Portland mobile salon owner slays in her own lane

Special Reports

Local woman takes her former brick-and-mortar business on the road

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A massive pink and white striped truck pulls up next to the curb on Northeast 68th Avenue and Rita Calloway jumps into action, sweeping, unpacking hair and nail supplies, and hooking up the water and electricity. The 28-year-old is a few months into her venture as a mobile salon owner, building on a lifetime of experience.

“I’ve been an entrepreneur in training by default,” Calloway said. ” My mom is a former salon owner, so growing up, I worked under her throughout elementary, middle school until high school.” Calloway also operated her own brick-and-mortar salon for about six years until recently taking the plunge and buying a truck off Craigslist.

“This has always been in the back of my head to do like events and pop-up shops and so I just went full-fledged with the idea to reduce my overhead,” Calloway said.

Calloway offers natural hair care, braids, extensions and wigs, nails and more at Styled By Her. She is actively looking for a lot where she can park and set up shop for three days out of the week, but right now she drives from client to client. She’s willing to go as far north as Seattle and as far south as Eugene, but most of her appointments are in Portland.

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Rita Calloway, owner of Styled By Her mobile salon, does a silk press on a client’s hair (KOIN)

Today, her client is Jaylah, who is getting a silk press before her first day of 8th grade. This is her first time getting her hair done in a mobile salon, but Jaylah said she likes it. “I need to get ready for back to school so it’s more convenient.”

In a world where food carts are becoming increasingly popular, Calloway said she wouldn’t be surprised if people who own different types of businesses start transitioning away from brick and mortar locations.

Right now, the Oregon Health Licensing Office doesn’t require a specific license for mobile salons. Business owners just have to be licensed in one or more cosmetology fields and have to have a freelance license, which lets them practice outside of a licensed facility. There are about 550 active freelance licenses in Oregon.

But it’s not all easy. Calloway has to have a generator in her truck for electricity, and her water tank can only hold a couple gallons at a time, so she’s constantly refilling it with jugs of water. Plus the truck isn’t fun to drive. Calloway said she’s thinking of getting an automatic if and when she adds a second vehicle to her fleet.

Calloway is always looking for new opportunities. She’d like to do more spa parties for events like birthdays, prom and weddings. She also likes any chance to do more artistic hair styles, like the kind you’d see in fashion magazines.

“It allows me more creativity,” Calloway said.

She also loves teaching, and holds pop-up shops where she helps prospective stylists study to get their natural hair care certification.

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Rita Calloway stands outside her mobile salon in this August 27, 2019 photo (KOIN)

For other young entrepreneurs, Calloway has this advice: “Anything is possible and just start with small steps … When you see those check lists going down it just makes you feel good that you’re accomplishing stuff.”

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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