Chandler Salon Owner Enjoying Dream ‘Retirement’ - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler Salon Owner Enjoying Dream ‘Retirement’

October 8th, 2018 SanTan Sun News
Chandler Salon Owner Enjoying Dream ‘Retirement’

By Colleen Sparks

Managing Editor

Nigerian-born Eddie Osunlalu, a long-time financial professional, set a goal 15 years ago to open his own beauty salon during his “retirement.”

Now, he’s enjoying his dream come true in Chandler.

Osunlalu recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of his Fortees Salon & Spa, which he describes as an upscale but affordable beauty business at 5865 W. Ray Road.

“This first year has been a great ride, and we think we’re in for even bigger and better things in the second year,” Osunlalu said.

The busy salon offers haircuts and colors, hair extensions, skincare treatments, including facials, microdermabrasion, micro-needling and dermaplaning. Other services include eyebrow waxing and threading, plus makeup applications in a modern, but cozy store in a strip mall.

Osunlalu calls Fortees a “more traditional salon.” He said the revamped interior is designed to be more inviting – full of mirrors, a couch with plush and stylish, comfortable pillows and an area with lights and a backdrop where customers get their before and after photos taken.

While he doesn’t have a background in the salon industry, Osunlalu said he always liked cutting and styling his own hair, as well as those of his three brothers and, later, his four daughters.

In fact, the salon is named Fortees because Osunlalu’s daughters – TImi, 21; Tomi, 16; Tobi, 12; and Temi, 10 – all have names starting with the letter “T.”

When the salon’s previous owner wanted to sell the business because of health issues, Osunlalu said it fit his requirement for a business that people can use every day.

“It was basically an investment,” Osunlalu said. “I decided to take full ownership. I kind of fell in love with it. Fifteen years ago I wanted to own a salon because of my girls.”

Osunlalu did extensive research into the salon industry and the competition in the Valley before opening Fortees. He said his financial experience has helped him as an entrepreneur, but it was a long time coming.

Born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, Osunlalu said he’s used to fast-paced cities that are bigger than Chandler.

His family moved to London when he was 6. Six years later, Osunlalu returned to Nigeria to attend Nigerian Military School Zaria, a prestigious college preparatory high school that merged military training and extensive academics.

Osunlalu’s godfather was the chief of staff for the Nigerian army, but unlike many Nigerian men who enter the military, Osunlalu decided on a different route. He earned a bachelor’s degree in accounting and economics from the University of Lagos and then started working for his father’s accounting firm.

When he was ready for a big life change, Osunlalu moved near his aunt in San Diego and worked at Saks Fifth Avenue. About a year later, he moved to Atlanta to reunite with his girlfriend, whom he later married. The marriage didn’t last, but it did produce their daughters.

Osunlalu then took jobs in the automotive finance, telecommunications and home mortgage industries before making the move back to Arizona when one of the companies he worked for opened a position in Scottsdale.

He was doing well, but the housing market crash delivered a blow to his earnings.

“I was forced to take a job with Bank of America, making about 30 percent of what I had been making before,” he said. “It was very humbling. But hey, I wasn’t the only person in that boat at the time. A lot of people had to take a step back during that time.”

Osunlalu advanced through Bank of America Merrill Lynch, eventually becoming an assistant vice president/small-business manager in the wealth management and consumer banking division. That job exposed him to many wealthy people who were business owners.

His goal was to retire at 45 with what he said was a “solid business to take on as an investment.”

Osunlalu said his 18 years in the financial industry have helped him in the salon business. While working in the financial sector, his role was helping clients get solutions. As a salon owner, he also tries to help people get what they want as they arrive with “certain expectations.”

“It’s a fun industry to learn,” Osunlalu said. “The industry doesn’t have a target path. You have to find the path yourself.”

He also enjoys giving back to those in need and has an especially soft spot for children. Osunlalu gives back to Wigs For Kids, a nonprofit organization based in Ohio that provides wigs to children who have lost their hair due to chemotherapy, radiation therapy and other health issues.

While the previous salon was open by appointment only, Fortees Salon & Spa is open 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays. Customers can also walk-in or make appointments.

Osunlalu said Fortees is one of the few salons in the area to carry the full KEVIN.MURPHY hair products, including ones for color. The leave-in treatments, conditioners, shampoos, color and other KEVIN.MURPHY items are high quality and organic, he said.

He added that his salon also carries Eminence Organic Skin Care, which has been endorsed by actors Jennifer Lawrence, Chris Hemsworth, Katherine Heigl and Channing Tatum, among other celebrities. That list even includes former actress Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex and the wife of Prince Harry.

“Our services are tailored to the highest-skilled professionals,” Osunlalu said. “Our reviews speak good volume for us. That experience and the feel is totally different from any other salon.”

He said his staff – three hair stylists, three estheticians and two makeup artists – each have five to 10 years of experience in the salon industry. Each works for Fortees rather than renting space – which Osunlalu believes makes them more invested in the company’s success.

“It’s less overhead for them, more income in their pocket,” he said. “It shows their dedication to the culture.”

Fortees aims to give customers of all ages, ethnicities and genders luxurious treatment at affordable prices. Customers who get a haircut also receive a shampoo and scalp massage. They also get their picture taken before their haircut and afterwards.

Clients can also take advantage of a photo-shoot treatment, where Traci Edwards Photography conducts a senior, boudoir or portrait photo session on site that includes two outfits. The package for $499 includes hair and makeup services.

Customers who frequent Fortees can buy memberships to receive discounts.

To motivate customers to visit Fortees on Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which are typically slow days in the salon industry, new clients can get 25 percent off anything they buy.

The regular price (not on a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday) for a women’s short to medium-length haircut – wash, blow dry and style included – is $60. Medium to long haircuts are $70.

The cost for men’s semi-permanent hair color, described on the Fortees website as “the most masculine way to blend grey,” is $55. A men’s haircut is normally $45.

Anyone who donates their hair to the cause gets half-off the regular cost for a haircut at Fortees.

“It’s more or less a passion for me because I look for ways to give back to the community,” Osunlalu said. “The end result is what matters.”

Many clients posted they were happy with their own end results after getting services. Several left positive comments on Fortees’ Facebook page.

“I absolutely love this place,” Heidi Geldis-Young posted. “Schedule an appointment now. You will not regret it. I discovered them through a Groupon I purchased for my daughter. I bought her a full makeup application. I brought her in and my 1-year-old.”

Gabrielle Worrell also enjoyed treatment for her and her daughter.

“My daughter and I had the pleasure of having facials at Fortees Salon & Spa,” Worrell posted on Fortees’ Facebook page. “From the time we walked in to the moment we left, we experienced superior service… I highly recommend treating yourself and others to a trip to this spa. You are sure to be delighted by the service you receive!”

Another happy Fortees customer is Angelina Dominguez.

“This new spot is not only beautiful, but so comforting and welcoming,” Dominguez posted. “The owner is very friendly, and my hair stylist, Martika, always knows how to make me look and feel my best.”

Osunlalu said he likes living and running his business in Chandler, a community that is supportive of his salon. Osunlalu said nearby Ahwatukee “has also been supportive.”

“Chandler is a big city that comes together,” he said. “The next year is an important one for us as we continue to stabilize our client base, solidify our staff and make a name for ourselves in the community. I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.”

Information: 480-753-4765 or