Welcome to West Chester

Kara Larkin brings salon expertise to the borough with her new venture, Cinq

What made you choose to open your own salon? I thought that after 10 years in the industry I was ready to branch out, to be my own boss and embrace the challenges and rewards that come along with that.

How did you assemble your team? Two of them were my assistants at our previous salon — we’ve worked together for the last three years. My old assistant Bella Page is a stylist in the salon and has her own chair, growing her book; Wesley McCormick is my personal assistant now. I also have my receptionist, Caroline Dunlevy, who has been my client for about six years, and she was looking to get into the beauty industry and I thought it was a great opportunity for her to get to know the business.

When you leave a job and open your own place, is it difficult to bring your book, your clients, with you? No. I definitely have a very loyal following, so I was confident that they were all going to come with me and be happy for my new venture.

Tell me about the design choices you’ve made in the salon? I wanted to make it very homey but also keep it fresh and clean. A lot of our clients have commented on how comfortable they’ve felt right from their first visit. We have a lot of greenery, which I think keeps it fresh and upbeat, and a huge window lets you see everything going on out on the street.

Did you have an idea how you wanted this space to work? I wanted it to be more open. If there were a couple clients sitting down, I wanted them to be able to engage with each other. People come in to communicate, whether with my team or other customers. When women come together and engage with each other, it just has such a good vibe. I wanted to encourage that.

What would you say are your specialities? I specialize in color, extensions and bridal. I have an educational background in these areas, and my experience has been that those elements of the business have become bigger in the industry in the last 10 years. Women are doing more with their hair now than when I entered the industry, and I’ve grown with those changes.

How’d you come up with the name? Cinq means five in french. I’m the third generation of five girls — I’m one of five sisters, my father had five sisters, and his mother had five sisters, so five has always been an important number in my family. Since opening, my family has been my biggest support system.

What would you tell someone who was looking for a change? I would tell them that I would be thorough and honest in my consultation, and I’d work with them to get them out of their comfort zone. I’m very upfront about what will work, what will look right, and what will allow them to feel confident with themselves.

It seems like confidence is a big part of what you do. Absolutely. I think it’s important for me to help my clients find their own confidence. I try to help them use their inner beauty to find their outer beauty.