Victoria Leiato’s life changed when her mother went to beauty school. She was 6 when her parents divorced, and she and her two sisters lived with their now-single mother in El Paso. The family was surviving off food stamps and staying in government housing when her mother, an immigrant from Mexico, decided to become an esthetician.
“We were in a rough place,” says Leiato, who opened her own salon, The Bloom Space, last May in Oak Cliff. But “within two-to-three years that she was in beauty school, she was able pull us out of financial turmoil.”
Her mom got a job at an El Paso salon. It was like that scene in In the Heights, “but “a little less gossipy.” It felt like family there, and Leiato’s mom, who’s been working at the same salon for nearly 20 years, was able to establish a client base. They got off food stamps. Leiato and her sisters were able to attend college with little-to-no debt.
“I saw how our family could have upward mobility through my mom’s income through the beauty industry,” Leiato says. She never forgot that lesson.
Leiato graduated from University of Texas at El Paso in 2017 with degrees in organizational communications and linguistics. She and her husband, Michael, moved to Dallas, and Leiato began working for companies like Apple and Target. But, by the time she was furloughed and eventually let go from her job in the early days of the pandemic, she was burned out from the corporate world.
“I was stressed out all the time,” she says. “Up until owning a business, I never had so many gray hairs on my head.”
She worked various jobs, like organizing and styling, and even spent six months at a Design District salon managing the books and setting up its business practices. Last fall, she decided open her own beauty salon, and she knew she had to open it in Oak Cliff.
To Leiato, Oak Cliff felt the closest to El Paso of all Dallas’ neighborhoods, with its friendly population, colorful buildings, and murals. “I feel like it’s part of the Latino diaspora,” she says. “It just made sense to open our business here.”
She wanted to use her new business to support the local Latinx community, particularly Latina women, who were heavily impacted by layoffs during the pandemic. (“I was no exception,” she says.) Leiato hoped to provide a space for women to feel pampered and for beauty professionals—especially single mothers—to develop their small businesses, become financially independent, and begin to grow generational wealth, just like her own mother was able to do.
“The beauty industry allows people to ease into [financial freedom] without necessarily having a college degree or these crazy skills,” she says. After a year or two at beauty school, “immediately you have a trade that provides for your family.”
Leiato put together a plan, got a business loan in November 2021, and signed a lease at 938 W. Page Ave. on December 31, her 28th birthday. She spent months building out the salon with her husband. The resulting space is bright and vibrant, with pink and gold tones inspired by Mexico City. There are flowers hanging over the waiting area, white brick walls, warm leather chairs at the various stations, and racks of silky robes for guests.
The Bloom Space officially opened on May 21. Right now, the salon offers about 10 different services, like hair care, nail art, facials, teeth whitening, permanent makeup, lip injections, and more. The space is set up to accommodate all the necessary beauty stations—there are spots for hair styling and nails, and several private chairs in the back for more intensive services. All the estheticians can make their own hours, Leiato says, so there’s typically only a handful there at any given time. But the salon can accommodate about 17 professionals.
Every beauty professional is completely independent, Leiato says. Not a fan of commission- or hourly-based businesses, which often underpays workers, she doesn’t have any long-term contracts. Instead, she charges daily and weekly rates. If someone is paying daily rates, they only commit to four days at the salon; if someone is paying weekly rates, they only commit to three weeks. “If someone’s happy, they stay with me as long as they want to stay,” she says, but this way, the beauty professionals can pocket the entirety of their income, minus expenses.
“At the end of the day, if someone wants to be able to have generational wealth and have upward mobility, the fastest way to get there is to be independent in your career and your booth rent,” she says.
It all goes back to Leiato’s desire to support her community and help women grow and blossom, which, she says, is meaning behind the salon’s name, The Bloom Space. “I just really wanted something that represented women being able to thrive.”
That’s what her mother was able to do for her, and now it’s her turn to pay it forward.