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Meet Trailblazer Kortnee VanCleave

Today we’d like to introduce you to Kortnee VanCleave.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
I have always been the creative/artsy type – I went to beauty school, graduated in 2012, and have been pursuing hair professionally ever since. I started off at DryBar Plano which I called my home for about 2 years. I was still doing cuts and color in my free time for fun. I had too much fun styling hair at DryBar to want to make salon services a full-time job. Over time, my talent and passion for the art of cut and color grew stronger, word of mouth spread, and I decided to transition from just blowouts to growing a full clientele of my own – the best decision I have ever made!

While growing my cut and color clientele I discovered a hole in my heart where styling used to be, so I decided to dip my toes in the world of weddings, specializing in special event and wedding hair styling.

Doing hair for a bride and her bridal party and family is one of my favorite parts of my career. To paint a picture for you – I walk in a space where I will be working with a handful of women who have (more than likely) just woken up. With fresh faces and hair waiting to be shaped and molded into a style pre-determined in their minds, I get to create the style that is in their minds and make it a reality (all the while being in the presence of mimosa sipping, 90’s music, and reminiscing over funny stories). When I am done with everyone’s hair that needed to be styled, I take a brief moment to breathe, look around the room, and observe the transformation that has just taken place. I had the honor of having a hand in that! Not only do these women look absolutely flawless, but their sense of confidence and peace is emanating from them!

For me, hair isn’t work. It’s my creative outlet that I have the daily opportunity to zone into.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Growing a business and being your own boss is by no means ‘easy’. For me, one of my biggest struggles was patience. I wanted to have a full clientele in my first 3 months, but we all know it doesn’t work like that. What I found that seemed to help were specials, a referral program to get new butts into my seat, and pampering my existing clientele to ensure they come back. I also busted my butt learning things I’d never imagined I needed to know: how to create a website (, investing time in a business boot camp (Britt Seva is GENIUS), attending hair shows, following hundreds of hairstyling profiles on social media and staying up late in the night by being drawn into learning more from other stylists.

Other than patience, my other struggle with being my own boss is that I am a single Mom. Trying to find the extra time to invest in the behind-the-scenes stuff is definitely difficult when there’s always laundry to be done, baths to be given, lunches to be packed and remembering to breathe in between each task. There have been nights where I’ve gotten MAYBE 4-5 hours of sleep just because I made it a priority to check the things on my list off to grow my business (Coffee is God’s gift to man!).

A few words of advice for all of my fellow entrepreneurs:

1. You get out of it what you put in. Meaning, the more work you put in upfront, the closer you will be to achieving your goals tomorrow. You might have to pull an all-nighter every now and then, but the growing process won’t last forever.

2. Always strive to learn more! There’s always something to learn and growth to be made!

Last but not least…

3. DO NOT forget to take care of yourself! Yes, put in the hard work! But that doesn’t mean you have to be a slave to your business. Pick 2-3 days out of the month and go get your nails done or a massage or grab a drink with a few good friends! Binge watch your favorite show, pick up a fun hobby or unplug and go for a walk without any technology.

Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Top Knot Stylist – what should we know?
I am a hairstylist which entails cuts, color, and styling. I specialize in the infamous and currently trending Balayage (hand painted highlights) and wedding hair styling. As my own business owner and boss, I pride myself not on just my work, but the customer service and integrity that comes with what I provide. No matter who sits in my chair, you will always get my 100% (even my own mother!) (unless requested) No one will leave with wet hair, bobby pins falling out or just “liking” their hair. If you don’t LOVE it, I don’t either and I will strive for perfection and fix it!

We’re interested to hear your thoughts on female leadership – in particular, what do you feel are the biggest barriers or obstacles?
I don’t think there are many “barriers” for female leadership. I firmly believe you can dominate your dreams tenfold if you are willing to put in the work and make it happen. I think the barriers are in the industry itself which levels the playing field. Thinking there are limits out there only limits yourself. All you need to do is find your grit and persevere through the grunt work.


  • Balayage – Starting at $125
  • Cut- $40
  • Bridal hair styling – Starting at $110

Contact Info:

Image Credit:

Kortnee VanCleave

Getting in touch: VoyageDallas is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

1 Comment

  1. Gayle Tinsley

    June 7, 2018 at 2:53 am

    At 45 I got my hair colored for the FIRST TIME!!
    I was excited and nervous about this decision and knew I had to find someone I trusted with my “virgin” hair

    Kortnee did an amazing job … I loved it!!

    Client for life

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