Spotlight on Toni Irby and the beauty of Upgrade Hair Salon

What's up, babies?

All always, I hope that all is well with you and yours and that, you're enjoying yourselves on our journey of love by feeling the joy, beauty, happiness and having some form of peace of mind, as we get to know one another better. On that note, did you know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month? Well it is, and so this spotlight is right on time. Because this hair stylist isn't just your everyday hair stylist, she's also making a beautiful difference in cancer victims lives and her clientele is helping her. So at this time all we want you to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy. Or stand, jump and shout if you want to! You can do that because Frost Illustrated in gonna take you there and this is what she has to share.

'Hello, Frost Illustrated readers. My name is Toni Irby and I was born and raised in Fort Wayne, Ind., graduated from North Side High School class of 1989 and I'm an entrepreneur, philanthropist and innovator. I'm also the owner/master stylist of Upgrade Hair Salon that's located at 3219 E. State St., and I've been located here for eight years now. We're a cutting-edge beauty and style epicenter, that has grown to be the standard, in the beauty salon industry for the Fort Wayne community and Northeast Indiana. This is so because for the past 16 years I have endeavored to offer my clients one thing-excellence and I'm able to make the everyday woman look and feel like a celebrity. 'I specialize in healthy hair care. Healthy hair care is first, styling options are secondary. I offer a wide variety of services here which includes cuts, custom coloring, weave extensions, wigs and etc. I enjoy them all and I'm always working on perfecting my skill level by taking professional development classes. I will forever be a student. I also specialize in excellent customer service and I have a client first attitude. I respect my clients on every level. I believe that the overall role of Upgrade Hair Salon is to make the customer look and feel amazing. I like to call it, The Irby Experience and it all starts with their hair. 'My career didn't start off with me wanting to be a cosmetologist. I just knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. So when I graduated from college, I worked for GTE at the time and I was making a fairly decent salary but the amount of my salary was basically the same amount of my student loans, so I figured that I need to change that. But at the time, there was no upward mobility because they were about to merge with Verizon. So, I put in my heart that I'd like to do something different but I'm not sure what it was, so I started doing research. I had friends that were stylist and I was like, okay this is a huge market, so I'm going to tap into that. Or at least, become licensed in it, then I can always do something on the weekends. 'My initial dream was to be a human resource director or something with diversity in a corporate type situation but I went with the five year plan instead and went to beauty school full-time and I worked part-time. It's been 16 years later and it's been the best decision that I ever made. My ambition was to be an entrepreneur but probably, since my mom used to do wigs years ago maybe innately it was already in my spirit to be creative I'm guessing. And, being a full cosmetologist, I do makeup for brides or if someone wants me because I enjoy it since I've always been a makeup junkie. 'Also, here at Upgrade Hair Salon we have a team which consist of myself and my clientele and it's called Team Upgrade and we participate in the Cancer Awareness Walk every year. My sister Rhonda Kinchen passed away from ovarian cancer almost six years ago and it still hurts and with me participating in this walk, I'm representing my sister and others. Being part of something this great makes me feel amazing. 'I normally do something different with my hair so this year, I'm wearing Teal on one side to represent ovarian cancer and the other side will have pink in it to represent breast cancer. I get my customers excited about rallying behind it because everybody has had someone that has been touched by cancer whether it's a family member, friend or etc., and we help raise money for it. 'Before my sister's departure, she worked for the YWCA for many years. So she's done all kinds of things for the women's shelter that an employee of the YWCA would do. So I became a part of the Women of Achievement Program and any other programs so that I could still represent her in something I know she would love for me to do and it's just great. I also make custom wigs for women that are suffering with cancer, alopecia or any woman that loves to change up her look. 'My business hours are, on Monday and Tuesday's appointments are available, if scheduled ahead of time. Wednesday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. My phone number is (260) 760-6686. 'When giving advice to young women, I always think like, what would I tell my younger self now that I'm a lot older and my thing is always embrace creativity. And, it's okay to change because the earth itself changes everyday. Your dream may not be anybody else's dream but whatever it is that you believe in that's innately within you, see it and dream it in color and then make it happen. FI didn't realize that when I was 18 years old and went to college and I shaved all of my hair off, that I was a catalyst for change. Because at that time, there were no black girls at IU with short hair that was cut like a guy's but I did it. But know that I look back at my 18 year old self I say, 'What was I thinking?' not realizing, that I was creative and I was okay to be that. 'To my clientele, I absolutely adore all of them and I appreciate everything that any of them have ever said to me. Whether it was a smile or a hug and any type of encouragement and for always supporting my business and supporting any crazy philanthropic (charitable and generous) idea that I have and rallying behind me. Also, all the women that come in here, we definitely try to speak life into each other and I totally appreciate them. We're like a family unit-the good, the bad and the ugly. We laugh, we live and we love. 'I'd also like to give a shout out to my parents. My mother's name is Mattie Irby and I absolutely adore her. She's part of the huge Woods family that's here in town and my dad, James Irby, was an amazing guy. He passed away 10 years ago and I appreciate the both of them and everything that they instilled in me. They were amazing parents. 'GOD has done it. HE has given me a gift, hair artistry, a skill and a source. GOD keeps on blessing me, providing for me and making a way for me. I understand all to well, that HE is my resource and for this, I am ever so grateful.'

Babies, now the time has come to share with you where she's been and what she's doing, here we go:

Philanthropic Pursuits

* Make-over services to women from YWCA women's shelter/self-sufficiency program (hair, make-up, assistance with clothing re-purposing)

* Organized and fielded Team Upgrade for Fort Wayne's annual Fort4Fitness walk/run

* Organized and fielded Team Upgrade to walk and raise money for Cancer awareness

* Spearheaded, Adopt-A-Family for Christmas, initiative through Upgrade which generates at least $3,000 in gifts and services for the chosen family each year

* Routinely provides educational scholarships for local high school and college students

* Community activist who provides consistent monetary and in-kind support to local organizations including, but not limited to, Fort Wayne Chapter of the NAACP, Fort Wayne Urban League, local church organizations

* Mentor for young girls and future business owners

* Regularly provides gratis hair and beauty services and consultation to the underprivileged

Education, Certifications and Affiliations

* Indiana University, B.A. Speech Communication 1993

* Masters School of Cosmetology, Graduate 1998

* Beauty Beyond the Hair Seminar by Like The River Salon (Najah Aziz)

* Short Hair Boot Camp by Like The River Salon (Najah Aziz)

* Extensive and Business Development Seminar by Kiyah Wright

* Ms. Willa 'For The Love of Hair Tour' Weaving Seminar 2013

* Fort Wayne Girls Rock Organization

* Presented with the Entrepreneur Award for Women at the Cross

* FWCS classified substitute teacher

* Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., member

Here are some wonderful things that Toni's clients have to say about her:

Tony is the truth! I thought I was just getting my hair done. I never expected to have my soul filled.

-Tamyra Kelly

Her career will have her traveling the Country in the near future, as my stylist.

-Dawn Rosemond

P.S. If you would like the Spotlight shined upon you or someone that you know, all in the name of love, just send me an e-mail to I'd love to hear from ya.

Tags: frost illustrated, hair styling, Jeanie Summerville, Up Close with Jeanie, upgrade hair salon

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