Jessica Walker Of J Walker Salon Group On The Benefits Of Running A Purpose-Driven Business

An Interview With Chad Silverstein

1 . Find what you are passionate about and define it.
2 . Understand what you stand for — these are your core values.
3. Define your mission and make sure it’s clear.
4 . Hire the right people and form the right partnerships.
5. Be ready for anything and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

In today’s competitive business landscape, the race for profits often takes center stage. However, there are some leaders who also prioritize a mission-driven purpose. They use their business to make a positive social impact and recognize that success isn’t only about making money. In this interview series, we are talking with some of these distinct leaders and I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Walker.

Jessica Walker is a successful business owner, entrepreneur and beauty and wellness expert who owns J.Walker Salon Group in New Jersey. Jessica opened her first salon at the tender age of 19 and has grown the enterprise to four locations. Offerings include upscale beauty and wellness services, along with a bridal and event business.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us your “Origin Story”? Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

I spent my early years growing up on a farm in Alabama. When I was six years old, my family moved to New Jersey. I grew up in a very hardworking, entrepreneurial family that believed failure was not an option. My father had an incredible work ethic that has inspired me to achieve things I never thought were possible. I was fascinated by how my parents’ conducted business. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was learning. My emotional intelligence started to grow as a young child because of watching my parents.

Additionally, as a youngster, I always felt like an “ugly duckling.” This awkwardness put a focus on my appearance and later led to my interest in the beauty industry. The rest is history!

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

I believe that you can only be successful by surrounding yourself with people who share your values and work ethic. I was fortunate to meet that person (an experienced cosmetologist) just before I opened my first salon in 1997. We grew together and my business blossomed. I didn’t know it at the time, but we would work together side by side for 26 years until she retired. This was a lesson in how vital your team really is, and the right hiring is one of the keys to success.

We often learn the most from our mistakes. Can you share one that you made that turned out to be one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned?

One mistake that really changed me and taught me an incredibly valuable lesson happened as I approached my 5th year in business.

As I was preparing to celebrate my fifth anniversary in business, I received a letter in the mail saying that I had 60 days to vacate my location!

I had planned to renew my lease but did so in a voice message as opposed to putting it in writing. On this technicality, I lost my salon location. I was pregnant with my third child and had brought my business to nearly $1 million in revenue in those first five years. With tears in my eyes, I begged and pleaded to keep my business in that location and to have my lease extended, which I thought they agreed to in conversation. The answer was simply “no.”

I eventually did find a new location and now operate four salon locations with nearly 70 employees and over $2.2 million in revenue in 2022. But getting through that experience wasn’t easy. Not having a written lease agreement was by far one of the biggest mistakes I’ve ever made, however it turned out to be the biggest blessing. Today, I own the building of my flagship location, and this never would have happened if I had remained in that shopping center 20 years ago.”

As a successful leader, it’s clear that you uphold strong core values. I’m curious what are the most important principles you firmly stand by and refuse to compromise on. Can you share a few of them and explain why they hold such significance for you in your work and life?

I believe in strong leadership, love and the “extra sauce.” We must lift each other up to lead with love. I call it being a “Day Maker,” which can be simply opening the door for someone, smiling for someone who is sad, or simply listening. This little extra is the “special sauce” that can make all the difference for those around us. It’s the care and kindness that makes all the difference.

What inspired you to start a purpose-driven business rather than a traditional for-profit enterprise? Can you share a personal story or experience that led you to prioritize social impact in your business?

I think it started with my Dad being an orphan. His loss hugely impacted me as I grew up wondering what it would be like to grow up without parents. I recognized difficulty and hardship even as a child; it was intuitive. I am definitely an empath. I always wanted to reach out and help when I saw a need and this is how I viewed my business later on — as a vehicle to help people. My business was truly a resource that could benefit others.

Giving back has always been a core component of the J.Walker lifestyle, and an important part of the J.Walker philosophy. Our team is motivated by more than hair, makeup, or aesthetics…we never want to stop being a platform for difference — in our clients, in ourselves and in the community. When your outer looks good, your inner feels better!

Can you help articulate a few of the benefits of leading a purpose-driven business rather than a standard “plain vanilla” business?

It’s all about doing well by doing good. When you touch so many charities it raises your profile in the community and people want to be a part of that. The key, however, is the authenticity of your involvement. For example, we support countless charities but the ones that stand out most are the ones that we are most involved in.

For example, when we utilize our resources to donate days of beauty to Diva for a Day, a foundation that offers a day of beauty and relaxation to women and children battling cancer, it is literally a hands-on experience. We are approaching our 100th Diva this year! This level of involvement also helps motivate my team because they are there at the touchpoints, the up close and personal of spending time with someone facing the challenge of fighting cancer.

How has your company’s mission or purpose affected its overall success? Can you explain the methods or metrics you use to evaluate the impact of this purpose-driven strategy on your organization?

I truly believe that my business has benefited from doing good in the community. The easiest way to track this is through our referrals. Doing business with a purpose gets people talking — there is no doubt about it.

Can you share a pivotal moment when you realized that leading your purpose-driven company was actually making a significant impact? Can you share a specific example or story that deeply resonated with you personally?

I really realized I was making a difference when I was asked to be on the Boards of Diva for a Day and Heartworks, a hyper local acts of kindness organization. It is an honor to serve on these Boards and doing so furthers my level of involvement by utilizing my leadership skills.

Have you ever faced a situation where your commitment to your purpose and creating a positive social impact clashed with the profitability in your business? Have you ever been challenged by anyone on your team or have to make a tough decision that had a significant impact on finances? If so, how did you address and reconcile this conflict?

Giving back can often clash with profit, but that’s only on the surface. Again, I go back to Diva for a Day where we donate everything from a facial and massage to manicure, pedicure, hair and makeup…we get many more return benefits!

Sometimes you have an employee who doesn’t understand the value of giving back. This is usually overcome by communicating the purpose clearly and letting them know that they are part of making a difference. Most people want to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

What are your “Top 5 Things You Need To Know In Order To Create A Highly Successful Purpose-Driven Business.”

1 . Find what you are passionate about and define it.

2 . Understand what you stand for — these are your core values.

3. Define your mission and make sure it’s clear.

4 . Hire the right people and form the right partnerships.

5. Be ready for anything and be comfortable with feeling uncomfortable.

I’m interested in how you instill a strong sense of connection with your team. How do you nurture a culture where everyone feels connected to your mission? Could you share an example or story that showcases how your purpose has positively influenced or motivated people on your team to contribute?

In order for people to feel connected they need to know what’s going on within the business and the community. This is achieved through thoughtful and clear communication. How and where are we sharing our resources and gifts? Everyone wants to be a part of something bigger than themselves.

Imagine we’re sitting down together two years from now, looking back at your company’s last 24 months. What specific accomplishments would have to happen for you to be happy with your progress?

I would be happy to continue to scale my business which, in turn, would allow me to do more good in the community.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

Lead with love and make a difference every day for any one you can.

How can our readers further follow your work or your company online?




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This was great. Thanks for taking time for us to learn more about you and your business. We wish you continued success!

About the Interviewer: Chad Silverstein is an accomplished entrepreneur and visionary leader. He started his first company, Choice Recovery, Inc., while attending Ohio State University and grew it to become an industry outlier before selling the business after 25 successful years. With the launch of his second venture, [re]start, a career development platform, Chad aimed to help people find meaningful career opportunities. Under his leadership, his team was recognized as a “Top Workplace” award winner for over a decade, twice being ranked the #1 small and medium-sized business to work for in Central Ohio. Chad sold [re]start in 2023, enabling him to focus on building an online community of high-performing leaders and continuing to make a positive impact in people’s lives.