How a mom became a leader

– Tribute to Moms –

By Larry Atseff

I called Tami Abraham to talk with her about how she as a mother, and husband Terry just completed 20 successful years as owners of I Design Salon and Blow Dry Bar. She was quick to suggest that the mother that should be recognized who is really instrumental in the salon these days is Rachel Barnish. When you enter the doors of I Design, you are greeted by the friendly smile of Rachel and her front desk team. As a mother of 2, she is juggling motherhood as well as overseeing a 20 year small business. Rachel said, “I have been involved with the salon off and on for about half the time it has been in business, starting when I was a customer in 2010.” “It has been an evolution. I grew up as the youngest of 3, daughter to the oldest Koshgarian daughter, Terry, part of the family that runs a rug local cleaning business. Early on, I learned that when you take good care of customers, your business will grow.” “After I went to Iowa State in fashion merchandising for two years I soon figured out that wasn’t quite what I wanted to do as my career. Like many wise moms, my mom said, ‘You like the beauty industry, follow your passion’ That led to going to an aesthetics school in Oak Brook to get a license in skin care. At about the same time, in 2011, Terry Abraham heard about my interest in working at I Design and hired me as a receptionist part-time while also working at Nordstrom in the cosmetics department. Then something really clicked. Nordstrom is all about an exceptional customer experience and it was there that I learned how to listen to customers, what they were looking for, and addressing needs of clients.

It was really rewarding when customers appreciated how I helped. After 3 years at Nordstrom, Terry and Tami asked if I would like to work full time at the salon and they would mentor me as the new Salon Director. I know they were impressed how I had learned to assist customers and work with others, plus the fact I was partial to a family-owned business vs. a large company.” Rachel puts it this way, “Terry told me he would challenge me to start making the tough decisions and he would always back me up. I needed to start treating the business as if it was my own. I couldn’t have asked for more as my mentors.” During her time at I Design, Rachel got married in 2017 and had her first baby a year later, and a second two years later, learning how to juggle the kids, daycare, and taking on more and more responsibilities at the salon. She had to be organized, structured and multi-task many responsibilities. Flash forward to 2020. After 20 years in business, the salon was scheduled for a full renovation. They started planning, working with designers and contractors, and of course, also involving Rachel. She was put in charge to lead the project and work directly with the general contractor.

Then COVID-19 hit in March. Of course, the salon had to close, but this was as good time as any, because that gave the Abrahams an empty location to renovate. They finished the renovation with its modern, new clean look the day before, on May 29, 2020 when I Design was allowed to reopen. The renovation was very timely, given all the emphasis on sanitation and clean store surroundings. “All the while”, Rachel points out, “I took on the responsibility to stay in touch with customers, installing curb side pick-up and deliver products directly to homes. I worked with the staff to make sure customers got their favorite stylist by organizing the database for the business from home, and coming in occasionally. I got to know our customers a lot better than I ever would have, and they got to know me. Same for the employees…we now have over 20. I learned to become more efficient at home, as my husband Cameron, a teacher, was also at home more. “I really grew. I love my career at the salon. They are my work family. As Terry always says, “If you love your job, you’ll never work a day in your life.” It’s really true.” And now, to top it off, she is expecting a third child in May. Rachel Barnish, a mom on the move.

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