The Entrepreneurial Spirit

By Somer Hanson, Clover Park Technical College
Denise Klug was low on finances but rich in vision when she opened her first hair salon at the age of 23.

In the early 1980s in small town Colorado, the mother of Klug’s friend purchased a home that included a small beauty shop. Betty’s Beauty Boutique was dated and neglected, but Klug saw a golden palace.

“That was my first start,” she said. “The salon was beautiful.”

With just $200 worth of product, Klug opened Renegade Hair Studio and leased the shop for just $275 a month. An old cigar box from her grandfather served as her cash register.
Klug quickly grew out of the four-chair studio and soon opened a second salon.

A career in cosmetology was not what Klug had planned for herself, but it started when her mother signed her up for cosmetology school. In the beginning Klug was timid with hair but comfortable with makeup, and moved to California where she was a member of the Makeup Artists Guild.

Klug moved back to her hometown where the business savvy entrepreneur opened her salons. She operated her businesses for seven years and then set out to look for the next challenge.
“A friend of mine asked if I’d thought about education,” Klug said. “I got my instructor license and loved it immediately. The rest is history.”

Klug arrived to Clover Park Technical College in the late 1980s as an instructor. Her experience in starting up salons from scratch helps her guide her students in preparing for their own business ventures. She knows the importance of a rock solid clientele and location for opening a business.

Many students come through the Cosmetology Program and move on to open their own business.

“We’ve seen a lot of them rise to success and own multiple salons,” Klug said. “My dream to the students is it’s so wonderful to be your own boss.”

Cosmetology Instructor Michelle Ganyon was one of Klug’s first students at CPTC. Ganyon opened a salon and then obtained her instructor license. She continues to operate it today.
The Cosmetology Program is just one of many programs at CPTC that prepare students to take up the challenge of the entrepreneurial journey.

“We can learn a great deal about entrepreneurial life skills by listening to stories like Denise’s and there are a number of students and faculty at Clover Park with these stories,” said Petra Perkins, adjunct for Workforce Development. “Her story is a great example of what Dr. Saras Sarasvathy calls ‘effectual entrepreneurship.’ Entrepreneurs start where we are with what we have, and with what and who we know. We don’t wait for a perfect set of circumstances that may never arrive. We become better entrepreneurs as we learn in a non-linear, just-in-time fashion. We understand the future is unknowable, which means we can shape it.”

Cosmetology student gives back

When Ashley Lewis first toured Clover Park Technical College, the aspiring cosmetologist knew it was the place for her.

“Having both a degree and a cosmetology license, you can’t pass that up,” she said.

Lewis enrolled in the Cosmetology Program last year and recently ended an 8-year career in business management.

As a member of the Quinault Indian Nation, Lewis receives funding assistance for her education, a fact she doesn’t take for granted. As she nears her final quarter of her program, Lewis is giving back to those who have helped her.

“I’m really passionate about working with the tribe,” she said.

Following encouragement from Cosmetology Instructor Denise Klug, Lewis reached out to a local tribe to see if her skill set fit in with any needs on the reservation. The Puyallup Tribal Nation invited her out on Dec. 4 for a special holiday event.

Lewis arrived at the Puyallup Tribe Elder Center with her cosmetology kit in hand and received a list of names of tribal elders who signed up for hair care. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Lewis took care of elders from Puyallup and other visiting tribes.

It was an experience unlike any Lewis has had at CPTC’s Personal Care Service Center. For some clients she saw that day, it was their first time receiving professional hair care.
“That experience is so valuable to me, to take care of another person,” Lewis said. “It was very humbling.”

In a typical day Lewis sees 2-3 clients at the CPTC salon and at times feels exhausted afterward. But after 10 hours of caring for tribal elders, she left feeling energized.
“I felt invigorated to do more,” she said. “It was so obvious to see the difference it made for them. They felt special.”

Lewis hopes her experience has opened doors for continued opportunities. She knows wherever this venture leads it will be a good place for her.

Lewis is thankful for the new friends she made and people she met as a result of her day of volunteering on the reservation. After Lewis finishes the program Winter Quarter 2015, she’s not putting a limit on what can happen after CPTC.

Klug is confident good things are in store for Lewis as she prepares to launch.

“There was something about her when we first met her, we just knew she was destined for something,” Klug said.

For more information about the Cosmetology Program, visit