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Bethanie Morken: Fort Wayne Entrepreneur renovates Bus, Life, and a Business

Fort Wayne local entrepreneur built and renovated a bus. Turning it into a hair salon on wheels and small business in Fort Wayne.

It’s easy to spend hours at the hair salon; many people have to plan it out in advance to ensure they are saving enough time for their upcoming hair appointment. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those that want a much faster approach, the clients that need a quick haircut or a nice blowout. Unfortunately, quick-quality salon service options are few and far between. Bethanie Morken, a cosmetologist since 2009, noticed this problem throughout her career, among other flaws in the salon industry, and decided it was time to change the narrative. In 2021, she decided to fully commit to an idea she has had in her mind for some time and started her venture into an industry-disrupting project that she now calls 260 Hair Bus. When she described what the company is today, she said,

“260 Hair Bus is designed to have W2 employees; my goal with the bus is for it to be a platform for new stylists to build their clientele and find their own identities and build confidence behind the chair with the help of my training and shared knowledge. For clients, I wanted to bring a quick in and out salon service that also provides a quality, uplifting, and positive experience.”

Bethanie Morken was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Indiana. When we talked about what her childhood was like, she said she has many great memories from when she was growing up. Like visiting her father in Wisconsin, helping him on projects for his home building business or hearing her stepdad tell her she should be a hairstylist someday after seeing the haircuts she would give her Barbie’s. She also told us, “I was an only child until I was ten, so the word lonely comes to mind. When I grew up, we didn’t have many gadgets like kids have today to stay busy. I entertained myself with arts and crafts or by watching what the adults were doing around me. Throughout my childhood, people would tell me that I was too mature for my age and that I needed to spend more time playing with the other kids, but I never felt like I fit in with the kids my age. I was just too interested in learning about the world around me.” She went on to say that even though her childhood felt lonely at times, she believes that all the observations she had growing up helped guide her in many decisions she’s made in her adult life, and those big decisions have helped shape her into the person she is today.

When Morken was a teenager, she remembers thinking about the concept of being a business owner; she said,

“I remember in middle school thinking that I never wanted to live my life only looking forward to Friday. I always wanted freedom and flexibility, and being a business owner is really the only way to get that. Being around my dad when I was younger really exposed me to what being a business owner would be like. Watching business be good and bad, sometimes overwhelming while also being rewarding and exciting. It was all the things, and I knew I wanted something like that for myself.”

When Bethanie was at South Side High School, she applied for the cosmetology program at Anthis Career Center. At first, she wanted to do the program because growing up, she always heard people talking about how important skilled trades were to have in your back pocket but soon after starting the class she realized this was something she’d actually want to have as her career.

260 Hair Business in Fort Wayne, Entrepreneur builds a business from nothing and remodels a school bus to make into the first Hair Bus Salon in Fort Wayne and Indiana.

In 2009, Morken passed her state boards and became a licensed cosmetologist. She went to Indiana University to study Human Development and Sociology, and throughout her college career, she worked behind the chair at Master Cuts. Master Cuts was a corporate salon, similar to Great Clips or Big League Barbers. This was Bethanie’s first salon opportunity, and she was grateful to have the peace of mind a corporate-backed salon had. She told us,

“I’m grateful I had the corporate experience starting out. Today when you work for a local salon owner and, for example, you overprocess someone’s highlights, you’re not protected like you would be on a corporate level. I never felt like I would over-process anyone’s hair, but I always felt a little more protected in the beginning knowing I had corporate backing if I ever needed it. It helped push me along and learn a lot really quickly.”

She’s carried this experience throughout her career in the salon industry, among other situations she’s encountered that she felt could be done better or differently. Bethanie has had the opportunity to witness many different versions of the various salon business models out there but has never found anything that felt like a good fit for her. Many of the salons she worked in didn't share the same values as she did, or had toxic work spaces from trying to blend too many stylists into one work environment.

In 2020, Bethanie lost her job when the world shut down to stop the spread of Covid-19. Although she lost her job, it gave her the time she needed to think of what she could do to change the industry. As she thought through her business model, she knew she wanted to create a space for a convenient, in-and-out, quality salon service for her clients. With this concept in mind, she knew the services she would offer in this new salon would need to be ones someone could perform in an hour or less. This led to the creation of the first menu, which included a blowout bar and clipper cuts. On the stylist side of the business, she wanted the location to be small so that there wasn't room for too many people to be in the same space to prevent the chance for conflict. This would allow her to always ensure the environment within the salon would stay positive. Next, she knew she wanted to hire newly licensed cosmetologists to give them the opportunity to get comfortable, confident, and find their identities behind the chair with the help of her guidance. Bethanie loves teaching and sharing her knowledge with other stylists, so planning to hire newly licensed cosmetologists would give her the ability to dig deeper into her educational side with those hungry to learn more about the industry. Now that she knew the business model she wanted, she had to find the best way to execute it. The idea of running a storefront salon wasn’t what she wanted for this concept; it needed to be something that was more convenient for people because convenience was one of the main focuses of the business model. She loved the idea of mobile detailing or mobile pet grooming businesses, so she decided to create Fort Wayne’s first mobile hair salon.

Standing front of a hair salon in Fort Wayne. 260 Hair Bus travels to events and happenings in Fort Wayne. This hair salon is available to book for your next haircut or hairstylist in Fort Wayne

After months of searching, on June 6th, 2021, Bethanie finally found the perfect vehicle for her business. A 2005 Navistar school bus, once used to transport special needs children for the East Allen County School district. Now that she had the bus it was time to start designing and executing the conversion from a school bus to a mobile hair salon. Without the ability to work the last several months, Bethanie's savings was dwindling but, shortly after buying the bus, covid restrictions began to loosen and Morken was able to start renting a booth at a local salon. Through the mass amount of clients that were coming to see her, she was able to start saving again and putting money aside to start the build.

Now that she had money to work with, she set out to find a contractor willing to help her convert the bus into a mobile salon. Unfortunately, this was when the housing market was skyrocketing, and due to this, many contractors were too busy or booked out to learn how to properly handle a project like this. The rejection from contractors left Bethanie with only one other option; she needed to build it herself. As a newly single mom, it would be hard to find the time she needed to complete this project, but she was determined to find a way. So, for the next several months Bethanie would work her shift at the salon, come home and feed her children, load them up into the bus and get to work. During this time there were not many resources out there to reference how to create a project like this so it took a lot of time to ensure everything that was being put into the bus would perform the way it needed to. Morken spent countless hours cutting wood pieces to create counters and shelves, finding creative ways to mount everything inside the bus so it wouldn't shift while the bus was moving, and planning out every last detail that you see today when inside. She even carefully planned out the way the bus would look aesthetically because she knew she wanted to create this space for everyone to feel welcome.

Entrepreneur building her hair salon from the ground up in Fort Wayne.

When we talked to her about what the most challenging part was throughout the build, she told us it was not being in tune with her mind, body, and spirit. This led her to overwork her body to the point of total exhaustion. She also said not having the support she thought she would get from some friends and family was tough for her too. She said, “You expect the people in your life to be supportive and show up. I’ve gotten advice from people in business who say your friends are not your first customer, and I’ve been aware of that, but doing something that’s such a novelty like the bus and the fact that I had to figure out how to make it all happen while also being a newly single mom was hard. I was so excited and passionate, but some of the people around me tried to bring me down. I had to coach myself throughout this process mentally. I could have sat there and said I couldn’t continue, but I had to teach myself to heal my body to help my mind. Throughout this process, my intuition started to kick in, and things flowed more naturally. I gained the confidence I needed to push through all the challenges of building the bus and knowing every decision I was making was needed for the project.” She went on to tell us about how her father passed away shortly after she graduated from IU, but she felt he still helped guide her in the process. She likes to say that he helped her with the construction, just from the other side. She also said the bus wouldn’t have been possible without the help of her ex-husband, who helped her continuously throughout the construction process, and the ones that did show up for her along the way. She was so grateful to have their support throughout the build.

After the bus was finally completed, Bethanie didn’t feel the sense of joy and excitement she thought she would. On the contrary, she felt utterly worn down and burnt out. She needed to find a way within herself to keep pushing; she worked so hard for this moment, it was time for the city to see what she’s created. So, she began calling local businesses in town to see if she could park the bus in front of their location and start accepting walk-in customers. At first, she didn’t get the response from the community that she thought she would. She had hoped that the city would be more excited about this new twist in the salon industry, but instead she was receiving a lot of rejection. She didn’t let it stop her, she continued calling people until someone finally gave her, her first yes, and in October of 2022, 260 Hair Bus was officially open for business.

Since opening last year, Bethanie has gotten great feedback from the community. She’s added a few more options to the services menu including scissor cuts, hair add-ins like tensile or feathers, root touch ups, and color conditioning services to name a few. She’s hired her first stylist and has had the opportunity to partner with FWCS to provide kids with a fresh haircut for their first day of school. When we talked about what the hopes are for the future of the bus, Bethanie told us her hopes are to one day open a Kids Cut Bus to provide children with a unique and fun haircut experience. She’d also like to start teaming up with local beauty schools to continue her mission of helping new stylists find their paths into the industry but her biggest dream of all would be to one day franchise the company. She would love to see her buses all around the country and have the ability to help others build out a bus into a mobile hair salon.

Entrepreneur turns hair salon from a school bus. Entrepreneur starting a business from scratch.

When we asked Morken what advice she would have for another entrepreneur taking the leap into starting a company, she said,

“My biggest advice would be to learn to mentally train yourself and have resources to help keep your mind, body, and spirit in alignment. You manifest your future, so if you think you’ll fail, you will, but if you think you’ll succeed, you’ll always find a way.”

If you want to find 260 Hair Bus to get a fresh blowout, try out a new haircut, get your hair done before an event, or just see for yourself what the bus looks like and experience its uniqueness firsthand, follow them on Instagram and Facebook @260HairBus to see where to find them! Bethanie posts where the bus will be for the week every Sunday, so you’ll always be in the loop.

Hair Salon by Parkview Field in Fort Wayne. This Hair bus can go to events, parties or where ever your looking to get a haircut.

We want to give a huge thank you to Bethanie Morken for sharing her story with us and being so vulnerable and open to discussing all the highs and lows of starting her company. Entrepreneurship is a journey, but from one of Bethanie’s favorite quotes by Henry Ford, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember the airplane takes off going against the wind, not with it.” Keep pushing, and you’ll be able to accomplish whatever you set your mind to. Another big thank you to Nike with Creative Roots Media for taking these amazing photos. If you love reading these stories about the people helping shape Fort Wayne into the great city it is today, subscribe to our newsletter so you’re always informed about what’s happening here at the Fort Wayne Business Journal.

Fort Wayne Business Journal shares stories of entrepreneurs and business owners in Fort Wayne, Indiana. This article writen was about 260 Hair bus in Fort Wayne.


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