Mechanicsburg salon combines hair care with mental health care

Carlisle/West Shore

MECHANICSBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — There are a lot of people we knowingly and unknowingly confide in when it comes to our mental health. Family, friends, co-workers, even strangers. For quite a few people, their hairdressers or barbers make that list as well.

But how likely is it that the person who is a trusted expert at cutting or styling your hair is also an expert in counseling? The chances are rather slim unless you go to Hair Counselors in Mechanicsburg.

Zannetta Jackson and Tennille Hill are the proprietors of the nine-month-old business. The duo found success in their mutual experiences of providing mental health counseling along with their interest in doing hair.

Their story starts in Philadelphia. Hill started caring for children and adults that had conditions such as schizophrenia and autism at 18 and then started investigating child abuse and neglect allegations for the city five years later. The knack for hair care was just a side hustle at the time.

“While I was in college, I made money to buy whatever I needed by doing hair,” Hill said. Hill then earned her master’s degree at 28 where she provided counseling services for just about everybody.

Life was pretty steady until Hill’s mother passed away from Cushing’s disease.

“As much as I tried to continue in the field of mental health, it was hard because that part of my life died along with my mother,” Hill said.

Hill and her husband moved to Mechanicsburg where she wanted to make another change shortly after getting settled.

“I decided to change careers and follow my passion by helping through my gift with hair. I was 39 and in cosmetology school where I finished with my teacher’s license,” Hill said.

Jackson’s path to the Midstate also started in the city of brotherly love. From a young age, Jackson started to experiment with hair, and her mother became the first test subject.

“Although the styles I performed on my mother were sore to the naked eye, she flaunted them as though she just walked out of a high-class salon on Rodeo Drive,” Jackson said. The interest only grew from there, leading Jackson into a mentorship at a local salon.

Despite the deep-rooted passion, Jackson decided not to pursue her mother’s advice of cosmetology school and instead worked for a child welfare agency out of college. It only took three years for Jackson to reignite the spark for cosmetology and graduated from the Berean Institute for Cosmetology with honors.

Over the years, Jackson would work at a number of salons while pursuing her cosmetology teacher’s license, which she finally earned in 2014. Jackson went back to school one more time in 2017 to earn a master’s in Counseling from Cairn University while also working for Empire Beauty as an educator.

After a brief pause, the idea for Hair Counselors came to light in 2018.

“The idea of using the gift of counsel and the talent of doing hair was extraordinary, however, it’s never been done at the magnitude for which the vision requires,” Jackson said. “I understood that the task could not be done alone so I knew exactly who to share it with. Tennille, my best friend of over 20 years. People say that business and friendships do not work, however, certain people are ordained to be in our lives for a reason and it’s up to us to recognize and identify and what that reason is.”

Their friendship is so strong, it managed to open a business during the height of the pandemic.

“We started the process in July 2020 and opened in October 2020 during the pandemic. We were blessed with the opportunity and calling to open, and we did just that,” Hill said, “Just as anyone during the pandemic, stress was there but it didn’t stop us from following our dream.”

As time went along, Hill and Jackson found success, and the lifting of restrictions made things much easier for both them and their customers.

“Business has been great. We have been building our clientele via word-of-mouth and social media advertisements. With or without COVID restrictions, we operate safely for our clients and ourselves,” Jackson said.

Speaking of customers, they love the natural comfort Hair Counselors provide for them.

“They love that they can come in a calm and professional environment and relax while getting their hair done. They don’t know that therapy is happening because if they knew, they probably would shy away,” Hill said. “However, they are receptive and love the education that they get about their hair and appreciate that they can learn how to care for their hair and why we are doing what we do.”

If you still need some extra convincing that this friendship and business can work together, just read their responses to the age-old question of “What’s the best part of work?”

“It’s not work. It’s my passion. I have fun bringing out the beauty in people emotionally and physically. I enjoy educating people and providing them a space that they can, as the singing group Xscape said, ‘kick back and enjoy the ride,'” Hill said.

“I truly believe that we were not born to work. I believe that we were born to make a living and make living work. When what we are passionate about becomes our mission in life, our calling in life, then work becomes null and void. We don’t work it, we live it,” Jackson said. “If I can transform a life on the outside as well as on the inside, then I’ve done my due diligence.”

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