Of Hair and Transformation

When Katy McLaughlin was 13 and living in Los Angeles, her step father was a horse trainer.

“I would braid the horses’ manes and tails,” she tells me in our recent interview. “And it’s how I learned to pull a trailer. All the horses were very pretty.”

McLaughlin laughs at the memory. It’s irresistibly prescient.

The 31-year-old now owns and runs Hair and There Mobile Salon, a beauty shop that lives in a refurbished vintage Airstream. She operates out of Katy, Texas, a town she was named after (more on that later).

“It’s always been a thing,” McLaughlin says about the beauty industry.

But first there had to be college, at her mother’s insistence. Never mind the playing beauty shop with her sisters. Or how the sports teams she played on became, for her, about being with girlfriends and turning the team bus into a “mini beauty salon.” When as a sophomore in high school she moved from L.A. to east Texas, she credits her African-American teammates with teaching her how to braid and do corn rows.

“I played a lot of sports,” she says with a laugh. “I wasn’t good at any of them.”

What she was good at was living her life. After high school, she graduated from the University of Houston, got married, had two kids (currently ages 9 and 4), and worked as the marketing manager for private preschools. But soon she was clear this wasn’t for her, at least not long-term.

“My husband and I were at a place where I could make a change,” McLaughlin says. “He said, ‘Pick an industry and get the training you need.’ I said, ‘Done.’”

Time for the passion to kick in. Cosmetology school it was. Then she secured a license.

“My husband [a project manager in industrial construction] has been really supportive,” she says. “He thought I was absolutely insane when I wanted to buy an Airstream and do this with it. He told me to write up a business plan, including a five-year plan, estimate for the construction, and research on the market. I came back to him with a 40-page plan. He said, ‘OK, let’s get a loan.’”

By September 2014, Hair and There was up and running. The Airstream had gone from old and dingy to polished and refurbished with gleaming silver fixtures and a teal and white décor. Before she even took her first client, someone posted the construction photos on Reddit and it went viral. The next thing McLaughlin knew she was doing interviews with local news outlets.

Airstream Salon2

(Photos by: Sarah Daniels)

“It really pays off when you think things through,” she says. “It was really fulfilling for the kids to see that. It was scary [to start the business], but it was rewarding for them to see me take that risk.”


(Photos by: Sarah Daniels)

Now, over a year into it, she marvels at the calls and emails she gets every day from people all over the country wanting to do their own similar thing. They mostly want tips.

“I tell them where to look to find out what’s OK in their state,” McLaughlin says, referring to laws around mobile salon licenses.


(Photos by: Sarah Daniels)

When I ask her what she finds most rewarding about this career path, she tells me about the service she provides in people’s homes.

“In Texas you can do people’s hair at their homes if they’re disabled,” she says. “It naturally happened that people will call me for family members who are disabled or sick. I come to their home without the salon. They appreciate it so much. Most hair stylists don’t offer that service. That’s the part that gives me the warm and fuzzies. It’s intense sometimes.”

McLaughlin recalls one woman who’d had a stroke. She was one to have her hair and nails done, so her daughter knew calling a stylist would be a treat for her mother.

“She was still sound of mind,” McLaughlin says. “After I was finished I could see in her eyes … she was really smiling.”

That is what jazzes this business owner in Katy, Texas. I tell her I notice she lives in Katy and it’s the same spelling as her name.

“My mother went to high school here and she named me after the town,” she says. “I never thought I would live here. I met my husband here. I ended up here.”

Also prescient.

“I’ve always been interested in hair and the transformation process,” she says.

It shows, all over her life.

To see more photos of Katy's salon or to check out the complete renovation project, you can visit her website here.

We love hearing about people like Katy who are living the #LiveRiveted life. Keep sharing your photos and stories by using the hashtag #MyLiveRivetedLife and you could be featured on our Instagram page!

By Nancy Colasurdo