LYNDHURST, N.J. — Lyndhurst hair stylist Tricia DiFranco believes she understands the plight of millennials.
At " Hilights ," her salon on Ridge Road, she is trying to offer them the opportunity that she says the rest of the professional world is not.
"This place is about developing young women's careers and allowing them to live independently," said DiFranco, 28, adding that her employees clear $65,000 annually. "I'm a big proponent for millennials and I want to give them the opportunity to thrive."
That opportunity comes in the form of a 10-month training program that DiFranco offers to "career minded" stylists. Those who complete the program get to join her staff of 22 women, almost all of whom are in their 20s.
"There are not many salons like ours," DiFranco said, citing the "sorority" atmosphere at Hilights. "We are a family and we want to lift each other up."
Hilights is the culmination of DiFranco's own experience as a confused member of Generation Y.
The Pequannock High School graduate said she went to college because she "felt like she had to" before dropping out after her freshman year. She always had a passion for hair but felt that beauty school was a "dead end."
She begrudgingly attended Capri Institute of Cosmetology in Paramus in 2006 and then worked a string of salon jobs, learning the ins and outs of the business.
In 2011 she was working as a stylist at Hilights when her disgruntled co-workers decided to stage a walkout. She used the opportunity to take out a loan to purchase the the salon from its previous owner and start her own business.
She was 23-years old at the time.
"I didn't even know how to write a check," DiFranco said. "But I had a burning desire to start my own salon."
DiFranco took business classes on the side and in five years has transformed Hilights into a thriving salon.
This year, DiFranco says her business will do $1 million in sales.
"'I'm proud of our success, but it has never been about the money," DiFranco said, adding that she hopes to open a second location within the next two years. "I want to pay the bills but helping my employees succeed is much more rewarding."
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