The truth about how I became successful despite my challenges
This post is going to be a little different but I wanted to really open up to you guys and talk about how I got to where I am today in my career! I will also be sharing the steps I took to build up my clientele at the end of this posts for any hairstylists who are reading!
First I want to say- I am so so so thankful for my career, and feel so incredibly lucky that everyday I get to wake up and never feel like I'm just going to "work" I am going to my job, but also my career, my passion, my hobby. It's a career that is always changing, rewarding, and really allows me to get "lost" in my craft while I'm at work.
It’s creativity and passion, but also can be very emotionally exhausting at times. When you are so passionate about something it's really easy to bring your work home with you for days at a time, and really causes you to put so much of yourself into your job. If someone wasn’t happy- you think about it for dayyyysss. But at the same time, when someone cries in your chair because you made them feel SO much better about themselves and gave them the confidence they’ve been missing (for sometimes years)- you feel so accomplished, and have a long lasting “high” that outweighs anything else. And both of these emotions can happen in one day- sometimes minutes apart!
I feel like a lot of people think being a hairstylist you just wake up, play with hair and go home. But it's so much more than that, at least it is for me. Thats how my idea got started about this post & why I wanted to walk y'all through a day in my life! But first, I wanted to give y'all a little back story on how I got to where I am today.
I started beauty school when I was 17 years old, after graduating High School a year early! I wasn't sure which route I wanted to take in life, and was always under the impression from some family members and teachers that going to beauty school instead of college was the wrong path to take. Despite feeling uncertain, my mom suggested I enroll in beauty school and it was the best decision I ever made.
I was living outside Chicago at the time, and I was 17 years old still living at home with my family. I went to beauty school 5 days a week, from 9am to 5pm. I had to get 1500 hours in order to get my license. (a little over a year)
I didn't even have my own car at the time, and knew if I wanted to work at a nice salon and make good money I would need to get a job on the side to help with getting to and from work. I went to beauty school 5 days a week, and then worked until 10pm after school every night at a tanning salon- ugh it made money but I do regret those tanning days lol. Then I worked all day every Sunday and Monday (my days off school)
So I was working 7 days a week-about 70 hours between beauty school & my job.
I didn't have a single day off school or work for an entire year, and I didn't miss one single day of either. I worked so hard to finish school, saved up enough money to buy a crappy car (that broke down after 2 years) LOL and graduated beauty school without missing a single day.
I knew exactly what salon I wanted to work at when I was done with school, and applied there before I even graduated. I knew it was the perfect place for me to start my career. After applying at The Color Room, I didn't hear anything for a couple months, so I took a job at a salon as a “shampooist”. One day, a few months later I got a call from the Color Room and they wanted to set up an interview. I obviously accepted and went in for the interview a couple days later. I got a call the next day offering me a job as a full time apprentice. I've never been so ecstatic.
I will never forget my first day at The Color Room. I was like a kid going into her first day of school, wide eyed, clueless, and on cloud nine. I worked all the time, my schedule was usually about 7-8 hours a day, but I was so eager and excited that I went in a couple hours early and stayed late most days. My schedule on Saturdays was the worst! I had to be at the salon before 7:30AM. All of my friends were in college and went out on Fridays- I literally never went haha. I pretty much had no social life.
It was very different because while most 18 year olds were starting college I was starting my actual lifelong career. I brought in models every Thursday morning to practice color, cutting and updos on. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing. You don't learn anything in beauty school, so I was completely starting over, learning from someone who could do hair with her eyes shut.
The owner trained me, and was intimidating and very tough on me. She had been doing hair about 30 years. I often left our Thursday morning classes in tears, wondering if I was ever going to succeed in this industry because I just didn't get it at first! I struggled with EVERYTHING. Styling, Color, Cutting, Updos. I was seriously like WHY AM I TERRIBLE AT HAIR. I don’t know why but doing hair just didn't come easy to me at first.
For our classes, I had to bring in my own “model” to practice on every week. On a few occasions I didn't have a model, and on the 3rd occasion this happened she said, "if you don't have a model next week, you're done." I was devastated! But, I did everything I could from that point forward to have a model, and I didn't come to class without a model ever again. In fact, it got to a point that I was booked a couple months out with models!
I now know why she threatened me and why she was so tough on me, it’s because she KNEW I had it in me to succeed and she was pushing me to my fullest potential. It’s because she knew I would have tough clients, and tough days, because being a hairstylist IS a rollercoaster of emotions, and she was preparing me for my future. She was making me tough, and better, and a fighter. She was showing me that in order to succeed I had to work my butt off and take constructive criticism and not be a little baby about it. Because what was I going to do if my client didn’t like her hair? Cry in front of her? NO. I was going to own it up and FIX it. What was I going to do if I didn’t have clients on my books? Keep showing up each day without them making no money? No. I was going to bust my ass to make money and succeed. And I did. And I am truly grateful TO THIS DAY- 10 years later for the tough love Pam Anderson gave me from the Color Room Salon in Dyer, Indiana.
I was on the path to completing my apprenticeship at The Color Room and start taking my own clients, when I decided to move back down to my hometown of Austin. I told my boss that I was moving, cried, and she wished me luck, and even wrote me a letter of recommendation. I've even gone back to visit her and the salon a couple times when going to visit my family in Chicago...the last time I visited was about 2 years ago and when I walked in she said "well look at this, miss big shots here! or something along those lines. I got chills. Wow. Talk about the best feeling ever..
After moving to Austin when I was 20, I worked at a salon downtown, making $12 an hour, doing haircuts only. I didn't even know what I was doing, it was my first time taking clients without guidance but it helped me build up a little confidence. I knew this job I had wasn't long term, but I needed a steady income since it was the first time being on my own. The salon I worked at had a bad reputation of turnover. The owner had a repuation for firing people left and right. I would pull up to work- and when you saw him outside pacing back and forth you knew someone was next. It was weird. Sure enough I pulled up one day right after New Years and he was outside pacing. I knew it was my turn to go. I got fired- my one and only time getting fired from a job. I left in tears. He said he was firing me because of my customer satisfaction, and because I wasn’t succeeding. But I knew he was wrong. I knew he was just a jerk that fired people left and right.
I then moved out to the Cedar Park area and took a job as a stylist for about a year and a half. This is where I built up my clientele and career! I was at a salon that required you to pass certain “benchmarks” in order to “move up.” Within 6 months I exceeded the requirements and got promoted. I got promoted within 6 months of getting fired from my previous job.
I thought I worked a lot in beauty school and during my apprenticeship... but while building my clientele I worked Tuesday-Saturday anywhere from 9am to 7, 8, 9 at night. I pretty much took clients whenever they wanted to come in. No matter what time. But I was getting booked, getting requests, and doing pretty good! It was towards the end of the year that I saw Blonde Faith was opening and I knew from the minute I met with Karen, the owner, I had found my forever home. I felt an instant connection with her (as most people do) and I waited about 6 months for Blonde Faith to open, and FINALLY started working there, while bringing about 95% of my clients with me! I STILL have clients that starting seeing me at my first salon in Cedar Park before I worked at Blonde Faith.
I couldn't believe everyone followed me, and it was then that I became more confident in my self and knew I grew a lot as a stylist...but this really helped boost my confidence in my career. I started working with Karen at Blonde Faith, and had steady following of clients, but I wasn't booked by any means. Blonde Faith was different and thats how I knew I would stay here. I cared about the bones of it, the image we gave others, the reviews, the happiness of every client- not just my own.
When I first started about Blonde Faith I think we had about 5 employees? We now have about 23 and have more than doubled in size since we first opened.
I was still working quite a bit building my clientele, and it wasn't until about 7 years into my career that I started a "normal" schedule working Monday-Friday 10-5. I am able to make my own schedule, take time off, travel, and have an amazing work life balance.
I am so lucky to have a boss that helped me succeed and given all of that to me to this point. I can travel to places I’ve always dreamed of going because of my hard work yes- but also because of one woman whose dream of opening up a salon in Cedar Park, Texas became my lifelong career. Because of her success as a salon owner, I became more successful than I ever believed was possible as well. Because of her dream- my dream came true. And literally every day I see her, walk into my job, I feel so lucky. I’m not perfect- I’ve made mistakes along the way and I’ve fallen. But she’s always been there to help pick me back up & given me everything I need to succeed. I literally wouldn’t even be writing this blog post if it wasn’t for her.
Now, over five years after my career at Blonde Faith started, I am booked weeks in advance, have my own assistant, 2 chairs, grown my social media presence, won and chosen for Educational opportunities across the US, and am making about 6 times what I was when my career first started. Now I train new stylists- like I once was trained. I have honestly worked my BUTT off to get to where I am today.
I wanted to share this with anyone who is struggling not just in the beauty industry but in anything in life. The purpose of this post was to show you all where I STARTED. Because yall. I literally started from the BOTTOM. Through hard work I succeeded and I’m at a place I never thought I’d be 10 years ago.
My career has helped me grow as a women through patience, perseverance, dedication, confidence and professionalism. I can honestly say I am truly proud of the person I've become in my career, and the women I surround myself with every day have played a huge role in my accomplishments. They say you become like the 5 people you spend the most time with & I’m so glad I’ve found my “people.”
For the stylists out there!
Here are a couple ways I helped build my clientele pre Instagram:
During my apprenticeship- I didn’t really know many people in the Chicago area since I grew up in Texas:
-I asked a top stylist at the salon if she knew anyone that wanted to be a model. Luckily she did & helped me book up my schedule with her friends & family who wanted free hair services! A few other stylists knew people too.
-I asked random people I saw with good hair to be models- at the grocery store, gas station, or the mall. Most people wanted free hair
During my first salon job in Texas- Also pre instagram, it’s SO much easier now with instagram!!
- I gave my card and left it out everywhere
-I literally made FLYERS and went to a nearby shopping center & hobby lobby and put them on peoples CARS yall. I was a H U S T L A haha
-I gave incentives to clients- like refer 3 friends get a free haircut or prebook 2 services and get a free haircut
-I took clients late and on weekends
Now after building for 10 years things are a little different but you never stop growing! I no longer have to hustle the same way I used to but I’m so glad I did. Instagram and word of mouth is 100% how I gain clients at this point in my career. Also, exceeding my clients expectations, a good personality & having good customer service keeps them coming back.
My advice for anyone starting out is to give out your card to anyone and everyone, ask friends, family and clients for referrals, post the crap out of your work, post your best work, and work until you don’t have to hustle anymore. It will be worth it..I promise.
I hope you guys enjoyed my story! I’ve actually been working on this post for a couple years and kept coming back to it. I decided to finish it this year. On my 10 year anniversary of my career. I think for my next post I will do a "day in the life" Let me know what you guys think! :)