In 2011 Kate Steller of Minneapolis, Minnesota, bought eleven bright red leather salon chairs to outfit her new business venture, Steller Hair Company.
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The small business owner put ten of the chairs into her salon and opened up shop tending to both men and women, making sure they left her salon looking and feeling their best. But on one day of every week, Kate leaves the shop and hops into the SUV that contains that lone eleventh salon chair.
Kate and her assistant Emily Lall drive around Minneapolis in search of one of the many citizens experiencing homelessness that she passes by every day. When they spot someone who looks like they could use a haircut they pull the car over and ask them if they’d like a free salon session. The two women then pull out that bright red chair and start the grooming process right there on the sidewalk.
“I could technically cut somebody’s hair on a folding chair or on a curb or wherever, like I don’t need that chair,”Katie explained. “But it’s not about what’s easy, it’s about really showing value to people.â€
Katie is all about showing respect to those who often don’t get any. She began her Steller Kindness Project back in 2013 but then was forced to put the free haircut for the homeless initiative on hold so that she could focus on growing her business. Now that the salon is doing well Katie is back on the streets looking to do the most good that she can with the skill set she was given.
“It’s looking at what skill do I have, what gift do I have, and how could that benefit somebody else,”Katie stated. She understands that having a shave or a fresh haircut can lift people’s spirits and help them feel better, and since her job is to do just that she extends her talents to those who can’t afford regular cuts. Growing up, Katie experienced health problems that caused hair loss, so she understands just how important hair can be to self-esteem.
“I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 11 years old,”she said. “When I was 18, they actually removed my entire large intestine.” The condition and treatment caused Katie’s hair to fall out, which was traumatic and lead her to her chosen career path.
“When you start to lose it, you’re like, wait, I didn’t realize what a big part of my identity that was,”she admitted. “That’s probably my main motivator. I mean, I don’t do hair because I’m naturally good at it, I’m good at it because I saw it as a way and a vessel to connect and care for people.â€
While Katie would love to see an end to homelessness, she understands that her small role is not enough to make the kind of permanent change that’s really needed. She’s just doing whatever she can to help. “I’m not claiming to know all the answers, I’m a hair stylist,”she says. “I’m just using my skill.â€
“When you have the ability to give, it’s a responsibility to give,”Katie said. She hopes that her curbside haircuts will inspire others to do whatever they can using their own skills to help others. “I want to do the most good that my heart and hands can accomplish in this short and uncertain life.”
Watch the video below to learn more about Katie’s Steller Kindness Project, and be sure to share.
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