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Meet Patrice a.k.a. “Sway” McKinney of Encore Salon Suites in West Midtown Atlanta and Marietta

Today we’d like to introduce you to Patrice aka “Sway” McKinney.

So, before we jump into specific questions about what you do, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
My story starts in Michigan back in 2008. I packed up my entire family of 7 and moved to Atlanta, GA for better opportunities. I saved up for about one year and I planned, coordinated and funded the entire move. My family consists of my identical twin sister, my mother, my brother, my younger twin sisters (yes, 2 sets) and my nephew.

I’ve always wanted to be a part of the hair and beauty industry since I was younger. I played basketball most of my life and I was one of the top players in the region. I’ll never forget I dunked a tennis ball and everyone went crazy. Most people expected me to be in the WNBA or overseas but I just didn’t think it would work out for me due to the lack of pay for the WNBA players at that time. I graduated with a Masters degree in Sports Management and I was also a student of the year in my Master’s program. But I wanted more! My twin sister and I also had a music group called “Twinn City.’ We performed in front of big crowds and opened up for acts such as Lil Wayne, Young Jeezy, etc. We decided to pursue or music modeling careers in Atlanta which really motivated our move from the north to the south in 2008.

I had a good paying job as the Director of Operations at a chauffeur transportation company. One day, I decided that I was going to quit my job and attend barber school. I just couldn’t shake the feeling I would get every time I walked into a salon or barbershop. Plus, I was tired of working for someone else and I wanted to be my own boss. I sold everything in my apartment and I moved with my twin sister to attend barber school I attended barber school from 1pm-8pm and I worked overnight as a Manager at Walmart from 10 pm-7 am. It was a struggle but I made it happen. I graduated as one of the top students from my barber school and immediately started working in a barbershop. Thanks to my dedication, consistency, and patience I eventually grew my clientele enough that I was able to quit my Walmart job.

After about a year, I decided to jump out on faith again and rent a small suite to open a barbershop. My first suite had five work stations. I remember being the only one working for months before I was able to fill up the chairs and build a team. After about a year, I decided it was time to get my own building. On my journey to finding a bigger building, I met someone who was also looking to expand. We partnered and opened a salon suite business with 13 suites in total. After about 2-3 years, I branched out on my own and opened my first Encore Salon Suites near West Midtown Atlanta in March 2018. I recently opened my 2nd location in Marietta, GA in June of 2019 and I’m already in talks with a few investors for future locations. I also open a trucking company called Repeat Logistics in 2019 and also became a certified fitness trainer. I’ve worked very hard and I’m extremely blessed to be where I am today. As of January of this year, I no longer cut hair. I currently spend most of my time running my businesses planning my next business move.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely wasn’t a smooth road. This first big hurdle was the night that we were planning to move to Atlanta I received a call from my realtor around midnight that our home would not be ready to move in for another 30-60 days. I had been planning this move and conversing with the realtor for about 6 months plus already paid all deposits. We rented the biggest Uhaul truck and everything was packed and ready to go. I remember trying so hard not to panic and trying to keep the news away from my family while they were inside celebrating. Long story short, after a bunch of calls I was able to contact an old realtor who had a two bedroom with an unfinished basement available. I was SO thankful that I found a place 6 hours before our departure. It wasn’t what we wanted but we made the best of it for six months and then we upgraded to a house. The other struggles I’ve experienced were during the planning and build out phases for Encore Salon Suites. When opening a business, there are so many people that you have to trust and depend on to get things done. It can be frustrating when things don’t go as planned. For my first location, I paid a guy over $2000 to do all my permitting and he ran off with my money and delayed my project for about 45-60 days. The City of Atlanta also gave me a very hard time with permitting and licensing. After 7-8 trips to their office and being treated very unfairly, I had to actually stand up in the middle of the office and demand respect and that I will be treated fairly. That same day, I walked out with my business license. I was such an emotional journey but I made it through the storm. The second location, I did all the permitting myself and it was a breeze.

Encore Salon Suites – what should we know? What do you do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
Encore Salon Suites offers independent beauty professionals the opportunity to successfully operate their own business. We allow beauty professionals to rent a suite and decorate their suite to reflect their style. The professionals set their own prices, set their own schedules and they can sell their products. We provide a fun and supportive atmosphere and give the professionals the tools they need to be their own boss. What sets us apart from the rest is professionalism, cleanliness, good management, and our unique suites. Some of our suites offer private entry and floor to ceiling windows. The thing I am most proud about is that I started Encore Salon Suites all by myself. There were a lot of people who did shady business and tried to count me out along the way but I never let that discourage or stop my plan.

What moment in your career do you look back most fondly on?
Being able to provide a job for my mom. My mother has a cleaning service that I use to clean both salons. I’ve been able to give her pretty good pay with some nice perks and that makes me feel really good.

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Encore Salon Suites

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