When Mimi Armenteros was 6, she lined up a handful of her dolls in her imaginary salon.
“They would all take their turn to get their hair done,” Armenteros recalled.
Now, Armenteros owns her salon specializing in curly hair, Dream Curls Salon, in Old Town.
Here, she tends to the more than 1,100 clients she’s amassed in the two years after she opened her doors; she’ll also soon launch her own curly-hair product line.
Getting to this point wasn’t easy for the Ethiopian native.
Armenteros moved from Ethiopia to the Washington, D.C., area when she was 16.
Her parents had dreams of Armenteros pursuing a career in law or becoming a doctor.
But it wasn’t long after Armenteros started college at the University of Maryland she realized her true calling, was as a hairstylist – much to her parents’ chagrin.
In one visit to Graham Webb International Academy of Hair in Arlington, Virginia, she was hooked.
“[My parents] were like, ‘What? you’re going to hair school? Are you crazy?’” Armenteros recalled with a laugh.
After 10 months of schooling, Armenteros began working at a fast-paced salon next to a Metro station.
“People would come and go and we had half an hour to give a full haircut with a blow-dry and everything,” she said. “It was a high-pressure job, but it helped me to be efficient.”
Armenteros went on to work for seven years at an upscale salon in Georgetown called Bogart Salon.
She eventually moved to Texas as a divorced, single parent of two.
Armenteros didn’t realize it then, but this move would equip her with the tools to eventually open up Dream Curls Salon.
Shortly after moving to Dallas, she took a job working at a curly hair salon.
The owner was so impressed with Armenteros’ abilities she sent her to New York City to become an Ouidad-certified curly hair specialist.
“She was the first one in Texas to open a curly hair salon and she had people coming from all over,” Armenteros said.
Armenteros remarried, and their family moved to Phoenix in Jan. 2017 after her husband received a new job offer.
“I’ve always wanted to own my own business and I thought this the best opportunity,” she said.
Six months of research later, Glendale resident Armenteros opened Dream Curls Salon in Old Town just off Stetson Drive in June 2017.
“I chose Scottsdale because it has 255,000 residents and 55 percent of them are women. I’m sure out of those 55 percent there is maybe 20 percent who have curly hair.
“The median income is $80,000 to $250,000, so for the price I’m asking for a haircut, I thought it would be a suitable place,” Armenteros explained.
Armenteros charges about $125 for an Ouidad haircut, her most popular service, and offers color services and other curly-hair treatments.
Currently, Armenteros’ sizable clientele comes from all over the Valley and beyond, including Mesa, Chandler, Glendale and even some from Flagstaff and Sedona.
“My clientele is a wide range of ethnicities: There’s Caucasian, which I would say 75 percent would be Caucasian, but I also have Hispanic and mixed and African American,” she said.
Armenteros’ clientele is mostly women (95 percent), with the reminding 5 percent comprised of men and children.
While business is going well now, she only recently hired an assistant to help her.
“Starting out, you have to be minimal, so I didn’t hire an assistant. I was doing everything by myself. It was just so tiring,” Armenteros said.
Now that she has an assistant, Armenteros is able to dedicate more of her time creating her own line of all-natural curly hair products called Curl Bliss.
“It’s been in my mind all along; I just was waiting for the right time,” she said.
Armenteros plans to start with four products: shampoo, conditioner, a conditioning cream, and a mousse styling product.
“What separates [Curl Bliss] from other products is it fights frizz,” Armenteros said. “The No. 1 problem curly girls have is frizz and unruliness, so we want these products to control that.”
The Curl Bliss Moroccan argan oil shampoo and conditioner are called Pure Awakening and the entire product line will range in price from $22 to $28.
“Compared to Ouidad, it has better-quality products in it,” Armenteros said of Curl Bliss. “Women are very health-conscious, so they look for good, natural products.”
Armenteros said these products are a long-time coming for people with curly hair.
“There aren’t enough products for curly hair women,” she said, adding for many years, curly hair was pushed to be straightened.
“The beauty industry decided curly hair needed to be straight, so they were pushing flat irons, curling irons, relaxers, Brazilian blowouts, keratin treatments – all of these products designed to straighten hair,” she said.
After 15 to 20 years of this, “the industry erupted,” Armenteros added. “So, there’s a lot of room for more curly hair products.”
Armenteros plans to host a product launch event at Dream Curls Salon. She hasn’t set a date yet.