To continue enjoying all the features of Navy Federal Online, please use a compatible browser. You can confirm your browser capability here.

When Aaron Gipson was asked as a teenager what he wanted to do when he grew up, becoming a cosmetologist never entered his mind. Joining the world’s most powerful military was more like it.

So, when Aaron graduated high school in 1980, he enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps and joined an elite group of warriors. But his family background in hairdressing launched him on a different path: co-owner of a successful mom-and-pop hair salon.

The foster son of a hairdresser, Aaron grew up watching neighborhood women get their hair done at the salon in the back of his mom’s home. As a young child, he and his brothers used her professional equipment to cut their own hair (with predictable results). 

Those early memories surfaced years later on the deck of a naval ship, when a fellow Marine asked Aaron to cut his hair. As word spread of Aaron’s knack with clippers, Marines began lining up for the Gipson special. 

Back on base, Aaron used his trunk footlocker as a “barber bench”—and began seeing his first paying customers. But the idea of becoming a barber—let alone a women’s hair stylist—didn’t enter his mind until he caught a glimpse of a male stylist in a mall salon. “He was a man’s man,” Gipson recalled. “I thought, ‘I can do that.’”

Not long after, Aaron had a cosmetology degree, a business certificate and an instructor’s license in his back pocket. “I was off and running,” he said, and soon opened up his first salon in his hometown of Jacksonville, Florida.

Husband-and-wife team

In another stroke of luck, Aaron hired a stylist by the name of LaVonia, who grew from employee to girlfriend and eventually wife, co-parent and business partner. In 1996, the couple launched their first co-owned salon, Textures, and, a few years later, opened Hair Formations, which they still run together. A quarter century later, the couple employs three stylists and serves over 300 clients.

Hair Formations is far more than a salon, LaVonia noted. It’s also a place where clients and stylists learn new techniques and follow the latest trends. Plus, the couple mentors new employees, attends conventions and conferences and lectures at area beauty schools. 

Such mom-and-pop shops—celebrated June 23 on National Family-Owned-and-Operated Business Day—are known for putting customers first, and Hair Formations is no exception. In addition to serving as a “resource center” for clients and stylists, the salon is also a “sanctuary” where women can relax with friends and family.

Family is certainly a special part of their business. 

The Gipsons treat clients like beloved members of an extended clan and counsel them through life’s ups and downs. The relationships go both ways; Aaron and LaVonia raised their boys, now 20 and 25, in the salon (a “home away from home”), and clients know them well—and shower them with gifts on special occasions.

“Anyone can do a haircut,” Aaron said. “It’s the other part—the connection, the chemistry—that we offer at Hair Formations. Once we establish that relationship with our clients, it’s hard for them to go somewhere else.” Testament to that are the salon’s many five-star reviews, including one from a client who recently flew in from out of state to get her regular relaxer treatment.

As the nation prepares to observe National Family-Owned-Operated Business Day, Will Scott, Vice President of Business Solutions at Navy Federal Credit Union, heralded Hair Formations and the nation’s many other family-owned businesses. 

Nine out of 10 U.S. businesses  are family owned, and fewer than one-third manage to keep the lights on for more than a decade,” he said. “We salute family-owned businesses like Hair Formations this week and every week, and we are proud to support these resolute entrepreneurs who drive our economy forward. For 20 years, we have done so through a comprehensive suite of products and services tailored to Veteran entrepreneurs and other members of the military community.”

From Y2K to a Global Pandemic

Sustaining a marriage over decades—let alone one tethered to business—can be challenging, and Aaron and LaVonia have seen their share of rough patches. They opened their doors in 1999, mere months before the Y2K tech scare, and have weathered everything from hurricanes to a global pandemic in the years since—all while working in a field known for long days, late nights and weekend work. 

“If we’re not behind the chair, we’re still working—on marketing, inventory, accounts and trying to figure out how to stay relevant in a constantly changing industry in which trends come and go,” said Aaron. 

Their secret: shared responsibilities, a mutual understanding of the trade and a deep love of and respect for one another. “People ask us, ‘How could you work together that long?’” Their answer: prayer and a moral compass to do right by each other. Teamwork and compromise is the foundation that makes it all work, LaVonia added. “We have it down to a science.”

Another daily practice: leaving arguments at the salon door. “We don’t bring our drama to work,” they said. “That’s not our job.” 

Last but not least, the couple has made sound financial decisions over the years, thanks in part to Navy Federal, their long-time credit union. Over the years, the Gipsons have been able to refinance the building that houses their salon, cover the cost of tuition at two colleges and save for their future. They credit their “positive relationship” with Navy Federal for helping them achieve financial security as they head into the next quarter century together. “It gave us the impetus to keep moving, and not stop.”

Throughout it all, the couple has sustained not only a successful business but also a successful relationship: “We are each other’s best friends,” LaVonia said. “That’s why it works.”


This content is intended to provide general information and shouldn't be considered legal, tax or financial advice. It's always a good idea to consult a tax or financial advisor for specific information on how certain laws apply to your situation and about your individual financial situation.