Maria Elizabeth, creative mastermind and founder/owner of Salon deZEN, has always been passionate about the growth of her community. Empowering individuals to come together for a common good has always brought Maria strength, connection, and a greater purpose in life. Philanthropy is at the core of Maria’s every endeavor, including her business.
118 N Fayetteville St.
“People who are truly strong lift others up. People who are truly powerful bring people together.” ~ Michelle Obama
Considered a philanthropic leader by many in the local community, Maria is a worthy recipient of the KEVIN.MURPHY ICON Award. Although this submission focuses primarily on her philanthropy, it should not go without mentioning that she is just as involved in the preservation and sustainability of the environment (ZEN is proudly a Green Circle Salon!), as well as maintaining a diverse working environment.
A philanthropist is a person who seeks to promote the welfare of others, whether that be through time, money, skills, or talent. EXTRAORDINARY philanthropists spend quality time with those they really want to serve. That’s Maria.
Since 2017, Maria has volunteered with Space Of Her Own (SOHO), a nonprofit organization that empowers under-served girls through visual arts, carpentry, life skill lessons, and creative one-to-one mentoring. Maria’s involvement began with mentoring an individual with whom she still connects with 5 years later. In September of 2020, through a percentage of retail sales from ZEN, a donation of $3,200 was donated to SOHO by Maria and the ZEN team.
Maria was recently alerted that the Lutheran Social Services National Capitol Area (LSSNCA) is in need of donations to help move refugee families into local housing in Virginia. Since WWII, LSSNCA has been welcoming those forced to flee their homes due to war, violence, and persecution. These refugees are moving to the United States with nothing, so the ultimate goal is to help them become self-sufficient through resettlement and employment services. The ZEN team, in collaboration with Beautyscope, has decided to donate hair and beauty products to offer immediate help, as well as hair ties/clips and brushes (August 2021). ZEN is grateful to play a leading role in welcoming refugees to Virginia, especially since personal hygiene is fundamental to increasing self-confidence.
Maria also serves as Old Town Boutique District’s (OTBD) Vice President. This position allows her to support and amplify many non-profit organizations in Alexandria. For example, on April 28, 2021, OTBD participated in a campaign to donate 10-15% of sales to support ACT for Alexandria, a community foundation dedicated to improving the lives of people in the local community. Over 170 nonprofits were helped through this successful campaign. #Spring2Action
Maria also builds strong relationships with her clients and supports their philanthropic endeavors. One of Maria’s clients, Amy Benitez, tragically lost her Mom to pancreatic cancer in 2019. Maria saw Amy’s devastation firsthand and immediately began building more awareness of this deadly disease so that patients and their families could have more time together. Maria and Amy locked arms to get Alexandria prominently involved in the “Light It Up Purple” campaign. Walking door to door, business to business, Maria and Amy empowered nearly 40 businesses to switch out a light bulb to purple for National Pancreatic Cancer Day (November 19, 2020). It was an incredibly moving scene: to see a community come together, even during a pandemic, in a purple hue to create more awareness of pancreatic cancer. All purple light bulbs were donated by Salon deZEN. Maria said, “If our purple initiative helps just one person obtain an earlier diagnosis, then our efforts are a complete success!” Still eager to help more, Maria and ZEN supported Amy and her young daughter, Reesa, in the Purple Stride Walk/Run – a race to end pancreatic cancer. ZEN generously donated 10% of its sales on Saturday, June 5, 2021 to Purple Stride, helping Amy and Reesa raise over $5,000 for pancreatic cancer research. #wagehope #WPCD #immunovia #earlydetection #PANCaware #pancan #purpleforapurpose
ZEN’s ultimate goal is to make every client feel safe, valued, and appreciated while also celebrating their individualism. Maria and her team have artfully created a salon that is all-inclusive and all-accepting. In alignment with its mission statement and to honor Pride Month, Salon deZEN hosted an “In Transition Class” on June 30, 2019. During this three-hour class, individuals who were transitioning learned practical hairstyling skills as well as pro makeup tips. Maria stated, “Transitioning is an immense and significant change and salons can be crucial in helping individuals in their journey to feeling authentically and unapologetically themselves through hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Salon deZEN’s mission is to help people discover, create, and recreate themselves visually, expressing outwardly what they feel inside.” Supporting the LGBTQ+ community is another integral element in creating a safe, caring, and accepting community. ZEN is also proud to offer completely gender-neutral pricing.
Pre-pandemic, Salon deZEN was a pet-friendly salon. Cute and furry-legged friends were often spotted accompanying their owners to the salon. With CDC guidelines during COVID, animals were not allowed in the salon. However, ZEN’s love for animals still shined through as ZEN donated $1,000 to the Animal Welfare League. This organization provides compassion for all living things and provides shelters to animals in need through adoptions. Although the word “philanthropy” is derived from “love of humanity,” Maria believes that the act of generosity should include all living beings, including animals.
Resilience is defined as the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and continue in the face of adversity. In order to get through COVID-19, Maria and Salon deZEN had to shift into resilience mode. ZEN united together to adjust its platform in order to continue servicing loyal and loved customers and also support organizations in need. Many philanthropic events were canceled due to the pandemic, but Maria still found ways to give back to her local community. “We are better together” is a phrase that Maria stands by and implements in all aspects of ZEN. In the darkness of the pandemic and when the salon was closed, Maria focused all of her attention on her team to make sure they were financially and emotionally stable. Through gift card sales during the salon’s closing, Maria was able to use all of the revenue to cover her employee’s health insurance so that they would not have to go without coverage. Maria continuously makes conscious decisions to enrich the lives of people around her.
Selfless. This one word captures who Maria is at her very core.
“The Choices We Make” is at the heart of KEVIN.MURPHY. It is clear that Maria’s life choices make her an incredible recipient of the KEVIN.MURPHY ICON Award.
All events in the “Zen’s Giving Heart” story are dated within the submission. Maria’s support is ongoing with these causes.