“Life is Not a Dress Rehearsal,” and More Smack-Dab Sayings Entrepreneur Pam Wolf Lives By

When entrepreneur Pam Wolf was nearing the end of her first pregnancy in 1991, she told the team at the recruitment firm she co-launched in New York City she’d be back to work in a couple of weeks. But as soon as she caught a glimpse of her newborn daughter, Jessica, she decided she wouldn’t be going back at all. Just over a year later, she had her son, Jared, then two years after that, there was Jenna, and two years after that, there was Joshua. “Within six years, there were four Js in the house,” Wolf says with a warm chuckle. “And, as my husband jokes, I started running the house like a business.” 

Time management was a key component of this new role: Wolf soon found herself schlepping across New York City with four kids in tow, escorting them to ballet, music classes, playdates, and all the other activities parents presume will pave the way to Harvard®. “I was on the east side for my daughter’s ballet class, then downtown for my son’s martial arts, then the west side for my other daughter’s art class,” she recalls. But, while they were in all these extracurricular spaces, Wolf was struck by just how dirty and inhospitable they were. She thought, “Why not create a place that’s actually pleasant for families to wait in while the class is in session?” It was there — sitting cross-legged on the grimy floors of a temple basement — that the concept for New York Kids Club℠ was born. “The idea was that we would house all the classes within one great facility that operates like a hospitality company, with a concierge that greets you,” Wolf explains. “We serve wine to parents on Friday afternoons, and it feels like a lovely place to sit while your daughter takes ballet class.” 

Following months of planning and calling upon her skills as a recruiter to get the best possible teachers on board, Wolf opened the first New York Kids Club on September 12, 2001. Challenges brought on by the tragic events of the day prior largely prepared the CEO for any other future bumps in the road. During the next 15 years, Wolf took the New York Kids Club from one Upper West Side location to 16 around the city, and in 2016, she sold the majority of the company to a private equity firm, stepping back from her role as CEO two years later. “When that ended and my successor was found, I remember just waking up in the morning thinking, ‘Oh my god, I’m free!’” she recalls. “When you have 60,000 students in your program, 16 brick-and-mortar locations, and 600 employees that I cared way too deeply about — it was like having children — there’s a constant concern and worry.”

Despite her newfound freedom, though, Wolf soon fell into a slight funk. “About two months into it — though my kids tell me it was two days — I settled into a bit of a depression because I felt like I’d focused the past 16 years on my business and my children (and my husband, of course!), but the business was now sold and the kids were grown,” she says. That’s when Wolf started to think. “Once you have an entrepreneurial spirit, it really never dies, and the break in between is just an uncomfortable period of brainstorming the next move,” Wolf notes. Soon, her next big idea arrived — and much like New York Kids Club, The Parlor℠ was borne from personal need. 

As many New Yorkers do, Wolf has always devoted a considerable amount of time and energy to her beauty, wellness, and aesthetic routines, which have entailed a smattering of appointments. “I would find myself thinking, ‘Well, gee, if I’m going to get [aesthetic treatments], I have to go all the way to the Upper East Side, but I love my nail lady in the West Village, and when I get my hair done, I have to go to the Upper West Side.’ I always thought it would be so nice if everyone was just in the same place.” Beyond that, the entrepreneur had a longstanding opposition to traditional offices, so she’d made a habit of working wherever she went — be it answering emails in the front of a hair salon or strategic planning at the derm. Naturally, this wasn’t conducive to productivity. “So, I thought: What if, when you came to have whatever [beauty or aesthetic] service, [you could simultaneously] work, charge your phone, print something, have a meeting, get something to eat, or just relax — all in a beautiful space?” she recalls. This idea sparked her latest project, The Parlor.

Over the course of the following year, she continued to develop the concept, building a breezy space on Madison Avenue and recruiting 30 beauty and wellness professionals to take on suites. The Parlor is slated to open in March 2020, and Wolf has big plans. Read on for more insight into her vision — plus, her skincare regimen, medical aesthetics preferences, her approach to aging, and more.

Pam Wolf Entrepreneur leaning against a wall


Spotlyte: What’s the concept behind your new venture, The Parlor?

PW: In a broad concept, it’s a collective community of best-in-class beauty and wellness providers and experts. Some are from LA, and some are from New York, but they’re coming together in one 15,000-square-foot space on Madison Avenue and 33rd Street. Each person will run their own business within the space, but not by themselves. We’ll create a community where they share best practices and clients, and have the ability to work together without having to worry about the burden of owning a business. All the behind-the-scenes stuff — the IT work, the air-conditioning, the heating, the plumbing, the glass storefront, the employees, the maintenance team — can really [burden] business owners. They go into business with an area of expertise, but they are then shocked to find out there isn’t much time to focus on that because they’re busy doing all these other things. 

The other side of the business is the workspace. After you have a service, whether you’re getting something simple like a blowout or something complicated like IV therapy, you are welcome to stay the whole day. There’s no membership — just book an appointment and spend as much time there as [you] like. Work, eat, bring other people in, have a glass of wine, anything.

Spotlyte: It sounds like you have a diverse lineup of providers and offerings.

PW: They range from luxury dentistry to psychotherapy reimagined. On the wellness side, there’s IV therapy, cryotherapy, and dermatological services; on the [beauty] side, there are hairstylists, wigmakers, makeup artists, and nail technicians; [and on the aesthetics side], injectors, and laser therapists. So, yes, the gamut of beauty [and] wellness; I think the worlds collide. We’re really focused on doing a little bit of [everything] now. 

EDITOR’S NOTE  As always, talk to your doctor before starting any new treatment, medication, or supplement

Spotlyte: Did you have a specific demographic in mind when you were building The Parlor? 

PW: It will appeal to a luxury-seeking client. It’s not democratized services that are quick and easy; it’s more unique high-end services. Every [provider] we’ve selected [works with] celebrities or are best-in-class [at what they do] — so their price points are considerable. 

Spotlyte: What have been the biggest challenges in creating The Parlor? 

PW: The construction and the curation. The construction has been extremely complex, because I need to make sure that [each service provider] has the sound, the light, the temperature, etcetera, [exactly how]  they want it. That stuff is easy to get right in a big space, but in 40 individual spaces, it has been a bit of a puzzle. 

Then, curating and sticking to our mission of best-in-class has also been a challenge. We don’t want to compromise — we really want to hold out for the best. Understandably, people say, “That’s a great concept. I’d love to take a look after you’re open, and I’ll think about it.” But we need them now, because we won’t be a business if no one is here. I’m happy to say we’re now at 30 [providers], and there’s only room for 40, so it’s good.  

Spotlyte: What are your long-term plans for The Parlor?

PW: We hope to open in the Lincoln Square/Columbus Circle area next, and then from there, we’re looking at where a third location would be.

Pam Wolf Entrepreneur smiling leaning against her hand


Spotlyte: While creating and running such successful businesses, how do you prioritize family?

PW: There’s no way to do it all, and whenever you’re doing both, something is suffering. But it’s important to try not to blend things together. So, when I’m working, I’m working, and I never take calls from my kids during that time. Now that they’re adults, they keep telling me that I’d always say, “If there’s an emergency while I’m at work, call 911, don’t call me.” I’m sure I didn’t say that, but it does make sense: What am I supposed to do if there’s a fire in the house and I’m at work? I’d just say to call 911. 

By the same token, when I was with my family [when my kids were growing up], I always had a rule to not be on my phone — no emails, no calls, no texts, no strategizing. I carved out time for both [work and family], and it worked out well. You cannot be perfect at both things at all times, but you just accept that and move through — and not feel guilty about missing out on either thing.

Spotlyte: What is your overall beauty philosophy?

PW: I certainly don’t think less is more. More is more. I believe in good products. I believe in anti-aging techniques. I believe in healthy eating. You have to take care of your skin and your body and your mind — not as an afterthought, but as a regular, everyday routine for all that you do. The earlier you start, the better.

Spotlyte: What is your approach to aging?

PW: I believe in aging gracefully — but to me, aging gracefully means getting ahead of the curve with all of the great anti-aging products and rejuvenation treatments that are out there. I’m happy to see that some invasive surgical procedures have gone by the wayside — and less is more for me when it comes to those types of things. 

Feeling good about yourself is most important. I have some grey hair showing in the front of my pixie haircut, and I’ve thought, “I wonder if I should get this colored.” But my husband said, “Oh wow, you have grey hair now. That is so sexy!” His logic was that it looked a little different from the hair he’d seen for the last 30 years, so I changed my outlook on it, and now [coloring it] is just one fewer thing to do. It’s just a matter of determining what feels good to you when you look in the mirror. Anything that doesn’t, I’m all for changing.

Spotlyte: What does your daily skincare routine look like?

PW: I love that Korean 10-step routine! I started that years ago, when one of my kids found a book on it while they were traveling, long before anyone really knew what Korean beauty was [in the US]. I like removing my makeup via some natural emulsification process, whether it’s coconut oil or something more expensive, and then I’ll use a cleanser. I love either a Clarisonic® or another one of those electric brushes, because I’m a big believer in exfoliation. Then, I’ll use a toner —  anything with glycolic, anything that’s going to exfoliate that top layer.

I love serums — anything from hyaluronic acid to vitamin C or E, like SkinCeuticals® C E Ferulic® — then I add an eye cream, then a lip cream, and a face cream. I love Drunk Elephant® and Tata HarperTM, with their cleaner products, but I go back and forth. I truly have an entire pharmacy in my bathroom. I also have an entire kitchen full of wine and champagne, so whenever one of my girls asks to come over, I assume it’s for a drink — but it’s always because they need a skin treatment! They’ll go into my bathroom and get my LED light or my steamer. I truly have everything known to man.

Pam Wolf Entrepreneur smiling

Spotlyte: Have you ever tried injectables? 

PW: Yes! I recently tried [a filler], which had a very [subtle] effect. I have not used a lot of other injectables, but I like them. If done with a proper injector.

EDITOR’S NOTE  Injectable filler is a temporary treatment that adds volume to areas of the face such as the lips, cheeks, and laugh lines. Like any medical treatment, both injectable wrinkle reducers and injectable fillers have potential risks and side effects. Talk to a licensed provider to see if they’re right for you. And learn more now by chatting with a trained aesthetic specialist.

Spotlyte: What other medical aesthetic treatments do you get?

PW: I love microneedling. Microneedling with radiofrequency is a great collagen booster and skin rejuvenator. I love Clear + Brilliant®, which I think really gives skin a boost. I like peels. I haven’t done any of the heavy, 10-days-of-downtime peels, but I’ve done a couple less invasive ones, and I think they’re great. In my opinion, any kind of exfoliation is really beneficial for skin that’s gotten dull, a little wrinkled, or has too many sun spots. 

I was also an early adopter of LED for the face. Back before we had [at-home devices] in the United States, I brought home a mask from Korea that needed an entirely different electrical adapter to be plugged in, and we were all convinced I was going to burn down the house. But all of us — my girls and I, and even my husband — would always put it on. Now, there’s a lot of talk about LED light and how well it rejuvenates — whether it’s green, red, or blue for wrinkles, acne, or pain. I believe wholeheartedly in the effects of light therapy on the skin for rejuvenating cells.

Spotlyte: Are there any lessons about beauty and self-care that you hope to bestow upon your children?

PW: We talk a lot about this, because the whole social media world and the ability to Facetune® has really warped everybody’s idea of what beauty is all about. So, I talk to them a lot about natural beauty, and I always tell my girls that real beauty comes from confidence. Nothing is more unattractive than a woman who lacks confidence, so I say, “Stand up, put your shoulders back, and fake it if you don’t feel confident in a certain situation, and you will be so beautiful.” Do that, and nobody is going to see the flaws that you see — because beauty really is a self-confidence thing. 

Having said that, I think it’s always great to enhance yourself. So, the second thing I tell my daughters is, “Life is not a dress rehearsal.” You never know who you’ll run into, or who you’ll have the opportunity to meet. The show is on at all times, and you want to look and feel your best. So, I try to speak to both aspects with them. Beauty is definitely within, and it’s all about self-confidence, but I also don’t think a blowout or a little makeup ever hurts either.

Spotlyte: What advice would you offer to other working moms, especially those who might be looking to start their own businesses?

PW: So many women let fear overwhelm them, and they come up with reasons why they can’t do something. But know that you can do anything you desire. Also, start small and break things down: so many people look at these big, audacious goals, and of course they can’t reach those — nobody can! Understand that by taking one step at a time, you can do what you want. It just comes down to discipline, structure, and not letting that inner-voice tell you you can’t. The true definition of an entrepreneur is someone who hears “no, no, no” and “this won’t work” but does it anyway.