Partnerships make for a unique bond between those who go into business together. Often, in order to succeed, the relationship has to be deeper than merely one of associates.
It takes a bond like Tara Judy and Tina Lustig share.
The Murphysboro pair has been co-owners of TnT Hair Studio for 11 years, but their relationship goes back much longer.
“Since we were 5 years old, we have played sports together, played at Riverside Park together, all of that,” Judy said. “After school, we decided to go to cosmetology school at John A. Logan College together.”
Judy and Lustig also went to work together.
“We got jobs together at Regis Hair Salon in the University Mall together, then we worked together at a couple of other places, too. They we decide to open our own salon together.”
They found a Murphysboro shop which was for sale, bought it, and, at the ages of 23 and 24 respectively, became entrepreneurs.
“We were so young, it was taking a big risk, but we both had established clientele and we thought we could give it a go in our hometown,” Judy said.
Together, the pair learned how to be successful in business and how to work with each other. They’ve now owned the salon for almost a dozen years, focusing on service to customers and each other as well as communication.
“If something needed to be said, we just say, ‘Hey, we need to start doing this’ and we talk about things after hours, but those things are really rare. I mean, really, really rare,” Judy said.
More common, however, is cooperation and working as a team.
“When one of us is out, say if one of us had a baby or health problems, the other one takes on the burdens. We just take on each other’s clients. It just works,” Judy said.
She says the ability to cover for each other is one of the reasons she things customers are so pleased with TnT Hair Studio, adding that covering for each other is part of being business partners and friends.
“Tina had a baby eight months ago and I covered for her for a couple of months,” she said.
Lustig also helped Judy through a tough time recently.
“On Dec. 12, about 2 p.m., I was working with a client and I just turned my head to the left and my artery — it’s called the cerebellar artery — tore,” Judy said. “And when it tore, it caused me to have a stroke. I just fell to the ground and she didn’t even think twice. She just picked me up at got me to the hospital.”
At the hospital, an MRI showed the tear and a stroke so rare only 2 percent of people suffer one. The ailment is even more rare in people younger than 40. Airlifted to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, the bleeding stopped and remarkably, Judy was hospitalized just one night.
“When I say that this is a miracle, it really is,” Judy said. “Many of the doctors in St. Louis are amazed that I’m talking and alive today.”
She did miss two months of work, but Lustig took on Judy’s clients as well as her own.
“She’s literally my angel,” Judy says of her business partner, who not only kept the hair studio functioning, but who Judy credits with much more. “She’s definitely the person I was supposed to be lifelong friends with and more. She was there to save me. She saved my life.”
Now, fully recovered except for some minor memory loss and occasional numbness, Judy and Lustig continue to work side-by-side, styling hair and growing their business.
“We just feel blessed,” Judy said. “We try to do the right things. We’re not perfect by any means, but I feel like she wants the same success I do.”
And how does the pair define success?
“Whenever someone comes in here and leaves with a smile on their face because they feel better than they felt when they came in, that’s success. “When you show love and they can feel it, that is success.”
Judy says success is the pair continuing to grow the salon as business partners and friends.
“I see us in the future still being a hometown salon,” Judy says. “I see us growing, each with our own families and kids and just still being who we are.”