Kasie Brittain Hildebran Class of 1990
Business Owner, Riah 103 / Sobborgo Salon & Spa, Morganton

Business and beauty are an interesting combination. Beauty and grooming choices are individual and truly personal. One needs to trust a cosmetologist to be knowledgeable of the latest styles and products and to recommend the ones that are most suitable to a clients individual needs. But those who own and operate beauty businesses must live in both the world of creativity and the world of finance.

Kasie Brittain Hildebran has been meeting the beauty needs of countless residents of Burke and surrounding counties for almost 30 years and enjoys a successful and thriving business.

"I love styling hair, says Kasie. My mother was my first and greatest inspiration. When I was a little girl, my mother operated a hair salon in our basement, and I grew up watching her cut, curl, perm, and style every day. People skills are important in any business, but they are doubly important in a business as personal as cosmetology. I really enjoyed meeting my mother's clients. Many of the women would bring their children to their appointments, and I loved welcoming them and asking them to come outside to play. Although I didn't realize it, I guess I began developing the necessary people skills at that early age.

"I wanted to style hair, too, and I'd experiment on my dolls. My mother was wise not to waste money on expensive dolls but instead to keep me supplied with the 99-cent kind. Every time I would promise not to, but I could not resist styling and cutting my dolls' hair. Eventually, my poor dolls would have no hair left at all because I shaved it all off with my moms trimmers! Fortunately, I dont do that with my clients today unless, of course, thats what they ask for.

I had so many great teachers at East Burke. My counselor, Mr. Lloyd Young, really encouraged me and loaned me books to help me find my way. Office staff members Nancy Clay and Kay Vinay insisted that I work as an office assistant, and Im so glad they did. I think those people skills got even stronger working in the office, meeting so many people in the school, even dealing with members of the public.

I enrolled in Burke Academy beauty school two days after graduation. I was eager and excited to get started on my career. In the beginning, I rented a booth and then managed a salon, then partnered with my sister-in-law, and finally bought a small salon. I was making progress, but I wanted more. I dreamed of owning my own beautiful salon in downtown Morganton. I looked and looked for property that was in a good location, was zoned for business, and had adequate parking. There was none, and I was discouraged.

One Saturday night while visiting the Drexel Fair, quite by chance an old friend told me about the perfect property in downtown that had not yet been listed. I believe it was truly divine guidance that helped me find this property, and I am thankful to God for the help. Because of this casual tip, the first thing Monday morning the property was mine. The people who were building the condo complex next door offered me $5000 to walk away and let them buy the property, but I wasnt having that. I was willing to fight for my dream.

I thought that maybe Id pay off the land in about ten years and then build my business, but my husband, Mark, insisted that I go ahead while I was excited and inspired. So I followed his advice and spent more than a year working on designs with an architect, followed by construction of my building. At that time, I was working with a product company called TIGI, and I was having a great time traveling all over the country doing demonstrations onstage and working next to stylists from New York, Chicago, Texas, Atlanta, and London. It didnt pay much money, but it was great experience, and I learned so much.

I took many classes in New York, and it was then that I decided I needed to compete. So I entered the 1995 Total Body Fantasy Nail Competition. In those pre-social media days, a person had to be pretty creative and come up with her own ideas. So I looked back on my high school classes and thought of the character of Medusa that I had learned about in my Greek mythology class. Medusa was a monster with snakes for hair, and I thought she would be fun to re-create. I worked on my Medusa costume for six months using chicken wire and paper mache. I painted and air brushed and when I finally decided she was ready, I shipped her to New York. She was waiting for me when I arrived, and I spent ten hours getting her prepped and ready. As my model, Tammy Mull, and I entered the Jacob Javits Convention Center, some people stopped me and asked if I would answer some questions. When I turned around, I saw a guy with what looked like a hundred microphones on his shoulders. A woman asked me several questions, handed me her business card, and told me to call her if I won. After the reporter walked away, Tammy asked me if I knew who the woman was. I said no and added that we needed to hurry so we wouldnt be late. When Tammy told me the woman was a reporter from CNN, I laughed and didnt believe her.

It was all so exciting just to be there surrounded by competitors from places from as far away as Paris and Rome! So a person can imagine how shocked I was when my Medusa won first place!! Later that night, I called the reporter. At first, the receptionist at CNN told me that the reporter was not taking calls, but when I gave my name, she told me that they had been waiting for my call. A lot of publicity followed the win. I was even on the front page of The News Herald! What an exciting, fun time it all was.

Five years later in 2000, some of my girlfriends encouraged me to try again. They even offered to model for me. So this time, I re-created Cinderella with Michelle Fisher as my model. Half of her face and body showed how she looked before the ball and the other half during the ball. And I won again! Competing and, yes, winning, have been some of the most memorable experiences of my career. Sometimes, I still cant believe that really happened to me!

Kasies salon at 103 Meeting Street in Morganton offers a variety of services from hair styling to nail art to waxing to spa treatments. She also does makeup for weddings, proms, and other special events. Its always a busy place. I think its important, she says, to offer a variety of services in order to meet the client's complete beauty needs. I have an excellent team of stylists who work with me. Plus, my mom is still here also. She is my rock and always watches my back. I am proud to say that she is still my inspiration.

Owning and operating a business requires complete dedication and commitment. The hours are long, and the responsibilities are great. There are orders to make, products to stock, bills to pay, taxes to file, and appointments to schedule. I know most people have supportive families, but I have to say that mine has been especially understanding, adds Kasie. I often work late into the evening, and even when my children were little, I would frequently come home after they were asleep. My husband took so much of the responsibility on himself. Its difficult on family life when the mom keeps these hours, but they have all pulled together and done well and are a real blessing to me.

Riah 103 also showcases jewelry and accessories, and the place is tastefully but abundantly decorated for every season. Yard work is also a factor as an attractive business is necessary to appeal to customers. Keeping up with these tasks can be a challenge, but they all must be done. On the other hand, the creativity and skill of the stylist brings satisfaction and joy to the customers, and that makes all the hard work worthwhile.

I really enjoy my clients, says Kasie. Not only do both men and women travel to the business from all parts of the county, some of them also come from Marion, Lenoir, Taylorsville, Hickory, Charlotte, and Raleigh. Its a great feeling to know that they enjoy my work enough to take the time to make the drive. One of the best perks of this business is knowing a lot of people. I feel like they are all my friends.

In 2010, Riah 103 was voted as the Best Spa in Burke by the readers of The News Herald, and in 2018, Kasie was voted as Best Hairdresser in Burke. I am thankful to everyone for helping make this business a success. My God, my family, my clients, and my staff have all played a part. It has been both a journey and a blessing!

Published August, 2019

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