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Entrepreneurs of the Year | Coral Pleas

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Why we chose Her:

The risks in launching her own business were all there for Coral Pleas in 2008: She was already a part owner and stylist for one of the more prominent salons in Sarasota. She made more than $100,000 a year. And there was the faltering economy.

Pleas, 53, plowed ahead. She spent at least $500,000 to open Cutting Loose, in a strip mall off University Parkway in east Manatee County. She has since opened three more locations, including one in Connecticut and one in downtown Sarasota. The focus at all the locations is to combine white-glove-style service with French hair-cutting techniques that complement each client's head shape and frame.

One key to the success, says Pleas, is the firm's training program, where every stylist learns the French method by working at Protege, another salon the company owns. Protege offers discounted rates for clients. Pleas and other Cutting Loose executives also developed an in-house training program.

Another aspect that helps Cutting Loose thrive is Pleas' willingness to take on any task. That includes answering phones, changing light bulbs or assisting an assistant, says Sarasota TV personality and chef Judi Gallagher, a regular Cutting Loose client. That's Pleas' take on being a servant leader, an entrepreneur who puts employees' needs above her own.

“She's a real believer of lifting people up,” says Gallagher. “She helps her people become better people.”

2012: $2.02 million
2013: $2.45 million
up 21.2%
2014: $3.15 million
up 28.5%

2012: 49
2013: 54
2014: 55

—Mark Gordon


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