Co-Owner and Stylist, Hair Base Salon & Spa, Chicago

President, PBA Beauty Professional (NCA) Council

Licensed: 1980, Ippolito’s School of Cosmetology, Chicago

First job: Hair Base Salon

Clients per week: 30

Price point: Cut/style: $70-$90; color, $80-$100

Women of Style: Grace Santiler-NowikWhy did you choose beauty? Because I knew it would be a heck of a lot more fun than being an orthodontist! In my second year at the University of Illinois, I had an epiphany while sitting in my physics class. “This is so boring!” Do you really want to do this career path? The inner voice said “NO. Get yourself to your counselor.” By the end of the week I was enrolled in the business college and got my degree in Marketing and Business administration, before getting seriously involved in following in my mom’s footsteps as a cosmetologist and salon owner.


Milestones: Hitting the 5-year mark in my career; getting actively involved with the National Cosmetology Association; then getting on the board of directors of the “Chicago Cosmetologist Association,” now Cosmetologists Chicago; becoming part owner of the salon.


Big break: My first 10 clients—who each had more faith in my ability then I did at the time.


Career advice you’ve received: Practice your craft with intelligence.


Career advice you’ve given: Love your work and it will love you back.


Your mentors: My mom, accomplished hairdresser and salon owner, Graciela Santiler. She always inspired me and helped me fall in love with this great profession. My dad, Alipio Santiler, has always been the pillar of strength and voice of reason when things got a little hairy. No pun intended.


You mentor: I enjoy helping and guiding my staff, friends and my children in whatever they need to become more successful. I share my knowledge freely and honestly.


Are there benefits to being a woman in beauty? Well, most beauty clients are women. Who better to understand your own sex? If there was one wish I had for women, it is to not be so timid. Opportunities are enormous; you just have to do your homework and go out and get it.


Risk and lesson: Early in my career I competed in local and state competitions, and won several. Then in a “Total Look and Fashion” competition, I bombed. That’s what happens when you get too confident. The next time I prepared more and won. Do your homework, be prepared!


What does “work/life” balance mean to you? Your family or loved ones will tell you when you are too skewed in one direction. Listen to them and self-correct. You will be happier.


To follow in your footsteps, a woman would have to: Really love this business and get involved in her professional beauty associations, network with her fellow professionals; go to a lot of classes and shows, and share.


The next change to my personal style: Who knows? I like to go with the creative flow.


Reading: Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter and Hunger Games, a teen book that was required reading for my daughter’s school. At the end of a long day, there’s nothing like a little escapism.


Playlist: “Left Behind” by the Spring Awakenings Broadway Cast; “The House that Built Me” by Miranda Lambert. Whenever I need a lift, Latin music!


Important client experience: Our salon has always encouraged clients to tell us about beauty services they have researched or are interested in. In response to their suggestions, we have brought on a non-ammonia color line and high-end eyelash extensions.


Every day, just for you. I exercise and read.


Working on: A small remodel of the salon. I am spreading it out over two years because of the economy. We have to get ready for the upswing.

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