Vain Salon, a thriving boutique salon in downtown Duluth

Another UMD CED Entrepreneur Success Story

Kelsey O’Neil was raised in Marquette, MI and the Detroit, MI areas. Her grandmother, who owned a number of small businesses, was a huge influence in her life; especially inspiring Kelsey’s development as a business woman and entrepreneur.

Kelsey O'Neil400x400Kelsey gained her fervor for the salon business in high school where she attended cosmetology school. After graduation, she was hired as an assistant to a stylist for a local salon in Marquette, MI and later became a full-stylist. She spent much personal time learning about the practice and developing her clientele.

A job change for her partner prompted a move to Duluth, MN in 2012. Kelsey initially worked two jobs in order to build enough equity to someday start her own salon business. In June, 2014 she became aware of the potential sale of The Vain Salon located at 9 N. Lake Ave. in Duluth. It was at this time that she began working with the UMD-CED.

Kelsey O'Neil home_header_web

Kelsey spent much time developing a business plan, preparing budgets and financial projections, researching the potential market, and negotiating with the seller. In December 2014, a bank approved an acquisition loan and Kelsey became the new owner of the Vain Salon. In her first year as the salon owner the business far exceeded initial financial projections.

She currently has three stylists working with her and has become a certified educator and Master Stylist for TIGI (international retail hair care brand owned by Unilever). As a certified TIGI educator, Kelsey travels periodically around the USA providing hair care insight and guidance to other salon owners and stylists. Kelsey is extremely passionate about education and never stops learning. Her strong work ethic, can-do attitude, and dedication to her clients exemplifies her as a true Duluthian entrepreneur.


The UMD Center for Economic Development works with over 800 northeastern Minnesota businesses each year assisting owners and entrepreneurs with strategies. These strategic services include: starting a business, growing a business, buying/selling a business, managing a business, marketing & sales, and more. The Center has offices in Duluth, Grand Marais, International Falls, Grand Rapids, and Virginia.

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