Empire Chairman and CEO Frank Schoeneman
Empire Chairman and CEO Frank Schoeneman

MODERN SALON's Excellence in Education annual recognition program celebrates leading cosmetology schools, highlighting innovative programs and best practices in eight categories and two divisions (single location and multi-unit schools).The 2015 Excellence in Education honorees were announced October 24 at the American Association of Cosmetology Schools conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Among 38 schools recognized, top honorees were named in each category.

In this Excellence in Education Spotlight series, MODERN SALON connects with each of the top honorees to further explore programs and how schools are collaborating to develop the future of professional beauty.  Here, a closer look at the 2015 top honoree in Community Involvement, multiple locations:

The Empire Education Group is well known for its charitable initiative and is celebrating 10 years of support for local anti-domestic violence programs in its 100 school locations.

Campaigning for a Cause

Since 2005, each of the 100 schools in the Empire Education Group participates in the Empire Gives Back campaign by helping victims of domestic violence on a local level. The campaign is more than a food drive or cut-a-thon for Empire staff and students—it’s personal.

“Each school adopts a local anti-violence shelter in its neighborhood,” says Angela Watson, director of public and media relations. “Every year, we reach out to see what each shelter needs—donations, free services, or even scholarships to residents who want to come to Empire.”

Watson stresses the importance of raising money and giving services on a local level, also noting the unique partnership between the schools and shelters.

“We want people to notice our anti-domestic violence initiative,” Watson says. “Most people don’t talk about it—domestic violence has a stigma, but we’re not afraid to address it. It makes us proud, and we’ve found many of our students know someone in that situation or have maybe even been there themselves.”

Much of the fundraising for these shelters happens on Empire’s National Day of Beauty, the Empire Group’s signature annual event.

“Every school takes all the revenue from that one day to give to a local shelter,” Watson explains. “We advertise it in local media outlets and schools let their clients know with fliers and word of mouth.”

However, Empire doesn’t expect students be passionate about shelters and anti-domestic violence campaigns without educating them first. That’s why they provide their “Cut it Out” training to all students.

“We are simply teaching students how to offer help,” Watson says. “Our domestic violence partners come in and teach students how to recognize signs of abuse and pass along a card with a hotline number on it.”

Rather than feeling intimidated or nervous about such a sensitive subjects, Empire has found students embrace it.

“They are so empowered and happy to have learned skills to help others,” Watson says. “We have a lot of really positive feedback during our trainings.”

For schools who haven’t found their pet cause yet or are looking for a new charity to support, Watson recommends finding something students and staff are invested in.

“Knowing they are making a difference in their home and that our program improves lives in the community is extremely important to our students,” she says. “We regularly invite our adopted shelters into our schools to discuss what they do—this helps students gain even greater understanding.”


Empire Pottsville, Pennsylvania's National Day of Beauty donation.

School Spotlight: Empire Education Group

Location: Pottsville, Pennsylvania

Owner: Frank Schoeneman

Established: May 1932

Average enrollment: 10,000 across 100 schools

Best student perk: “Our industry relationships with companies,” Watson says. “We are majority-owned by Regis salons and have partners like Goldwell and Cosmoprof. We work hard to make sure our core group has these relationships so we stay relevant and our students are known to the people hiring them. We want them to find a job that will grow into a career.”

AACS member? Yes

What major improvement are you planning for your school in 2016? “We’re continuing to roll out updated curriculum,” Watson says. “We’ve updated to a more salon-centric format to truly make it a salon experience for our students. We also just launched beautycareer.com, which we’re really excited about. Students can create an account, build a resume, create a portfolio and speak with registered salons.”

What schools or educators inspire you? “For us at Empire, this industry is unique in that everyone works together to give schools a good name and provide a good education,” Watson says. “We constantly share best practices and learn from each other—we help each other succeed.”

What does the Excellence in Education recognition mean to you? “The recognition we receive from the Excellence in Education program helps our entire school system by highlighting the great work being done in all of our schools,” says Watson. “We are thrilled to share this news with our students and staff, letting them know that the time and effort they put in to our community relations efforts is recognized, not only by those within our walls, but those on the outside as well.”