Hometown: Cedar Rapids, IA
Industry Icon: Ann Mincey
An Early Job: When I first moved to California I sold pre-planned funeral arrangements over the phone. This job lasted only two days.
Now reading: “Gone Girl” by Gillian Flynn
Your Favorite Day: Any day down at the beach in Laguna with no plans for the day and my hubby by my side.
Hidden talent: Comedy? I think I am funny but not everyone agrees.
Day-off pursuits: Sleep and exercise
Title of your autobiography: “From the Cornfields to the Stage”
Anyone having the good fortune to run into Mary Wilson this summer can wish her “Happy Anniversary” as she celebrates thirty years in the beauty industry in June.
Wilson, Vice President of Marketing at Farouk Systems, says that she always wanted to be a hairdresser and she found early inspiration close to home. “My Mom was a hairdresser and she worked in a two chair, back-of-the-house salon doing shampoos and sets all day long,” says Wilson. “The coolest thing I ever saw was the day my grandmother, who wore her very long hair in a braid and twisted into a knot, released this braid and decided to get a short, pretty style. Watching large amounts of hair drop to the floor and seeing the transformation of my grandmother, who looked so beautiful, was amazing to me.”
Today, Wilson gets the same thrill at seeing beauty school students transform their lives with their license, or in teaching about the many paths available in the beauty industry, and in bringing products to market that will make a difference for a hairdresser. This enthusiasm has been a through line in a career that offers a lesson in risk-taking and staying open to opportunity.
After cosmetology school, Wilson moved to Los Angeles to work in field sales for L’Anza. By the time she was 27, Wilson was Vice President. “I learned so much because I remained willing to push for new experiences and to try new things, even if I didn’t feel fully comfortable. I think you really have to be brave enough to acknowledge what you don’t know.”
Her stint with L’Anza introduced her to regional and national education, to marketing, to international travel and, most importantly, to her husband, Philip Wilson. Soon, they would start their own company, Wilson Educational Productions, working with distributors, spearheading their shows and events and creating training programs. “But as soon as the ink was dry on our brochure, we were approached by Redken to be Artistic and Training Consultants.”
Several years with Redken were followed by work with Robert Miller on launching the Antoine Du Chez Hairdressing Academy and then two “too good to pass up” proposals from L’Oreal.
“L’Oreal offered Philip the Creative Director position. My son was still young and we didn’t necessarily want to return to New York.” Until another offer was made to Mary—to be Vice President of MATRIX. “I was part of the team that transitioned the company from Cleveland to New York. It was an exciting, fun, dynamic time to be involved in rebranding a brand.”
And then came September 11. “I was in the city that day,” she says “and it reshaped what was important to me in life. I decided Matrix was too big a job to have while I was raising my son. I felt like I was missing out on his childhood.”
A return to consulting included the development of her own company, Rejuvenation Mind-Body-Spirit. Together with good friend, Ann Mincey, former Vice President of Global Communications at Redken, they created personal development retreats, Destination Rejuvenation, inspired by Mincey’s book, ‘Get Glowing’. Their next retreat will be in 2014.
Now with Farouk Systems, Wilson feels their values line up with hers. “Farouk takes a wellness approach and is so committed to helping the hairdresser by offering them clean products,” says Wilson. “When I came in there were some wonderful, dynamic people but there were a lot of holes in the team so I got on that right away. I promoted, hired and reorganized.”
Her team is expanding the BioSilk lines, working on the new CHI magazine and planning the Farouk Conference in Cancun. Through it all, she practices what she preaches in her retreats. “I must really understand, learn and accept that the only person I can change is myself and we are all responsible for our own decisions.”