The second installment of Mentor Me with the Matrix team, including Matrix Global Business Ambassador Tabatha Coffey, is now wrapping up a year-long journey of one-on-one coaching, training, and mentoring that began in May 2021. Of the hundreds of virtual applications Matrix received, five mentees were chosen: Annelise "Babs" Busch, Mark Amponin, Gabriel Urbina, Chavaun DeVore, and Georgia Tournai. Aiding Coffey in helping the group with cutting, color, styling, business, and personal growth were Matrix artists including Nick Stenson, Eric Vaughn, and Michelle O'Connor.

“Everyone, not just recent grads, needed support,” recalls Mentor Me Director Kiera Doyle. “We were unsure this time whether we would be able to meet in person, but Matrix saw the importance of this program now more than ever.”

For these mentees, the experience was magical. They started calling themselves the “Magic 5.”

Babs Busch

 -

Babs Busch @littlebabybabs didn’t know what she would focus on until she had her first meeting with Coffey, who helped her crystallize her goals.

“I knew I had to pick Tabatha’s brain for everything business-related because, after all, she is the queen!” Busch says. “What I wasn’t expecting was the self-growth I would be manifesting through her guidance. How was I supposed to run a smooth business while doing inventory, scheduling, coloring, cutting, etc? How does the black sheep of Salt Lake City, Utah, acquire color clients while maintaining authenticity in a sea of icy blondes? So many questions—and now all of them answered!”

She says the year went so fast and spanned so many topics.

“In what feels like a blip of time, the person I am today is nowhere near the person I was when I was chosen,” Busch says. “I have confidence, courage, and calmness. I didn’t realize how frequently I was shooting in the dark and anxiously waiting to see whether I’d hit the target. Who knew that creating a “roadmap” for each client would make life easier? Thanks to Lenny Strand, Matrix’s Technical Director!”

Busch calls Coffey “a beacon in the dark” who reminded her that the little things are important and we all should take a break from working.

“Now I take time for myself,” she notes. “I read all the books I want to, I meditate when I need to, and I adapt to all the challenges in and out of the salon.”

 - Hair: Babs Busch and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Hair: Babs Busch and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Mark Amponin

 -

Mark Amponin @iam.markstephen wanted to learn how to increase his speed while maintaining a high degree of quality in his craftsmanship.

“One of my weak points is color,” Amponin says. “Tabatha taught me that lifting the hair in specific levels is crucial in order to produce colors such as white, silver, gray/metal, and ‘bronde.’ And I learned that I don't have to achieve a level 9 to get gray.” While he laments that the pandemic prevented the mentees from assisting behind the scenes at industry trade shows, Amponin says the December meet-up helped to make up for that.

“The class in New York City about styling curly hair with Michelle O'Connor was a magical experience, because it aligned with what I want to specialize in,” he says. “I had a private conversation with her after the class, and I treasure that experience.”

Amponin values the mentoring in non-technical areas as well.

“One of the biggest things I learned is fear vs. courage,” he says. “To have confidence, you have to have courage. You have to be aware of your fears and do uncomfortable things that push you toward confidence. In order to grow, you have to change what you usually do. That sounds like common sense, but it took me a while to realize this.”

Amponin mentions the Branding class with Constance Robbins as one of the highlights for him. “The look and feel of my Instagram changed after taking that class,” he reports. “I learned to post only what you want to attract. It worked! Since then, I’ve been fully booked with the curly-haired clients I was seeking.”

 - Hair: Mark Amponin and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Hair: Mark Amponin and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Gabriel Urbina

 -

Gabriel Urbina @artistry_by_gabriel wasn’t sure whether he was optimizing social media, photography, and videography and, in general, heading in the right direction in order to reach his goal of working with a brand like Matrix.

“I now know I have a chance with a brand, and my clientele only keeps rising along with my prices,” Urbina says. “I am sure I will be able to reach out to Tabatha and the Matrix Mentor Me team in the future. This is a power team that has opened the flood gates and expanded my horizons.”

Urbina says Matrix Ambassador Philip Wolff had been among those who'd inspired him to join the industry, so he was excited to work with Wolff.

“Sure enough, he was one of the mind-blowing educators teaching us!" Urbina exclaims. "And Tabatha as my mentor has been exceptional. I was feeling that I was too old when I started doing hair, but she gave me many tips on how to level up so I can stand out. This has built my confidence that I’m now doing things correctly in my business.”

 - Hair: Gabriel Urbina and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Hair: Gabriel Urbina and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Chavaun DeVore

 -

Chavaun DeVore @chavaundevore had just moved across the country and was starting over to attract a clientele, so the Mentor Me timing was good because she had time to work on her challenges. She says the program exceeded her expectations.

“I was encouraged to focus on one step at a time so I could avoid feeling overwhelmed,” DeVore says. “Now that I’ve found a fantastic salon that's the right fit, building a new clientele has been pretty easy! Without Mentor Me, I believe it would have taken me much longer than a year to get to the place I am now.”

 - Hair: Chavaun DeVore and and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Hair: Chavaun DeVore and and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Georgia Tournai

 -

Georgia Tournai was dealing not only with the lockdown but also with her father’s death from COVID. She and her wife decided to move to Palm Springs, where they’d always wanted to live and retire. Starting new, she felt that mentoring could help her even though she’d been in the industry for more than a decade.

“I spiraled,” Tournai recalls. “I got to a point where I was really questioning my next steps and how I wanted to see myself evolve and grow. I wanted primarily to target the GLBTQ+ community, but I did not know how to present myself to the market and contribute back to that community.”

While she anticipated that the mentorship would make some connections for her and reignite her passion, Tournai was surprised by the extent the program changed her outlook and her business.

“Tabatha Coffey has helped me to heal, grow, persist and, ultimately, kick ass,” Tournai explains. “I’ve rebranded myself under this mentorship to make it clear who I am as an artist and what I want to present to my own community and the world. Being a queer person myself, I had a block that I didn’t realize was holding me back. Once I owned who I was and grounded myself, I was able to present that to the masses. I am forever grateful for the tools, both tangible and intangible, that our mentors have given me to be a better artist and trailblazer within the industry.”

 - Hair: Georgia Tournai and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Hair: Georgia Tournai and the Matrix Mentors
Photography: Damien Carney

Paying it Forward

The 2021 mentees plan to share the knowledge they've gained, with some mentees hoping to become mentors.

“I would like to be able to educate and mentor others by providing a safe space for them to learn and grow and find their greatness within themselves, all the while bettering their business,” Tournai says. “I want to give other stylists the confidence and tools they need to be the ultimate badasses that I know they are!”

Urbina says both his clients and coworkers followed his Mentor Me journey, and he’s been helping coworkers master everything he learned.

“People literally ask me to help them in photography, styling, videos, etc,” Urbina adds. “I feel like it’s my calling to educate and pay forward everything I have learned. I also find myself educating clients more, and in better ways, about how to care for their hair at home.”

DeVour, too, says she’s feeling a tug toward being an educator.

“I’m going to continue spreading the knowledge that I have been given,” she vows, “whether it's to my fellow stylists in the salon, the stylists following my social media, or maybe even becoming an educator. I love teaching everyone all the golden nuggets that I've learned.”

Amponin wants to share the message he learned about courage.

“I’ll pass this along especially to my young LGBTQ+ clients who need encouragement and confidence, just as I did,” Amponin pledges. “And I’ll do more good in the community and be compassionate.”

Busch says she hopes to go back to her cosmetology school and share with the students the tools she’s gained.

“I hope my journey finds its way to someone doubting themselves right now,” Busch adds. “To the beautiful soul seeing this: just do that thing already! Let somebody else tell you ‘no,’ but don’t you dare tell yourself ‘no’!”

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.

Read more about