Salon professionals share why they chose to be part of the beauty industry.
John Ryan, Co-owner of Festoon Salons, San Francisco area
Why I Chose Beauty: “When I was in junior high, I saw the movie Shampoo and was so into it. When I graduated from high school, my mom told me I had to go to college to become a doctor or lawyer — anything other than a hairdresser. Reluctantly, I went to the University of Iowa, and while there I cut off my girlfriend’s long hair. She flipped when I was done because I had given her this asymetrical new-wave cut with a long tail down the middle of the back. All the girls in the dorm came out to see it and by the end of the night, I cut the hair of five more girls. One girl actually gave me a five-dollar tip, which was huge back then, and I thought, ‘wow, I can make money at this!’
“I dropped out the next day and enrolled in beauty school and knew I was going to work at the best salon in town. Every time I had a client in school, I asked her, rather than tip me, to go to that salon and tell them how great I was. On top of that, I took Polaroids of each finished look and slipped it under the salon door with my name on it. After a few months I went and introduced myself. The owner told me I would be hired upon graduation.
“That owner came to my graduation and handed me a card. Inside there was $500 and a note that said, ‘You are NOT hired for my salon. Take this money and go to a big city. You have no excuse to stay here.’
“I packed up my bags and moved to San Francisco. Eventually, I became the Creative Director of Jaboh and then opened Festoon with my wife, Melissa.
“Since earning my license, I have created more than 65,000 cuts and 35,000 colors. I’ve been around the world several times either as an artist or for training. I’ve made a lot of money and have created careers for other professionals. This has been the most magical career ever.”
Kattia Solano, Owner, Butterfly Studio
Why I Chose Beauty: “In Costa Rica, where I was born, my grandfather was a well-known barber. When I was still a child my family moved to the U.S. and my aunt used to take me to beauty school with her at night. I loved it!
I still remember the smell of the Queen Helene setting lotion, and those roller sets. It turned out she wasn’t very good at cosmetology and ended up dropping out. I was lucky enough to use her equipment, and at the age of 12 started my own ‘salon’ at home, doing hair and make-up for my family.
“I decided to pursue my passion and attended a vocational high school where I spent all my time in the beauty department, doing every type of hair I could get my hands on. My favorite pastime was giving the football team crazy hair cuts—it was the ’80s, so everyone wanted to look like MC Hammer. It was fun and great practice.
“Eventually, I enrolled in New Jersey’s Artistic Academy, and in no time was hired to work at Depasquale, one of the best salons in the state. It was there I got an education in the business end of the field, and at the same time learned how to be a platform artist for Sebastian. Six years later I had become a top stylist, and decided to move to New York City to pursue the next stage of my career, as an editorial stylist.
“In 1993 I began working for Frédéric Fekkai at his salon on 57th Street. I was able to develop my own style, and felt an even greater urge for success. After an amazing time working for Frédéric, I moved to the John Barrett Salon at Bergdorf Goodman to help develop John’s education team.
“It took me two years to make the jump, but in 2001, Butterfly Studio opened its doors, operating out of my live-in loft space in a lower-midtown building surrounded by carpet stores. This was not a desirable neighborhood for our clients. Everyone thought I was crazy moving downtown from such an upscale salon. But I knew we had amazing clients who would support us no matter what.
“Two years later, we moved from our 1,500-square-foot loft space with six employees to a 5,000-square-foot Fifth Avenue space with 36 employees. Butterfly Studio became the flagship salon for Kérastase L’Oréal; and in 2007-2008, I worked with L’Oréal to launch the Shu Uemura luxury product line. This gave me the chance to educate some of the best stylists in the U.S.
“Our business continues to grow, with new opportunities each day.”