By Emily Gahafer
Good customer service at any type of business is one of the biggest determinants of a positive experience. In fact, Demetria Gilkey cares so much about good customer service that she built an entire business based on just that.
“I’ve always wanted to be my own business owner,” Demetria says. “I love working for myself and by myself, calling the shots and being a badass business owner. That’s who I am, and it feels good to know that I have truly done that and followed this passion, and I’m excited to see where else it’s going to take me.”
Last year, she officially started her business as Demetria Gilkey, Customer Experience Expert, with four accompanying co-brands. “Customer experience goes a long way in any industry, and the way I teach and train and speak to those different audiences, it’s the same formula — just a different audience,” Demetria says.
|Photos by Melissa Donald|
The four co-brands, The Curly Coach focusing on the cosmetology field, The Corporate Coach focusing on business professionals, The Dining Coach focusing on the culinary restaurant industry, and The Hospitality Coach focusing on hotels and other forms of lodging, allow her to lend her skills to every type of field. She also works with companies to instruct team building activities and to go undercover to observe and analyze the environment, product, or service they offer. Along with being an entrepreneur, Demetria has been a cosmetologist for the past six years and owns her own salon, Curly by Nature, focusing on curly hair care.
“I love lipstick and lip gloss and hair, and as a little girl I always played around with dolls and doing makeup and things like that, so I just figured why not try it out,” Demetria says.
Being a business owner means Demetria spends many hours working, so the seven things she cannot live without allow her to unwind, stay organized, and power through every day.
Demetria is from Bowling Green, Kentucky, and her family still lives there. Her Golden Girls guilty pleasure gives her a chance to enjoy time with her mom all the way from Louisville.
“Growing up I used to think the show was so corny. I didn’t think it was funny at all, and now I’m in my early 30s and I think it’s hilarious!” Demetria says. “It’s so timeless — it makes you laugh, but there are still some serious, good moments in it. My mom and I usually call each other every night and talk about the episodes and we just laugh and laugh.”
Since Demetria is constantly on the go, it’s no surprise that this luxurious pastime landed on her list. “I love to take a bath. It’s so relaxing,” she says. “I like to use lavender-scented aromatherapy and Epsom salts. I’m on my feet a lot so a bath isn’t only mentally relaxing, but also physically relaxing.”
“I have to have a good conditioner,” she says. “Having curly hair, it tends to be drier, and it has a lot of color in it so I condition my hair a lot. My mom asked me earlier, ‘if you were stranded on an island what would be the one thing you’d bring,’ and I said ‘conditioner.’ It has so many uses, you can use it as a leave-in conditioner, a detangler, a co-wash, or a treatment.”
Being an entrepreneur means Demetria is responsible for every part of her business. Without a staff to support her, she relies heavily on friends and family to push her through every day. “Being a business owner, there are some days when I just sit and cry because I’m stressed and overwhelmed,” she says. “You wear so many hats and there isn’t a ton of work-life balance, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. My true friends have kept me grounded and supported me and given me words of encouragement when I just feel like throwing my hands up. My husband listens to me and supports me. He is my best friend. I couldn’t live without any of them.”
“That word is just so powerful,” she says. “One of my favorite Bible verses is Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,’ and that Bible verse has truly gotten me so far and helped encourage me on days that I don’t feel like things are going well. I think that no matter what situation you’re going through in life, the Bible has an answer for it.”
“Oh yes, the almighty cell phone,” Demetria says. “I’ve got to have my cell phone because I use it for so many things. It’s an alarm clock, I use it to talk to friends, for business when I’m cold calling and setting up meetings, I have a calendar on it that I use, and I use it to set up salon appointments. If I lost my cell phone I would be a mess.”
Staying true to her love for good customer service, Demetria added her favorite on-the-go meal from a place with notoriously good customer service.
“I love the number one meal with the regular lemonade, gotta add that!” she says. “If you’re going to get the fries and the fried chicken, don’t even go there with the diet lemonade. You might as well just live it up and eat all of it.”
It’s Demetria’s drive, determination, and fun-loving personality that have allowed her to create a successful, growing business.
“I feel like I live my life fearlessly, and if things don’t work out that’s fine, but I’m not going to not try something based on someone’s opinion or worry about what people think of me,” Demetria says.