreneur. It's been great talking to you, but it's also been great watching your growth over the last year or so.
Kat: Thank you for having me. This was really fun.