KRU Salon Redefining Beauty with Diversity and Empowerment

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Tiffany Rivera Gomez, owner of KRU Salon in Rock Island, IL. Photos by Wezz De La Rosa / Hola America
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By Maya Chavez, Hola America

In the heart of Rock Island, IL, stands KRU Salon, a beacon of diversity and empowerment in the beauty industry. Owned by the dynamic Tiffany Rivera Gomez, KRU Salon isn’t just a place to get your hair done; it’s a community hub where everyone, regardless of background or hair type, is welcomed with open arms. In an interview with Tiffany and her talented assistant, Justine Stratton, an inspiring journey was discovered behind her salon and the values that drive its success.

Rivera Gomez, a seasoned stylist with years of experience, embarked on her entrepreneurial journey after honing her craft at various salons. She originally started out at Lera Salons Suites in 2015 in Davenport, IA, helped manage and taught at both the New Style Barbershop in 2017 and the Academy, and crossed over to what was then Shear Elements in 2018. The owner of Shear Elements sold the business to Rivera Gomez, where she cultivated what is now KRU Salon. Her vision for KRU Salon was clear from the start: she wanted to create a space that celebrated diversity and catered to the needs of all clients, irrespective of their hair texture or cultural background. “KRU is another spelling for ‘crew’, as in my crew. My salon family. I wanted the salon to be diverse and a place where everyone can go get their hair done,” shares Rivera Gomez, emphasizing her Mexican and African American heritage as a driving force behind her inclusive approach.

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Tiffany Rivera Gomez, owner of KRU Salon in Rock Island, IL.
Photos by Wezz De La Rosa / Hola America

With a current team of ten dedicated stylists, KRU Salon offers a wide range of services, from natural hair care to color treatments, braids, nails, lashes, and everything in between. They also provide bridal and quinceañera services. “I want to be there for everyone. Also, people with religious beliefs. There are some people who would like to have their hair done, in a private setting in which some places cannot accommodate. We have the ability to do that, and I want to stress that we want everyone to be comfortable.” Their commitment to inclusivity extends beyond hair services, with KRU Gentlemen in the works, a full-service barbershop for men, that will be located right next door. “Some men want the same things but not in so much of a female setting,” Rivera Gomez explains, highlighting the salon’s dedication to meeting the unique needs of every client. “That’s where KRU Gentlemen will come in. Plus, with the revitalization of Rock Island, we are in the prime center of that.”

What also sets KRU Salon apart is its unwavering commitment to fostering a positive and inclusive environment for its employees. Stratton describes the salon as a “big family,” where everyone is welcomed and supported. Rivera Gomez’s empathetic leadership style ensures that each team member feels valued and empowered to excel at their craft. “We take our first-time customers, and we are so open and welcoming to them that sometimes they feel comfortable staying in the lounge and talking with us afterward. That’s the thing, we want them to feel comfortable and know that what happens in my salon stays in my salon. This is a safe zone.” Stratton confirms this as she has worked alongside Rivera Gomez since 2018 and personally felt that everyone who worked with her knew they were well taken care of. “Every person that works in the salon is someone she cares about,” says Stratton, “She’s empathetic and compassionate to everyone. She’s treated us with the utmost respect and gets involved with our personal life.”

Rivera Gomez’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs in the beauty industry is a powerful message of empowerment and perseverance. She emphasizes the importance of self-belief and determination, urging women to break through barriers and pursue their dreams relentlessly. “Do not let anything hold you back. Listen to what you want for yourself. Don’t let anything get in the way of that. Stay focused and share the wealth. I love sharing my resources and helping entrepreneurs when they need advice. Sometimes you have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. That’s something I learned in school. Never just stop at school. Keep going, keep going, keep going!”

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Despite facing challenges in the beauty industry, Rivera Gomez’s resilience and determination have propelled KRU Salon to success. She refuses to be confined by stereotypes or limitations, embracing every aspect of her heritage with pride. “I never pick a side. That is the same with business, we never pick a side,” she asserts, emphasizing her dedication to embracing all facets of her identity.

Her commitment to giving back extends to her employees, whom she mentors and supports both inside and outside the salon. “I want to teach these younger girls what it’s like to run their own business. I want them to know that if you get a chair with me, I’ll make sure you have the clients you need and be the best that you can be,” Rivera Gomez shares, highlighting her passion for empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs. “I want them to be more knowledgeable to tell the clients about what the process is for the service they choose. Some stylists don’t explain what’s in the products and what’s being put in your hair, so I try to make sure that my clients know that for their hair health.”

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Looking ahead, Rivera Gomez wants KRU Salon to be the very first salon people turn to as a trusted destination for all hair care needs, in which the salon supports and serves to educate clients about the importance of hair health and product knowledge. Her ultimate legacy? To inspire her daughters and other women to pursue their dreams fearlessly, knowing that anything is possible with determination and resilience, even if you stand alone in the process.

In a world where beauty standards are often rigid and exclusionary, KRU Salon stands as a testament to the power of diversity, empowerment, and unwavering acceptance. If there’s one thing to take away from KRU Salon, it’s this: beauty knows no bounds, and everyone deserves a seat at the table.

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