With help from The New Mexican‘s Empty Stocking Fund, Antoinette Delgado walked out of a domestic violence shelter eight years ago and returned to hairstyling.
With a combination of coloring techniques and personable customer service, the single mother of two has gone from cutting bangs for an hourly wage to owning her own Santa Fe salon, Style Labb.
“I barely had a penny when I left the shelter. We’ve come a long way,” Delgado said.
She first arrived in Northern New Mexico to study painting at the Institute of American Indian Arts before switching to cosmetology school and receiving a license in Gallup in 2003. She said marriage took her to Nashville, Tenn., and divorce led her to Dallas, where she honed her hairstyling skills before returning to Northern New Mexico in 2009.
Delgado said she left the Crisis Center of Northern New Mexico in Española in the summer of 2011 and found housing and received a protective court order from an abusive boyfriend. Since then, her daughter, Lily, has graduated from New Mexico School for the Arts and enrolled in the film program at Santa Fe Community College, while her son, Sage, studies violin at New Mexico School for the Arts.
Delgado worked for both an hourly wage and commission and rented her own space in a handful of Santa Fe salons before building a sufficient client base to start Style Labb in 2016.
“My kids come first, and owning my own business and my own schedule allowed me to be there for them more,” Delgado said.
In three years, demand has increased to the point that Delgado has a staff of four at the salon at 1600 Lena St.
“Well to start, she is off-the-charts talented with coloring and on point with new trends and what goes together,” said Jozef Dominguez, a client turned business partner of Delgado’s. “While she’s got all the skills though, what sets [Antoinette] apart is you can tell she cares about her clients and her staff and a lot of other people beyond herself.”
Dominguez owns Luxxe Hair and Med Spa in the Coronado Center off West Cordova Road and said he is bringing Delgado on board next month as a co-owner.
“I sort of got offered this salon business and knew right away I needed [Antoinette] as our captain,” Dominguez said. “She is a model for hope, and no matter where people come from, they can look up to her.”
Delgado prides herself on having compassion for her staff. At the salon, that means she bakes cookies or buys lunch for her employees. Outside of work, however, is where staff say Delgado’s understanding is most helpful. Shadie Gasper said she started beauty school in 2014 and stopped to have her daughter before graduating in August and landing a job with Delgado.
“She starts service with consultations, and she’s really good at asking the right questions and listening to what clients want, and I think that just carries over to how she treats us,” said Gasper, a stylist who also helps Delgado with other aspects of the business. “She gets what it’s like to work around my daughter’s schedule. She is really just a loving and understanding and awesome person.”