Mark Ladd has always been in the retail business.
He started out as a teenager, working at his dad's business, Jim's Imports, which sold Yamaha and Sea-Doo products.
Later in life, he and a partner opened Compact Disc Center. Changing market conditions forced them to close Compact Disc Center after 10 years.
Since 2005 Ladd, 52, has been in the haircut business. He owns two Wichita Great Clips salons, at NewMarket Square in northwest Wichita and at Derby Marketplace. Ladd has 24 full- and part-time employees at his salons.
Ladd is one of three Great Clips franchisees in Wichita. Dennis Nestelroad, his former partner in Compact Disc Center and at Great Clips, has a store at One Kellogg Place at Kellogg and Greenwich. Lisa Schneider has Great Clips salons at Auburn Pointe on West Maple and Bel Pointe Plaza near Woodlawn on 37th Street North.
Ladd has used a wheelchair for about 12 years. When he was 18 he was diagnosed with a neurological disease called hereditary spastic paraparesis, or HSP.
You mentioned you feel blessed that you found a business that your handicap doesn't impede or detract from. How so?
"When you're wheelchair bound, you always think of the obstacles of anything.... (The business) just fits and works so well. I really have a hard time bringing words to it. In some cases being wheelchair bound is a distinct advantage in the way you relate to people and people relate to you.... I just feel blessed to be with this company."
What drew you to Great Clips initially?
"Dennis and I separated for a few years after closing Compact Disc Center, and he popped back in our life after we sold the motorcycle business.... He said Great Clips would be a good multi-location opportunity. I said 'Great who?' "
It's quite a change going from selling motorcycles and CDs to selling haircuts, isn't it?
"Uh-huh, yes it is. My wife looked at me like, 'Haircutting business? You're used to dealing with men... and you're getting into this business?'... It's all people and all business to me. It doesn't matter what product I'm selling, or in this case what service I'm selling.... My passion is not what I'm doing, although I've grown to be passionate about our business. My passion is more my journey through life."
Do you plan to expand further?
"I've always said I would like to open six, but in my younger years I had more blind ambition.... I just want to be darn ready. There are a couple of locations I'm highly interested in for future locations."
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
"I haven't had so much.... Everyone says, 'What's your hobby?' Of course, I travel on occasion, but my hobby is this business and interactions with others and learning and growing from it."