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Butterfly Circus: Its Origins and What's Next

by Jamie Newman | July 20, 2016
Some of the members of Butterfly Circus.Back Row: Jenny Strebe (@theconfessionsofahairstylist), Sam Daly (@bottleblonde76), Laura Kaszoni (@lalasupdos), Alexis Thurston (@alexisbutterflyloft), Ash Fortis (@xostylistxo). Front Row: Jay Olson (@jaywesleyolson), Anthony Giannotti (@anthonythebarber916), David Thurston (@davidbuterflyloft), Linh Phan (@bescene), Rickey Zito (@hairgod_zito). Not pictured: Iris Smith (@glamiris) and Nina Kovner (@passionsquared).  (photo credit: Steve Kim) Steve Kim
Some of the members of Butterfly Circus.Back Row: Jenny Strebe (@theconfessionsofahairstylist), Sam Daly (@bottleblonde76), Laura Kaszoni (@lalasupdos), Alexis Thurston (@alexisbutterflyloft), Ash Fortis (@xostylistxo). Front Row: Jay Olson (@jaywesleyolson), Anthony Giannotti (@anthonythebarber916), David Thurston (@davidbuterflyloft), Linh Phan (@bescene), Rickey Zito (@hairgod_zito). Not pictured: Iris Smith (@glamiris) and Nina Kovner (@passionsquared). (photo credit: Steve Kim)Steve Kim

You're familiar with their social media handles: @theconfessionsofahairstylist, @jaywesleyolson, @bescene, @xostylistxo, to name a few. A force to be reckoned with on their own, but together, a powerhouse of cut, color and style stars.

Meet Butterfly Circus, a traveling group of some of the most followed and well-known stylists and educators on social media. Touring the U.S., teaching cutting, coloring, styling and social-media classes, Butterfly Circus is the brainchild of David and Alexis Thurston, the husband-and-wife duo who own Butterfly Loft Salons and UBungalows in Encino, California.

“When people watch a YouTube tutorial, they never watch the full thing,” David says. “They watch a portion of it and say ‘I got this’ and move on. We’re processing information so quickly right now.”

With that, the idea was developed of holding classes with multiple instructors (usually seven) who each teach for 30 minutes. That way, attendees learn several techniques related to cut, color, style and inspiration, in a quick, easy-to-digest format.

The members of Butterfly Circus have a combined 1.2 million followers on social media, whose work is constantly shared by beauty industry pages—whenever @modernsalon, for example, regrams a member’s work it amasses thousands of likes, comments and shares. With that sort of reach, the Circus is able to sell tickets and go from city-to-city teaching classes, no formal marketing team required.

Beyond stylists, colorists, salon owners and educators, some members of the Circus are now newly minted entrepreneurs and product developers.

After a year in the making, seven members plus David as the founder, created Pulp Riot haircolor as business partners, which launched in June. They wanted to create a color company responsive to trends as they emerged.

“The idea was zero degrees of separation between those who create products and those who use them,” David says. “Magic’s going to come from that.”

Each stylist custom-formulated their own Pulp Riot color, with their social handle labeled on “their color.”

David says there’s not a day that goes by when someone doesn’t message him to join Butterfly Circus. The squad isn’t closed from new members, but there are specific standards he upholds for initiation.

“I need people on the team who have a good social media presence, because the truth is you have to sell the tickets,” David says. “That gets you in the door. Next, you have to have the ability to educate. Many of the people we start with do not have experience educating, but they have that personality where they’re not scared of taking the stage. The final thing is you have to be a good person. In my opinion, niceness and being a good person is totally underrated.”

“The professionals who come to Butterfly Circus classes are already artists,” says Rickey Zito, better known as @hairgod_zito who owns Head Rush Salon in Louisiana and had never formally educated prior to joining the Circus. “They come to be inspired. Hair isn’t so serious, we’re all artists. Hair should be fun. Let’s get out there and do hair together.”

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