So I stayed a hairdresser
The time has come to make a dream come true. I will admit I never really thought I would get here. A self-employed hairdresser, single mom of 2 admittedly hard to raise children in a hostile environment. Family, government assistance programs and financial aid services gave me and my children a life that I did not feel that I deserved, but graciously accepted.
At that point in 2011 I didn’t even like doing hair anymore. It never worked out the way they said it would. It was all glitz and glam, fashion and fun in beauty school with all the support in the world...and then you graduate and it is a whole different story. But no matter how I felt about doing hair or the industry it always sustained me and put food on the table. So I stayed a hairdresser.
I will spare you the paragraph I just deleted and say that like most of the industries in need of learning to lead and work with love, kindness and compassion, the beauty industry is no exception. Employed hairdressers of my day were by and large either treated poorly with high pay or treated well enough and not making very much money and neither lot had benefits. If you worked for yourself, you had work plus work after work...but at least you were your own boss.
Advanced education was owned by the big corporate salons and almost always required your soul with a blood signature on a non compete for some time to make up for the trade of intellectual property or by larger local independents who operated mostly the same as the larger and were also not too many in numbers and certainly not terrible diverse in client outcomes(read that as balayage, blown-out and curled...for everyone). While the small independent salons are bombarded with education choices which are largely provided by the reps of product lines competing for stylist’s education and retail dollars, so maybe a bit biased?? Otherwise there were a slew of expensive courses one had access to learn(maybe, sometimes) techniques that you could use to bolster service offerings in the salon.
When stylists graduate from beauty school they simply are not ready to be independent. It is not a badge of honor to graduate a 2,000 hour course and immediately try to perform with enough proficiency to keep clients coming and also learn to run a small salon business...because that’s what being independent means and that path is so unnecessarily difficult and lonely. And being employed seems like not an option anyone wants...
Hairdressers do what they will and it is no surprise. There are simply not enough(any?) communal advanced training options for all of the different kinds of hairdressers emerging onto the scene excited to serve all of the different kinds of people asking for all of the different kinds of styles in safe, welcoming environments for all. Asking too much? Not at all. We are good for it as an industry, but we are severely lacking in direction. A little over here and a little over there, I can hear the faint whispers of social media posts reaching for something different, something new. A new approach, a new vision, a new direction. The beauty colleges recognized this problem a while ago and that is why they started teaching business principles in school, because the chances were more likely than not their graduates would be booth/suite renters. But that is a huge problem if it continues to grow in this direction. Who then will show the new comers the ropes and teach them all the things that only come with time if all that came before them are now independent freelancers? Who will remind the freelancers to come back down from the cloud of success to share with the inexperienced their tales from behind the chair? Who will help them see the problems and solutions differently because of perspective from some bygone era in hairdressing history? No one will or it will be very limited and I can tell you from experience, that information is valuable. We need that information to be physically passed down within our actual communities. It is a trade after all.
I mean I don’t have to take this on. At this point in my career I know that I am firmly an entrepreneur who masquerades as a hairdresser and I have continued to elevate my craft as a means to become a successful and in-demand hairdresser with a unique perspective and fantastic community. Now what? Keep raising my prices until only the wealthy can afford my time? No. Quit and disappear into my alter fitness persona? Not yet...No, I have decided it is time to give back. Somebody has got to do it and it might as well be me. At least for the moment in this space anyway. It isn’t enough to open a business to make money. It isn’t enough to run a business to make others money. Money isn’t enough, so if I am going to run a large operation you better believe my why has got to be pretty strong and it is.
Because clients deserve salon experiences that are safe, inclusive, educational, supportive and helpful that also include salon services performed with proficiency and executing a semblance of the desired outcome...and that just take a little while longer to foster in an individual than the time allotted in cosmetology training. I believe I have a perspective that can be of service and if the industry will have me I would very much like to participate in the transforming of salons into places where every hair type is understood and where hairdressers are wholehearted-beauty coaches who slay all the looks with technical ease. Asking too much? I think not. It just takes time, some intention and a safe space.
That is why I am opening up a new kind of advanced training salon. Don’t ask me what I am calling it yet, I am not quite sure, but you can be sure that I am going to have so much fun teaching, sharing, guiding, mentoring, befriending and cheering along those who will go on to further impact and change the industry hopefully for the better long after I am gone. I will have a program for stylists, educators, and salon owners and try my best to give back to a career that has always been there for me.
And finally after all of these years I have been given the space where I will get to create something that will aim to be of service to my industry and community and I am so overwhelmed with all the feels. What if this is truly the beginning of something huge?? If all this goes to plan, Left Coast Salon might actually make it’s way all the way down to my very expensive retirement condo in San Diego, lol. I guess we’ll see.
I am glad that I stayed a hairdresser through all of it and I can’t help but feel like every moment of life has led me right here and I am as ready as I’ll ever be. Terrified? 100% But also Bravery at 100% so the math works out.
Wish me luck!!