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Hair spray in hand, one UCF alumna has traded her health administration degree for her own beauty salon in Waterford Lakes. But it wasn’t as easy as the flick of a curling wand.

Erika Gomez has been working at a health care staffing agency since she graduated in 2009, but she has always had a passion for beauty and fashion. She regularly visited hair salons, and one day she visited a blow-dry bar and thought the concept was so intriguing that she decided to open her own in Orlando.

After a year of obstacles and hard work, Gomez now co-owns Just Blow It, a hair salon located behind the Waterford Lakes shopping plaza. However, one thing she did avoid was taking out any loans to jumpstart the business.

The salon specializes in blowouts, make-up application and those intricate hairstyles seen on Pinterest that are nearly impossible to create at home. With a cozy ambiance, complete with vintage decor, Just Blow It offers guests complimentary wine and gourmet cupcakes while they wait.

“We just wanted to make it a really social environment where, for example, there’s maybe three girls and you have a round table in the front where there are chairs so that if we’re busy it’s not just people waiting up front staring at the wall while waiting for the next stylist,” Gomez said.

Gomez co-owns the salon with her close friend of five years, Katie Tona, an alumna of Florida State University with a bachelor’s in business and finance.

“We honestly just ran with it and didn’t look back. It was literally an idea that came in one day, and within the next month we already had a business plan,” Gomez said. “It was a long planning phase because we kept getting a lot of rejections for renting spaces because we were just two little girls [who] had no business experience, aren’t even stylists and didn’t even have any experience in the industry.”

Despite the rejections, Gomez refused to give up.

When she informed her parents of her aspirations, they agreed to help in any way they could, but first shared a personal story from a past business venture. To prepare their daughter for the risks that accompany entrepreneurship, they told her of their experience as they fell on hard times after owning a restaurant in New York that failed.

Instead of feeling discouraged, Gomez said her parents’ story inspired her to raise the $75,000 she needed to fund Just Blow It without any loans.

That persistence and focus is what Chris Morgan, her fiancé who works as an account executive for Groupon, respects most.

“Her ambition and her lack of fear is what I admire the most about her,” Morgan said. “It’s a scary thing to create a business. I mean she invested a lot of money into this. Her family is not wealthy.

So this is just a thing where she went down South, got her hair done, and thought, ‘This is a really good idea, and this is not in Orlando, and I want to make this happen.’ And then, she just did it.”

Gomez said the financial struggles are still there, but prides herself and Tona on having finally opened a business by themselves.

She gives the following words of wisdom to potential entrepreneurs: “My best advice is to not doubt yourself and to not let money be an issue. That’s why a lot of people don't build businesses — because it seems like this mountain you can’t climb, but if you take it a little bit at a time it becomes something that, before you know it, you're at the top.”

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Gabby Baquero is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.

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