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Solo Artist Ambition: How Going Independent Can Open Up a Variety of Career Opportunities

by Elizabeth Jakaitis | May 28, 2017

For some beauty professionals who choose to be solo artists, being independent is not the whole game, but an important stage in their careers. For Jacob Khan, currently the owner of Jacob K. Hair in Dunwoody, Georgia and a member of the CosmoProf Artistic Team, everything he has accomplished would not have been possible without some time spent working independently and pursuing what he needed next in his career.

“Working independently gave me the chance to figure out my own aesthetic. I got to know myself a lot better. It helped me figure out what kind of salon owner and what kind of culture I wanted in a salon because no one else was telling me anymore.”

Khan went to Paul Mitchell the School Atlanta and graduated thinking that doing hair would be a way to pay the bills while he pursued another passion­­, doing standup. However, the more time he spent doing hair, the more he fell in love with it and soon he was giving his all to cosmetology.

Khan began working for a salon, but it was one that did not present many opportunities for education and growth. So, he and some longtime friends that went to beauty school together and had been together in bands and standup acts, integrated their loves of beauty and performance and began partnering with photographers to do shoots whenever they could. Khan found himself busy and comfortable in this environment, but still knew he wanted more. He found out that Paul Mitchell was hiring a learning leader, so he auditioned and got the job. It was less money than what he was making in the salon, but it satisfied the drive he felt to learn and advance in his career. 

While teaching at Paul Mitchell, he partnered with two other stylists to open a three-chair suite of their own and worked crazy hours to make a living and continue building his career as a hairdresser.

“I would teach during the day at the school from about 8 to 4:30, then from 4:30 to 10:30 I would take clients in the suite, usually five days a week, for a couple years,” said Khan.

Then, the Paul Mitchell school Khan was working for began building an advanced academy, called a Mastry, and he heard that Lucie Doughty, now the editorial director of John Paul Mitchell Systems, was going to be involved. He greatly admired her work and knew that mentorship was what he was looking for at this stage in his career, so he made his interest known. He spent six or seven months auditioning, taking classes and giving presentations to show Paul Mitchell educators what he was capable of, and in the end he was selected to be a member of the advanced academy. The position gave him the opportunity to study color with Doughty and cutting with Wayne Lee, a Vidal Sassoon educator.

“It was the best thing that could have happened to me,” said Khan. “I loved every minute of it.”

After a year of this, Doughty and Wayne were no longer going to be as involved in the academy, so Khan decided to move on as well. He spent some time at a salon run by a couple hairdresser friends, when he found himself in the position to do something he had been dreaming of for a long time: open a salon.

“Specifically, a salon with my own brand and everything exactly as I envisioned it,” says Khan. “I finally had no excuses. I had the clientele, the financial resources and the exposure.”

The same motivation that led Khan to leave the salon earlier in his career—the motivation to have freedom in education options, salon style and culture, and creative choices—later led him to open his own salon.

“It took so much effort,” said Khan. “If I could give any advice to anyone that is trying to do something like this, it’s that it’s going to take a ridiculous amount of patience and you have to be incredible passionate about it because it’s not going to be easy.”

For Khan, being a salon owner never would have been possible if he had not began following his own path earlier in his career. He says that finding a mentor after school was essential to the development of his craft. Learning how to build a clientele and manage scheduling while on his own in suites prepared him for what would be necessary when running a salon.

“Being independent gives you the opportunity to do your own thing. If I did a photoshoot, there was no artistic director guiding it, I had to create my own branding. It enabled me to know myself better, and no what I wanted in a salon of my own.”

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