Hello! Thank you for taking the time to read my story. My name is Demi, I'm 28 years old, and I was diagnosed with Autism at 25.
As a child, I LOATHED having my hair done, pretty much by anyone. I am very tender-headed, and the noise level of a conventional salon was near painful, and miserable for me. The social aspect of having to make small talk with a stranger was incredibly uncomfortable.
As a teen, I often colored and cut my hair myself, experimenting in the solitude of my own bathroom/home. After high school, I realized I could go to school to do it as a career, so I attended the Aveda Institute of Denver in 2012. After some health issues, I finished my program in 2014. I worked in small salons, and big salons alike.
I never felt like I fit in with my peers on a social level, and I was deep in sensory overload after every work day. I continued to misunderstand and be misunderstood by my colleagues (although I had no idea why at the time.) I started seeing more information about "less common traits" of Autism, ADHD and other neurodivergence. After having family in the OT profession confirm that I displayed traits as a child, I decided to get evaluated. I was diagnosed by a team of neuropsychologists that work specifically with adults. Once this revelation and a new world opened up, I realized I needed to change how I worked, to stay in my field.
After a year of being an independent contractor at a salon while being openly autistic, I realized my clientele had similar discomfort with salon environments as me. The cross-noise, the socializing aspect, the crowdedness, and the sound of 5+ blow dryers going off while trying to hear another person in conversation. I moved to a shared private salon suite in the Denver Highlands area, where I rented a booth for seven months. It was a great fit for myself and my clientele. I could afford it, although it was a 60+ mile round trip commute.
Without notice or warning, we were told that a local business would be taking over the entire building, and kicking us out in the process. This company offered the property management a lot of money to renovate the space, and although our spot had existed as a hair salon for a decade, we were given the boot.
In August, we were told to move out by October. I chose to leave by September to get a head start on moving. It threw me into a week-long panic, I was in Autistic burnout the entire time, scrambling to find a space that fit my needs, wasn't too far, and I could afford. Thankfully, I came across Salons by JC, a luxury suite company near the University of Denver. A great location for all involved, but it is double what I had paid at my last location.
Unfortunately, I broke my right patella in June of this year. Thankfully, it did not require surgery, so long as i kept it in a lockable leg brace for 6 weeks. It kept me out of work, and keeps me from standing all day. Being asked to move in such a rough period was untimely to say the least. I also got Covid right after opening my shop in early September.
My studio is unique because it was previously a massage room with extra sound insulation. The location is easy to access, with no requirement for stairs. I have the option to turn one or both ceiling lights off. There is a parking garage, and plenty of lovely DU campus outdoor space to walk. My studio's name is Talking Hairs, which is a play on the name of Talking Heads, the Post-Punk band from Rhode Island. They have been my favorite band since I was a child, and David Byrne is a huge influence to many of us, because he is also on the autism spectrum.
During this time of inflation, costs are higher for everyone, which puts even more of a strain on disabled individuals, especially those who are self-employed. A lot of my clientele are also autistic, and are on tight budgets, or saving funds for school. I work very near and dearly to the LGBTQIA+ Community. When the flow of my clients slows, so does my income. The salon rent will always be there. Because of my neurological, mental and physical health restrictions, I can only work a certain limit of hours and days. Much of my free time is spent recovering from socialization, sensory input such as noise, and being around many other people.
I used consulting services with a Denver-area Autistic advocate named Dani, who owns The Punk Rock Autistic. They offer consulting services for anyone who is in an organization, family, business or school, who wishes to know more of how to help autistic people. View their site here!
We discussed the idea to make this fundraiser in an effort to provide more financial stability to my new business during economic hardship. I will be using the majority of these funds for salon rent, stocking product, and buying some new equipment and tools. As an independent contractor, these all come out of my pocket. In short, I sometimes lose more money than I make with this business, but it's extremely important to me that I create this space for us.
I'd like to get some sensory Items, such as weighted items for clients to wear during services, fidget items, new (quieter) hair clippers, and perhaps a more comfortable chair for clients’ guests to wait in. Florescent light filters, a child booster seat, and any other items I can find that will help my clients to feel most comfortable.
I also need to finance basic business components like POS software; possibly an updated tablet (my current apple iPad is out of date and cannot be updated any farther) and I also have a few car repairs I need to make, so that I can get to work!
When my knee recovers completely, I will be taking the train, and riding my bike to the shop.
My services are an important part of the local community of neurodivergent and queer individuals. Being removed so spontaneously from my last location wasn't ideal, but I hope that with the help of some generous folks, I can add even more support tools (and financial security) to my business. I have put everything into this business, all of the money I have. I often put other things on the back burner, so that I can keep this space running for those who need it most. But I cannot do it alone. I have limitations with work, because of my own disability and social energy. Asking for help is difficult for me, but It is necessary in order to continue my necessary services for the community.
I hope this money will also help me gain back some free time. I enjoy volunteering with animals, and would like to find other, new opportunities to support local Autistic people (and those abroad) while raising awareness of our needs as a group.
Who better to do an autistic person's hair than another autistic person?
If you donate, you will not only be positively affecting my business and mental/sensory health, but many others in the local marginalized community in need of my services, and a sensory safe place in the Denver area to get their hair done.
Thank you SO MUCH.
Give me a follow and check out my links! I am working on a beauty blog too!