Alter EGO is Raleigh’s premiere downtown salon, an urban loft hair studio and art gallery. As a full service salon, Alter EGO provides cut, color, and a blow dry bar. The unique space at Alter EGO was created to inspire artists and engage the senses; it serves as a way to increase design stimuli for our stylists. Owner Dana Hunter Rosa knew she wanted something different than most salons, which are traditionally dark places where the stylists are clad in black and there isn’t much room to move. Instead, Alter EGO’s loft feels like light, open space featuring a clean decor with 18 styling stations, antique pieces to accentuate the feel of being located in a historic building and artwork from local artists.
What made you decide to become a hair stylist?
It was due in part to my amazing highschool art teacher, Ms. Corbin, who helped me figure out I wanted to do something creative. I was going to study painting but I was scared I would end up a starving artist. Then, around the same time I met a hairstylist, Asha, who really inspired me. He was my first mentor.
You opened Alter EGO at 24; that’s young for a business owner.
What drove you and how did you know you were ready?
That is young, but we opened Alter EGO as a family and so it wasn’t just me, a 24 year old. With our individual talents, we made a great team and just dove in. I really wanted Alter EGO to be a collective for creative hairstylists. I felt that so many salons wanted all the stylists to look the same and produce the same result. I saw many talented people wasting away in the land of “sameness”. In contrast, I wanted a salon that would foster creativity and allow each stylist behind the chair to shine as an artist and have their own unique style and brand. Ultimately, I believe clients should choose a stylist they trust to inspire tailor-made designs, not just copy current trends.
Alter EGO does a lot with local artists – what’s this about?
I find that I am most creative when I surround myself with other creative people who can inspire me. I love the arts and crave that design stimulation. We participate in First Friday and feature a new artist every month in the salon. I love that Raleigh has First Friday; its really cool to see the community supporting their artists and DTR.
You live, work, and play in downtown Raleigh. Talk about your sense of community here.
When we were opening Alter EGO, we loved downtown Raleigh and felt it had great growth potential, not to mention, the beautiful and artistically inspiring historic buildings. When we found our space I remember our landlords, Empire Properties, talking about their vision for a thriving community of local businesses and residents downtown. 2008-2010 were really rough years for everyone, but Empire upheld their commitments to nurture a cohesive community. Downtown Raleigh is becoming that all-inclusive, walker-friendly town that will allow Alter EGO and other businesses to serve residents and visitors alike.
You own Alter EGO with your mom and sister. Would you open a family business again?
Yes. I feel it would be harder to be in partnership with someone other than my family. We know that we always have each other’s best interest at heart. We also have the same work ethic and values. Sure it’s been difficult, but even when we would have quit on ourselves we wouldn’t quit on each other.
What do you love/hate about the fashion industry?
I love that it is always evolving; you can never get bored. I love that it drives us to keep up with the change. But, there are definitely dark sides. I guess I hate that there often seems to be a lack of conscience.
If you were going to offer advice to young hairstylists, what would you say?
Educate yourself, be humble, and never stop learning.
To young entrepreneurs?
Prepare yourself well, and never give up. Nothing worth doing is easy.