Chrissy Freeman | Verdure Salon
In September 2018, Chrissy opened Verdure Salon, North East Ohio’s first non-toxic nail salon, in Cleveland’s Gordon Square Neighborhood.
“I believe that health and well-being are on a spectrum and that the decisions made on that spectrum, even the small ones, can add up to big results.” Chrissy explained. “When I use the term non-toxic salon, it is to emphasize that the products and polishes used here contain less harsh chemicals than the ones you would find at your typical neighborhood nail salon. Our goal is for people to get the best of both worlds- the look they desire without exposure to harmful chemicals.”
For people who like their nails polished, access to a non-toxic salon allows them to put value on their wellness, as well. “I would choose a manicure without exposure to harsh chemicals, any day. Now, others can decide for themselves. Before Verdure, there wasn’t that option available in Cleveland.”
Even down to the laundry detergent, Chrissy is proud of the lack of toxins salon-wide. “I am hopeful,” she said, “that as people become aware that this option is available, it is an option that they choose.”
This is Chrissy’s story.
With a master’s degree in business, Chrissy Freeman would have never thought that Nail Salon Owner would be a title on her resume. However, from sales to nails, Chrissy Freeman has now done it all.
“I distinctly remember my dad sitting me down while I was in undergrad and saying, ‘You need to pick something!’” Chrissy always considered herself an academic, but at this point in her undergraduate career, she was taking classes for fun, classes that no longer contributed to her developing career path. Eventually, Chrissy declared a major in business, going on to obtain her MBA from Case Western Reserve University after spending a few years in the field.
During her final semester at CWRU, Chrissy was hired into the sales department at IBM’s (International Business Machines Corporation) Chicago office. “To be honest,” she said, “When they hired me, I was shocked. I remember thinking, ‘Who did I trick that this company wants to hire me?’ But, it turned out to be a great experience. I had an excellent boss, a wonderful team, and learned a lot during my time with IBM.”
But, after nearly two years in her position, Chrissy was laid off of her job due to the recession. Unsure of her next career move, she used this life change to reunite with her then long-distance boyfriend, Chris. So, in 2009, Chrissy packed her bags and moved back to Cleveland. After about a year of job searching, she was hired by Hyland Software and spent the next 7+ years of her career in the Software Sales and Professional Services departments there. Then, taking a leap of faith, Chrissy made the decision to leave her position at Hyland and start working for Key Bank just months before opening her salon.
Of course, I questioned how Chrissy went from a career in sales to owning a nail salon. As it turns out, she gets this question often. The story goes like this:
“My friend Justine and I were having lunch one day at work and, as I recall, the Cleveland Flea was just a few months out. I am sure that it was Justine’s idea that her and I should bring a different creative venture to the flea; I was aware that Justine and her family had brought their custom stamping business to the Flea once before. So, for that lunch break, we had fun dreaming up ideas and brainstorming together.”
During this lunch break, an idea came to them. Chrissy and Justine wondered why there aren't many services offered at the Flea, thinking it would be fun to get your nails painted while shopping.However, their idea was quickly tossed aside—in need of licensures and permits, Chrissy and Justine discovered that their idea was more complicated than they originally thought.
“Justine was the one who introduced me to a non-toxic nail salon in New York City called Ten Over Ten. I started following them on Instagram (@tenoverten) and loved the idea behind the salon. It was by following them and reading more into their brand, that I first learned about non-toxic nail care.”
On a trip to New York City, Chrissy booked an appointment for a manicure and pedicure at the salon she had been admiring from a far and, to her surprise, found herself taking notes throughout her entire visit. “As soon as I walked into Ten Over Ten, I knew that people in Cleveland would really respond to a similar business idea.”
After doing her research, Chrissy realized that non-toxic nail salons did not exist in Cleveland. So, she got to work.
“Soon, I had written a business plan, done a whole cost projection model, and allowed my business-minded husband to poke all sorts of holes in my plan,” Chrissy laughed. “I am so thankful for him because he really helped me sort everything out when it came to finalizing my ideas.”
When she and Chris were both confident with the numbers and thought that the plan was viable, Chrissy registered for nail school.
“If I was going to be serious about opening up a non-toxic nail salon, I wanted to be sure that I knew first-hand about the training, tools, and regulations that come with being a nail technician,” Chrissy explained. “Though I knew that I would be running the back end of the business, I never thought that it was appropriate to tell people how to work the front end if I did not have the basic training under my belt to do it myself, as well. Plus, I figured that in a pinch, I would be able to jump in and help on the salon floor.”
Amidst the hustle of trying to open a new small-business, Chrissy realized that it would not be sustainable for her to hold a full-time position while also supporting a new salon. So, she left the comfort of her career and devoted her time and attention to Verdure Salon.
“I was so scared to leave the safety net of corporate America,” Chrissy told me. “I was afraid of not only losing the familiarity of something I knew for 15 years but losing the safety net of knowing where my job lied within a big corporation. However, when I learned to turn my emotions off and thought about the realities, the worst and best things that could happen, I realized that even if the salon didn’t work out for me, nobody would judge me for trying.”
Since turning Verdure into a full-time venture, Chrissy hasn’t looked back. I find inspiration in her story, her willingness to retreat from the comfortable nature of a corporate gig, and her drive as an entrepreneur. If nothing else, Chrissy’s journey demonstrates that so often the greatest rewards come from taking the greatest risks.
Verdure Salon provides manicure and pedicure services for natural nails only. They use 7-free gel and two lines of 10-free traditional polish, as well as skincare and makeup from OY-L, Glam & Grace, and Zoya; 7-free and 10-free explain the number of harsh chemicals that are left out of the nail polish formula.
Learn about Verdure Salon’s line of products:
Zoya: Zoya was started in 1986 right here in Cleveland, as the first line of polish to remove toxic ingredients such as toluene, camphor, formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, and dibutyl phthalate. It's vegan, cruelty-free, and 10-free, which means that the polish formula excludes ten of the harshest chemicals that can be found in other brands.
Sundays: Sundays began after its founder worked for years in the nail salon industry before realizing the toxicity of the chemicals she was breathing. It's vegan, cruelty-free, and 10-free as well.
NCLA Gelous: NCLA produces a line of gel polish that is 7-free, yet longer wearing than regular nail polish. It also doesn't require damage to your natural nail bed to apply or to "chip" off during removal.
OY-L: is formulated and made in Akron, and began after its founder discovered the toxicity of other brands while treating her daughter's illness. We love how well they say no- to testing on animals, phthalates, parabens, DEA/TEA/MEA, color pigments, formaldehyde, preservatives, isopropyl alcohol, mineral oil, PEGs, propylene glycols, sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, talc, and petrolatum.
Glam & Grace: This "Best of Cleveland" award-winning cosmetic line is made in small batches in Akron. They are paraben free, silicone free, non-toxic, and cruelty free, as a result of the founder's skin irritation and inflammation from big beauty brands. She researched ingredients and created her own cosmetics, knowing that if she needed these products, others would as well. We're glad she did!
To learn more about Verdure Salon and the products they carry, click here.
If you are like me and need a further schooling on non-toxic beauty products, here are a few facts from Beauty Counter, a company devoted to putting the truth back into beauty, regarding toxins in the skin care industry:
There are more than 80,000 chemicals on the market today. Many don’t have any safety data.
In Europe, 1,400 substances are legally banned from being used in skin care and cosmetics. In the US there are 30 that are partially banned.In fact, in the US, 10-free is one of the highest levels of toxin-free polish that you can buy.
The United States Food and Drug Administration regulates skin care and cosmetics, but they do not have the authority to regulate or remove harmful ingredients in these products.
More so, there has not been a significant change to regulations in the US since 1938, back in a time when people thought that smoking cigarettes was good for you.
For more information on toxins in beauty product’s visit Beauty Counter.