Woman opens first Orange beauty school in 30 years

Published 11:27 pm Tuesday, February 5, 2019

By Dawn Burleigh

The Orange Leader


Almost five years ago, Wendy Solomon talked to The Orange Leader about her goal to open a beauty school in Orange.

In 2018, it happened.

Orange Academy of Beauty opened to a handful of students but was also the first beauty school in Orange in 30 years.

“I am so grateful,” Solomon said. “It has been an extraordinary journey to get to this point.”

Solomon always believed it would happen and never gave up on the dream.

“I walked by faith, not by sight,” Solomon said.

Without anyone to mentor her along the way, Solomon was on her own for finding answers and requirements.

“There was no one to pattern after, to say how to do this,” Solomon said. “It was trial and error to get to here.”

It was as if it was meant to happen as Solomon was gifted with supplies needed to make the school happen.  Even as she taught at Vista College, she knew to learn what she needed to know to have a successful beauty school.

“I knew this is what I wanted to do,” Solomon said. “And here, I can provide more one on one teaching as needed.”

Every step was another on the path in preparing her for the day she could finally open the doors.

“I decided it was time,” Solomon said. I wanted another building which needed work, but that fell through. I was reminded, I already have a building.”

Solomon owned Sweet Retreats Salon and Spa, 802 West Park Ave. in Orange, now the home of Orange Academy of Beauty.

She knew she needed 10 students in order to be classified as a beauty school.

Mary McLeod Bethune inspired her to keep going forward.

“She used cardboard boxes to make desks and crushed berries for ink,” Solomon said. “I have desks. I have ink pens. I can do this.”

Bethune-Cookman University opened in 1904 as the Daytona Literary and Industrial Training School for Negro Girls. Founder Mary McLeod Bethune had five students and an operating budget of $1.50.  

The children worked at desks that Bethune had fashioned from wooden crates. They learned how to read, write, and make ink for pens from elderberry juice, while parents raised money selling fried fish and sweet potato pie to workers at the city dump adjacent to the school, according to visitflorida.com

The school went co-ed in 1925 when it merged with Jacksonville’s Cookman Institute.

While Wendy Solomon is teacher, administrator and more at the school, she also understands everyone learns differently.

“I give them a plan,” Solomon said. “You have to have a plan to reach your goals.”

The school is not eligible for federal funding until it has been open for three years.

“I have to be open for two years to get accreditation,” Solomon said.

With a total of 18 students, she was able to open the doors August 2018.

“I am grateful to be able to make a difference not just with the students but the community as well,” Solomon said.

Solomon has enjoyed watching the progress of the students along the way.

“All the students here are good,” Solomon said. “They want to learn.”

With it taking no less than 9 months to graduate, Solomon is looking forward to holding the school first graduation commencement in the near future.

To learn more visit orangeacedmyofbeauty.simplesite.com or calling 409-216-7393.