Steller Mosaic

Photo: Mercury Mosaics

Photo: Mercury Mosaics

Why does Steller Hair Company exist?  

The short answer: I want to do the most good that my heart and hands can accomplish in this short and uncertain life. 

One might assume that my intention behind opening a hair salon was because I loved doing hair… which would make the most sense. But in actuality it went something like this: “I may not be naturally talented at hair but I am determined to learn.  I am going to open up a hair salon because I value people, and believe that doing hair is a unique and powerful avenue to connect”

There are very few environments that encourage and allow true vulnerability. From my experience, when you go to get your hair done you are:

  • Entering into an environment that is meant to be “inviting” but also tends to be intimidating due to the focus being on external representation. 

  • You are asked to sit down, put on a cape that covers everything but your head, and stare at yourself in the mirror.

  • Next comes the conversation and communication around “needs”.  I won’t speak for the rest of you, but talking about what I like/want/need from another person is incredibly difficult and uncomfortable. I worry that I am inconveniencing them, or that I sound stupid.  And yet this is an essential part of the hair experience to ensure that clients walk out of the salon with a style that meets expectations.  

  • Side note, let’s add “staring-at-self-in-mirror-with-wet-hair” to the vulnerability bundle.

  • Touch.  This is a very sensitive subject (in all seriousness..as well as punny).  Human touch carries emotion/memory/vulnerability that surpasses what words can convey.  The fact that we, as hairstylists, have the opportunity to create safety in touch is a rare honor.  

  •  Come As You Are.  In our very short lives there are pressures to be a certain version of ourselves.  A refection of what makes others  “more comfortable” with our natural human existence.  What if you had a space to just be?  What if you could walk into a room full of strangers feeling 100% accepted?


Come As You Are.

Even if you don’t have hair, you are Steller. 



For the past 2 1/2 years we have been working hard to expand into a larger space.  For the past 5 months we have been building out our new Steller space, and turning it into our new home.  

As a small business, money is the barrier of so much.  We had to prioritize function first and foremost, and beauty/esthetic second.  

The thing is: function is what gets the client through the doors, beauty is what helps the client want to stay.  Both are equally important, and unfortunately it isn't seen that way by most investors/banks/etc.

When I opened Steller Hair 5 1/2 years ago, my goal was to create a work environment built on valuing our employees as people first, hairstylists second.  I was passionate about creating a space that was permeated with inclusivity, acceptance, excellence and safety.  Those core values have stayed consistent, even as my business model has evolved over the years.  

Over the past three years Steller Hair faced some very complex and difficult transitions.

We got through it, and we did so with integrity, honesty and upholding the values that Steller was built on from the beginning. 

The past few years have been evidence that life is messy and painful, and you can still show up with kindness and dedication to doing the next best thing.

What I am about to share is a story about the good and beauty people are capable of and the rippling effect these choices make. It is a wonderful example of what happens when we bring humanity and connection into business and collaboration.


MERCURY MOSAICS

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STELLER HAIR COMPANY


Meet our NE Minneapolis neighbors:

Mercury Mosaics


“IF YOU CAN DREAM IT, WE CAN MAKE IT.

Mercury Mosaics is a group of artisans dedicated to creating environments full of character. Our tiles are hand-crafted to tell a story—your story—through color, texture, pattern, and depth. We design unforgettable, picturesque backdrops that pop with vibrancy and life.  We pride ourselves on our care, both for our product and our clients. We feel the buying experience should be as glorious as the finished product. The best part? We make it all here in the United States and our factory is an inspiring space too. We’re setting a new standard in manufacturing and it’s all transparent.” 

-Mercury Mosaics


Photo: Mercury Mosaics

Photo: Mercury Mosaics

With a majority of my budget going towards plumbing, hvac systems, and other unexciting things,  I decided that I wanted to create something beautiful for our backbar area (where we mix color/create magic). I wanted to create something that represented and supported our NE community.  Throughout this expansion process I have had the support and incredible talent of my friend, and designer, Sarah Taylor. Sarah has been a sounding board, advocate and expert eye when it comes to the design of Steller Hair Company. When I mentioned the idea of the backsplash, Sarah encouraged me to reach out to Mercury Mosaics (their incredible warehouse is located about a mile from Steller Hair in the Thorp Building). I had been following them on instagram for quite sometime, and thanks to Sarah’s encouragement, I messaged them. I wrote that we were neighbors, and that I have admired their work and the transparency of how their business is run. I asked if they ever had broken pieces of tile that the sell for a discounted rate.  My idea was that I would buy remnants, and then create my own make-shift mosaic backsplash, and I loved the idea of buying from someone local! 

Mercury Mosaics responded with saying that they knew of Steller, and would love to have us take a look at their remnant room.

 
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Photo: Mercury Mosaics

Photo: Mercury Mosaics

After some time (I have been a crazy person trying to manage all of the facets of expanding), Sarah and I finally made it over to their warehouse (and Oh My Goodness, if you haven't seen it yet, you absolutely NEED to!) They create tiles for the likes of Starbucks, Room&Board, and other very well known/international businesses.  Their tile production is incredible.  It is surprising to me that that they aren't talked about here in MPLS more. Mercury Mosaics is truly a gem in our community.


When I made it over to Mercury, I met with Mercedes, who is the founder/owner of 16 years. She shared that she had been following Steller’s progress over the years (I was shocked that she even knew we existed!) She shared that as a business owner, she has admired our model, care for the community and overall mission. She brought up a post that I had recently made about supporting and encouraging my Steller employees, even when they "grow out" of my salon and move on to their next venture.

Keep in mind, I believed this meeting was to take a look at the remnant room.  As we walked in to Mercury’s beautiful showroom, Mercedes stopped us and said  “So, I have a crazy idea. I believe in doing good for people who do good". 

What that simple statement meant was that Mercury Mosaics was offering to design, create and help install an entirely custom and complete Steller Mosaic.

 To say I was emotional would be an understatement.  I so desire my salon to be beautiful, and represent my values. With the costs of making it functional and up to city-code, my budget for these details was incredibly small.  This was a gift I never could have imagined.


So we began. It was incredible to be a part of the process and to experience what actually goes into creating a mosaic.  Mercury’s Tile Elves create each tile by hand, from start to finish. The care, creativity and craftsmenship that goes into every detail is mind-blowing and beautiful.  When it came to installing (which happened during business hours, since we are open 7 days a week!) I stood in awe watching the intentionality of each step taken, and also realized how ridiculous I was to think that I could install my own mosaic backsplash…  


We had the honor of having Leslie Bentley, owner and artist behind Satoritile, lead the install.  You might recognize her tiling from the Lululemon store at MOA, or the incredible mosaic when you walk into the MSP Airport.  She is on her way to retiring, and we were so fortunate to be her last project of the year.  Maggie, a Mercury Mosaic magician, was the second pair of hands that made this mosaic a reality.  She saw our project through from conception and creation, to installation, and we are so proud to have her finger prints forever a part of our story. 



As if this experience couldn't get any better, there was one last beautiful and unplanned surprise. When we were in the brainstorming process around the mosaics color/design, Sarah’s designer brain started to work overtime, and I couldn’t be happier with the direction it took us.  A few of the photo inspirations we found for the mosaic were pulled from the instagram of local artist, Josie Lewis. Josie’s art, process and overall energy is contagious,  and she is known on an international level!  Josie was made aware that her art inspired this beautiful project, and we got connected over email (which sent me into fangirl mode in .5 seconds).  

The day after our mosaic was complete, I had the honor of inviting Josie into Steller Hair Company. I was able to show just a sliver of the gratitude I felt by doing her hair, and showing her the mosaic that is a beautiful example of the impact her art has on others.

The gift that Mercury Mosaics gave Steller Hair surpasses any expectation I could ever have had.  This mosaic is a visual representation of community, support and the beauty of connection.  We can’t ever repay these incredible people (and I’m a competitive gift giver, so that is very difficult for me..) but what we can do is use this mosaic to share a story of kindness in an often times unkind world.  This mosiac creates an atmosphere and experience for our clients that reflects our mission and values

Photo: Rita Farmer

Photo: Rita Farmer

Katie Steller