Back in 2011, Katie Steller opened the Steller Hair Company hair salon in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and she immediately bought eleven red salon chairs for it. While ten of the chairs were placed in her salon, which caters to men and women six days a week, the eleventh is used by Kate on the seventh day for a very special reason.
Once a week, Katie lugs her eleventh salon chair out to her SUV and heads to the streets of the city to offer free haircuts to the homeless.
Along with her assistant Emily Lall, Katie drives all over Minneapolis to find homeless people who would like a haircut. When they find an interested homeless person, Katie and Emily pull the chair out of the SUV and cut the man or woman’s hair right on the sidewalk!
“I could technically cut somebody’s hair on a folding chair or on a curb or wherever, like I don’t need that chair,” Katie said. “But it’s not about what’s easy, it’s about really showing value to people.”
Katie has always loved showing respect to people who don’t often get it. She originally started the Steller Kindness Project back in 2013, but she was forced to put it on hold to get her own salon business of the ground. Now that business is good, Katie has time to go back to the streets and help people with her skills.
“It’s looking at what skill do I have, what gift do I have, and how could that benefit somebody else,” Katie explained.
Katie knows from experience how much a good haircut can lift someone’s self esteem, as she experienced health problems as a child that led to hair loss.
“I was diagnosed with ulcerative colitis when I was 11 years old,” she said. “When I was 18, they actually removed my entire large intestine.”
The condition caused Katie’s hair to fall out, and this traumatic experience is what led to her choosing her career path.
“When you start to lose it, you’re like, wait, I didn’t realize what a big part of my identity that was,” she confessed. “That’s probably my main motivator. I mean, I don’t do hair because I’m naturally good at it, I’m good at it because I saw it as a way and a vessel to connect and care for people.”
Though Katie would love to see homelessness end completely, she’s content with doing her part to help homeless people have happier lives.
“I’m not claiming to know all the answers, I’m a hair stylist,” she said. “I’m just using my skill.”
“When you have the ability to give, it’s a responsibility to give,” Katie said. “I want to do the most good that my heart and hands can accomplish in this short and uncertain life.”
Find out more about what Katie is doing in the video below.