Jana Westerbeke

2023 Greater Tucson Leadership Tucson Founders Award

By Valerie Vinyard

On the surface, Gadabout SalonSpas Co-Owner Jana Westerbeke is the perfect recipient of the Founders Award from Greater Tucson Leadership.

After all, her career has revolved around helping people look their best.

Dig deeper and you’ll find that Westerbeke also helps people feel their best too, helping transform the lives of her employees and the thousands of clients who visit her salons, both physically and mentally.

Westerbeke’s mom, Pamela McNair-Wingate, founded Gadabout in 1979, but Westerbeke was involved from the beginning. While in high school in Rockford, Ill., Westerbeke attended cosmetology school. 

“I went to cosmetology school so I’d have something to fall back on,” she said.

She moved to Tucson in 1979 and started cutting hair at Gadabout in the 1980s. It was there where she met fellow stylist Frank Westerbeke. “We fell in love on the job,” she said. “He’s a really talented hairdresser, but he’s a wonderful human being.”

The two have been married for 35 years, and Frank still cuts hair once a week at the Gadabout location at River Road and Campbell Avenue.

“I never really thought of myself as a founder,” said Westerbeke, who also opened VerVe Salon with Frank in 2001. “I think it’s a responsibility to the community you serve, and to help grow the fundamentals of who we are today.”

The Founders Award recipient demonstrates significant long-term community involvement and accomplishments, and has helped shape the community in a quality, positive manner. Recipients will have made significant contributions to the community over the course of their lifetime. 

Westerbeke will be honored at Greater Tucson Leadership’s Community Impact Awards, which will take place Mar. 22 at Casino del Sol.

Gadabout offers hair, skin, massage and nail services at its five locations around Tucson. Besides the array of “best salon” awards won with local media such as Tucson Weekly, the company has received the “Beauty Entrepreneur of the Year” award in five categories at the Global Business Awards in London and “Salon of the Year” recognition from Salon Today Magazine two years in a row.

“I think the most important thing right now is we’re developing our strengths,” said Westerbeke, who offers advanced training for all new employees and continuing education for current ones. Classes and training are offered out of the Gadabout Resource Center at 3100 N. First Ave., which was opened about five years ago.

Of the company’s 227 employees, 152 have been with Gadabout or VerVe over five years − 116 have been with them more than 10 years. And 25 interns have graduated to be full-time stylists on the floor.

“I have the pleasure of watching Jana in action on a daily basis within Gadabout SalonSpas and VerVe salons and to say that she lives her mission daily is an understatement” said Megan Jasper, director of marketing and operations for Gadabout. “She continually, without fail, in every situation is always striving to do more for others, helping anyone possible succeed and thinking outside of the box on how to give back to the Tucson community. I believe she’s more than deserving of this award.” 

Westerbeke discussed how the industry has evolved over the decades. 

“This industry has grown to become one of the first chosen careers,” she said.

In fact, she serves on the board of directors of Beauty Changes Lives, an organization that helps support the industry to make it a first-rate career. To do that, Gadabout and salons nationwide raise money through events. “I fell in love with this industry,” Westerbeke said. “Now I hope to raise $1 million.”

Westerbeke is very involved throughout the community, including Angel Charity for Children, Ben’s Bells and Tu Nidito. She also serves as a board member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Tucson, an organization she’s been involved with over 20 years.

“I think that the one thing my mother instilled in us is that we don’t think about who’s our competition,” Westerbeke said. “As long as you’re here, we’re going to help you grow.”

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