Hélène Belisle, owner of Salon Chez Hélène in Luskville, summarizes her work career as “forty years of doing what I like.”
Born and raised in Luskville, Belisle trained and gained work experience in Hull before opening her own salon in her home in 1978. However, her experience in hairdressing dates back to her childhood.
“It was natural to me and that was what my plan was as a kid,” she explained. “When I was in primary school, I did my teachers’ hair. I lived down below in the village and the teachers were from out of town. They had to stay at the school and on the weekend, I went over. At the time, [womens] hairstyles were backcombed and pinned and sprayed and it stayed for the week. I was good at it; it was a very natural thing. I never had to bust my brain to become something… I just became what was natural to me.”
Although Belisle considered a career in journalism, music or literature, deep inside she knew hairstyling would become her life’s work.
“I never had any doubt, never questioned, when I was looking - like everyone else - at what to do. All kinds of things occurred, but I never had a doubt about being a hairdresser. In my profession, it answers every other interest I that have. I could be a kind of journalist in the way I communicate with customers. I [am] transmitting the proper information, making sure [people know] what is good and what happens in our community and anywhere. That is communication, making sure that information travels.”
Belisle continues to update her education in hairstyling to serve her customers. “Extra training and retraining is necessary for me and it benefits my clients so I can offer new trends and techniques and new products,” she said. “It’s a demand that is constantly in evolution. Companies are much more aware of what customers want: more natural ingredients: less chemicals, and this is closer to my values as well.”
In addition to running a successful small business for four decades, Belisle’s personal dedication to the Luskville area is exemplary. She served as municipal councilor from 1987 to 1997 and as a school board trustee with the Commission scolaire des Portages-de-l'Outaouais from 1998 to 2014.
She has coordinated the breakfast club at Notre Dame-de-la-Joie for 20 years, only two years less than the Club des petits déjeuners has existed in Quebec.
“I am the second-longest volunteer in the Outaouais region. Pas mal,” she admits, with admirable restraint.
In fact, Belisle initially became a volunteer with the Club in order to find her way through a serious life challenge.
“At the time, I had stopped my business for a year because of my health,” she explained. “[Working for the Club] helped me get back from having cancer. It gave me back the desire to do something for others in a different way. Children are the best ingredient for someone to return to life and to be a positive influence. I received more than I gave; that what the Club represents to me.”
Belisle looks forward to the future of Salon Chez Hélène.
“I think, for as long as I have pleasure to do my job and I am a useful member of the community and I have my health, then that is it.”
Her life and work philosophy is simple and profound.
“It is important to be proud of what you do, how you live your life, [of what you] have become in life. You have to be proud. It makes you do things the right way.”
Her advice for those considering opening a small business in their home community is similarly uncomplicated.
“A good thing to do before you open a business is to work for others and learn the business from their experience,” she said. “Learn from the mistakes they have made. There [must be] the connection with the client and yourself. There has to be connection and confidence for your customer.
“Don’t give up! Look at the right place for the right things, find the information, do things right. It starts with the desire to make your business successful. Be original. There are all kinds of possibilities. Use your common sense.”
Belisle knows from experience that operating a business in a small community goes beyond merely making money. “You are part of peoples’ lives in a daily basis,” she stated. “They are soliciting for your support for community, [looking for support] for events and also information about how things work and operate: that’s part of your responsibility as well. If you have your community at heart and you are proud of being in this community, then it can be done in such a way that your contribution has more impact.”
“I am very proud of my achievement and I hope that other people feel encouraged to have a business in a small town,” Belisle said. “If more people knew about the small businesses that exist [here] and what kind and for how long, I think it could be encouraging. It could be an incentive to a new entrepreneur to know what exists and what is missing to make this community better.”
Salon Chez Hélène
Open Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
819 455 2310
1992 route 148, Luskville.