Photography by Whitney Krutzfeldt
Devon Brooks, a sexual assault activist and founder of the renowned Blo Blow Dry Bar, chats with us about building an enterprise, cultivating community and giving a voice to victims.
It was an ingenious idea: a spot for women to get a quick blow-dry and hairstyle for an affordable price. No cuts, no colour—just a way to get prepped for an important meeting or add a little polish to the day. At 21, Devon Brooks dreamed it up and made it happen with Blo Blow Dry Bar, a place where you don't "cheat" on your hairdresser, you simply stop in for a wash, dry and go.
When she started the company (collaborating with her mother and another partner), it wasn't only to fill a hole in the beauty service market—it was also a straightforward way to empower women in their everyday lives. "Sure, we built a business around great blow-dries," says B.C.-based Brooks, "but what we were really selling was confidence—the idea that, for $35, a woman can go in and, half an hour later, feel a fraction better about herself. That makes me happy." It's North America's original blow-dry bar, and today, there are more than 70 locations across Canada and the United States (with a few even in the Philippines).
Nine years later, Brooks has stepped away from the company's day-to-day operations, but that doesn't mean the 30-year-old is slowing down. She now spends her days mentoring entrepreneurs by helping define their brand identity and venturing into technology (by producing an app that connects individuals with mentors across the globe). Sphere, which is set to launch later this year, will link ambitious people in search of direction with world-class life coaches and self-mastery experts. Think of this as life mentoring.
And Brooks is certainly savvy outside of her business acumen, too: She's an activist. Twice a victim of sexual assault— at 18 and 21—she talks openly about her experience and helps others who have suffered the same fate. This summer, she's starting an online community called Babe Rally to help other women process sexual trauma. Whether they require a creative outlet to express themselves ("It's absolutely crucial to recovery and destigmatizing the experience," she says), need to know they're not alone by engaging with women who have been victimized or are just looking for some honest information about their options, Babe Rally offers support in the wake of immense pain and distress.
In addition to that, she's baring all in an autobiography—Brooks calls it a motivational memoir—that weaves together the story of her business success and her personal trauma. "If we're not explicit about the full spectrum of things that influence us, we're missing out on that real opportunity to educate and inform in an inclusive, healthy and powerful way."
It's at this intersection of entrepreneurship and activism that Brooks has truly found her voice as a leader. She believes her calling is to ignite dialogue and cultivate community in unconventional ways. "For me, creating things is not about trying to be someone—it's about doing everything I can to build something that impacts people positively." And let's face it: Since she knows the immeasurable value of helping assault victims and people who need guidance—not to mention the many benefits of a good hair day—she's already met her mission.