Small business with a magic touch

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By Angie Escalante

A mother’s love for hairstyling, that later inspired a career path for her daughter, sprouted family owned and operated Magic Scissors salon in Riverside.

The hair salon is managed by mother-daughter duo Elia Martinez and Elia Georgette Montes Martinez.

Elia Martinez is a licensed hair stylist of 28 years and has been set up in the shopping center known as the Brockton Arcade for 20 years.

Starting a business proved to be a challenge, even more so for Elia being a Latina and new to the United States.

“All the business owners around here are American,” Elia said. “I am the first Latina business owner in this shopping center.”

Elia arrived to the United States 34 years ago and became an American citizen in 2017. 

“I love this country,” she said. “I am grateful for everything this country has given me.”

She experienced difficulties running the salon at first because the clientele she was bringing in was not enough to meet the rent fees. Elia’s daughter, who goes by Georgette, joined alongside her mother one year after the shop’s opening. 

Georgette attended John W. North where she obtained a certificate in cosmetology through a Regional Occupational Program. 

She began working with her mother the summer after graduating high school. Up until then, the salon had originally been a backup plan if attending Riverside City College didn’t go as planned. “That’s when I fell in love with the business,” Georgette said. “I fell in love with the environment (and) I stayed here, I didn’t go to school. I was like ‘okay this is what I want to do’.”

The Martinezes wanted their salon to be all-inclusive and a place where anyone can get their hair done.

“I know that other shops around here only focus on young people,” Georgette said. “We run our shop so that we welcome everybody (of all ages).” 

Both women are family-oriented and share a passion for hair. They run the salon through appointments only to allow for quality time with their family.

Elia greets each client with open arms, a smile and a warm-hearted welcome. 

This is what has made Magic Scissors more than just another hair salon, each person that walks through the door is treated like family. 

“I love having the opportunity of connecting with people and learning about so many different cultures,” Elia said.

Georgette said it’s important for every business owner to remember that all businesses have their obstacles, but owners should make every effort to keep their doors open. 

“You always have to remember why you started it and what it means to you,” she said.

Like many other small businesses, the Martinezes worried for their shop’s future during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their salon was so small that it did not qualify for any of the relief that was offered. Luckily for them, certain requirements for businesses changed and they were able to get help.

The duration of time that they were not receiving aid, they did everything possible to stay afloat.

“We started selling products and doing raffles, you know, selling different packages, food. I even sold some of my plants,” Georgette said.

She encourages others to open their own businesses because there’s room for everyone, especially in the styling industry. Brockton Arcade is the home to various hair salons aside from Magic Scissors. 

 “I feel like it’s not competition because there’s heads for everybody just like there’s room for everybody to grow,” Georgette said.

Looking back at her daughter’s time in high school Elia said that she’s glad there were ROP opportunities for students mainly because a lot of young people don’t know their passions yet. 

“Those kinds of programs have practically disappeared and it brings me sadness (to know) that all those opportunities have been lost,” she said. “I hope that they come back.”

The Martinezes said they are very blessed and grateful for everything that led them to be able to work side-by-side.

Elia had a word of advice for other Latinas running or starting a small business: 

“It’s difficult to believe that we can do this. Maybe you come from a different country, maybe you don’t speak English well, but I believe (that) where there is will there’s a way,” she said. “Si se puede.”

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