Remember that “butterflies in the stomach” feeling of stepping out on the salon floor for the very first time? Perhaps you remember that thrill of “opening day” when you started working in your own loft. Or maybe it was the first time you offered your expertise on a podcast.
Spring is a season that’s synonymous with renewed energy and fresh starts. How long has it been since you added something new to your professional routine? As a hairstylist, it’s easy to become known as the “go-to” expert in a particular area of expertise. But recognition as a specialist in one area may limit new paths of opportunity if complacency sets in. Perhaps you’re considered venturing into emerging texture trends or adding lash extensions or nails to your service menu. How do you build onto your existing area of expertise and keep growing your book of business without diluting your area of expertise?
Years ago – OK, I mean decades ago – we’re talking circa 1978 – I was inspired by a friend’s hairstylist mother who traveled the U.S. as an educator. My friend’s mom was interviewed by the local newspaper (yep; there were papers back then and even teenagers read them – though mostly for the horoscopes). Headlined, “Have Scissors Will Travel,” the article chronicled the hairstylist’s jet setting travels at a time when the career of hairstylist was often viewed as a small town vocation.
I took away from that article some advice that’s followed me for 45 years – “When you’re green, you’re growing, and when you’re ripe, you rot.” I’ve noticed thatadvice from the disco era remains a hallmark of successful pros in the beauty business. So, I asked some of today’s pros from all aspects of the industry – salon owners, brands, educators – to talk about how they keep growing and pushing past their comfort zone.
It turns out that the good advice my friend’s mom offered back in 1978 has no expiration date. Below are some excerpts from those who are continuing to stay green and grow.
Moving Past First-time Fears
Jessica Walker, owner of J. Walker Salon Group in New Jersey, opened her business at 19. More than 20 years later, she continues to take on “first-time” experiences, whether it’s appearing on national news programs, serving on the board of a local bank, or adding a full-service wellness center to complement her three salons.
Asked to remark on how she’s navigated change and expanded her career over the years, Walker says, “Each stage of growth brought uncertainty, but I became better and better at feeling comfortable outside my comfort zone.” Her checklist of advice for others includes taking calculated risks, finding a group of advisors, staying humble, finding a mentor and continually investing in education.
“Training can be filled with emotions,” says Walker. “Practice then repeat. Put yourself in a place that can support your training, your soft skills and your confidence – then just get out there and do it.”
Walker has made education a way of life at J. Walker Salon Group. Her staff works with team members to define what success looks like and then craft a performance plan to help stylists continually advance their success.
Evolving Past the Expert Niche
Darrius Peace (@DarriusPeace) has been a stylist for 20 years, working on TV and movie sets and in his salon Hayah Beauty. He has also launched the Hayah Beauty Style Network, a training program that helps stylists elevate their techniques on natural hair while growing their clientele and profitability. When he decided to become more competitive in his career, Peace moved outside his comfort zone of relaxed hair and embraced natural hair styling.
About pursuing a new niche, he says, “The (natural) niche allowed me to accommodate audiences that were not being addressed by most hairstylists. As a result, I have been able to establish myself as an expert in a growing sector of the industry as well as create a brand that is sought after by many who want hairstyling solutions, tips, and advice on natural hair care.” Later, Peace channeled the courage to expand his business into writing and is the author of My Hair Ain’t Nappy: A Black Man’s Introspection on Natural Hair.
Stepping Into New Frontiers
Frashier Baudry, marketing director at Tre Milano in Nashville, Tennessee knew a lot about marketing country music artists, but littleabout the professional beauty industry. A mid-air conversation on a flight introduced him to a contact at Tre Milano. The company markets styling tools for InStyler, Flower, Harry Josh and Packed Party. Baudry had always wanted to work in product marketing and was intrigued by the portfolio of hot styling tools. “I’m a male with short hair – so what did I know about styling hair?” he says. But he immersed himself in blogs, Tiktok videos and started following influencers across social media. He says that leaders in the beauty business are willing to share and engage. “Even if you’re an outsider, if you approach companies from a place of respect, people are excited to bring you up to speed in this business,” he says.
Asking for Guidance
Lynelle Lynch, CEO of Bellus Academy, and founder of Beauty Changes Lives knew a lot about high fashion, as a store manager for Saks Fifth Avenue. When she received the opportunity to lead and transform some small beauty schools, she wasn’t shy about turning to experts in the beauty space. “The first initiative when I took over the beauty colleges was to form an advisory board of elite spa and salon owners to discuss how I could prepare students for jobs post-graduation. At first, they only wanted to work with stylists who had five years’ experience,” she recalls.
That feedback was the birth of Bellus Academy’s advanced education, and now those same owners regularly hire Bellus Academy graduates. Lynch believes the key to getting where you want to go is to look for shared opportunities to win. “Everyone wants to be part of a proactive winning team. In life and in in the salon spa, and classroom you have to be humble and open to change,” she adds.
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