Love, Legacy, & Pride.

As Pride Month dawns upon us, it’s the perfect time to reflect on love, resilience, and the strength of community. For Pooran and Zahava, founders of Poza Salon, this year marks a double celebration—18 years of building a thriving business and 21 years of loving partnership.

From modest beginnings to a renowned establishment, Poza (a blend of their names) is a testament to their unwavering dedication and passion. As proud members of the LGBT and women-owned business community, Pooran & Zahava have broken barriers and championed inclusivity and diversity in entrepreneurship.

1. Tell us how you met.

The two met in Cosmetology school in 1998; however, it was not love at first sight. Zahava had enrolled in school first. “I told the teacher not to let her in because she had bad vibes,” Zahava recalls,” Pooran initially echoed her uncertainty in her partner: “When I met Zahava, she had deep yet bright red hair; [Somebody] cut her fringe just below her forehead hairline. My first thought was, who had done that to her?!”

Pooran had just come from Iran and was still learning the language and culture. However, the two got to know each other over time, with Zahava including her in groups and explaining things patiently in detail. Their friendship blossomed into a whole life together.

2. What inspired you to start your business together, and how has your journey evolved over the past 18 years?

Through school & after graduation, the two were disappointed in the way the salons in Charlotte were operating then. They found them to be cutthroat and unwelcoming. “As newcomers, we were taken advantage of, even having to verify our paycheck every week to make sure we were getting what we earned,” recalled Zahava. The 90s hair salons were so disenchanting; no one was willing to invest time in helping you grow your skills; it was such a competitive environment.”

They wanted to be masters of the craft, which is hard to do if the environment is toxic. A receptionist and coworker at the salon where they worked recognized their drive and suggested that they open their own space.

“We started the salon in a time of desperation to create an environment that gave positive energy and growth for others in the industry.” Eighteen years later, they have done just that, creating a space for stylists to work in a non-competitive environment and allowing them to learn from each other each day and, most importantly, be themselves.

3. As an LGBT and women-owned business, how do you strive to create an inclusive and welcoming environment for your customers and team members?

The salon is a community that contains a melting pot of all of Charlotte’s ages, genders, socioeconomic statuses, and orientations. “We strive to include everyone. We do not care whether you had breakfast at the Waffle House or dinner at the White House. From when you enter the salon to when you leave, we want you to have the same exceptional experience.”

“We do not care whether you had breakfast at the Waffle House or dinner at the White House.”

The two and their team do just this, working with everyone who comes to the salon to make their hair journey come true. They sometimes act as therapists, life coaches, and any other hats they may need to wear to support their clients.

4.What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as entrepreneurs, and how did you overcome them together?

Over the past twenty years, every business has experienced challenges, including recessions, COVID-19, staffing, and many others. Pooran and Zahava faced these challenges as well as being strategic about sharing their personal lives and building strong relationships with their clients before sharing at the start of their business.

In having conservative clients, the two decided it was best to build relationships with them before sharing their personal lives. “We allowed people to get to know us as people before letting them know about our relationship.” Pooran recalled “We did not want to allow people to make decisions about us based on our relationship.”

“We challenged many people’s beliefs…”

They began to share more about their relationship with people as time passed. “We challenged many people’s beliefs,” Pooran says, as many of their clients were primarily conservative at the time. Even today, conversations considered hot topics are frequently in the salon.” We have always believed that open dialogue is how you change the hearts and minds, says Zahava. You impact people’s viewpoints by having conversations with people with differing views. It’s healthy.”

5. How is it working with and owning a business together?

“Sometimes it sucks,” jokes Pooran, “I hate sharing my clothes with her; it makes getting ready for work difficult.” She continues, “It has made us better people, but NOT for the faint of heart.”

Speaking to the team, they love the dynamic between the two owners. They both share the knowledge and support the team in their own way. “At times, home leaks into work, where you can hear them bickering about who will be cooking dinner or picking up the kids from school; it’s nice to see that side of them,” laughs a stylist on the Poza team.

Lastly, what message would you like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs, especially those from underrepresented communities, who may look up to your journey for inspiration?

“Your identity or background should never limit your dreams.”

“Your identity or background should never limit your dreams. We came from humble beginnings and faced countless setbacks. But every obstacle is an opportunity to grow,” says Zahava. They recommend surrounding yourself with allies, mentors, and communities that believe in you. Dream big, work hard, and never stop believing in yourself.

Their journey began two decades ago, fueled by a shared vision of creating a space where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. Through perseverance and sheer determination, they transformed that vision into reality, establishing Poza Salon as a beacon of excellence and a haven for all. But their story isn’t just about business success – it’s about love, partnership, and resilience in the face of adversity.

Together, they’ve weathered the storms, celebrated the victories, and emerged stronger than ever, hand in hand. This Pride Month, as we celebrate love in all its forms, let us honor the remarkable journey of Pooran and Zahava. Their story is a testament to the enduring power of love, resilience, and the pursuit of dreams – a true inspiration for us all. May their legacy continue to shine bright, lighting the way for future generations to come.

Happy Pride Month!