On February 8, 2018, Ulta Beauty announced that Nick Stenson has been promoted to Vice President, Salon Services and Trend, and that Ammon Carver will take on Stenson’s previous role as Chief Artistic Director.
Stenson, who joined Ulta Beauty in 2016, will be responsible for driving the direction of Ulta Beauty’s services business with the goal of expanding the portfolio of services in hair, makeup, skin and nails; growing clientele visits and retention; and increasing Ulta Beauty’s industry presence as leaders in trend and the artistic development of salon professionals.
Carver joined Ulta Beauty from L’Anza Healing Haircare where he will continue to serve as Global Creative Director, while also representing L’Anza on the newly formed Ulta Beauty Pro Team. In his new role, Carver will be responsible for the artistic development for the services business including management of the Pro Team, trend development and influencing services strategy.
In this exclusive interview with MODERN SALON Editor in Chief Alison Alhamed, Stenson and Carver share how these shifts will impact the 7,000 Ulta Beauty stylists, the Ulta Beauty experience for its millions of loyal shoppers, and the professional beauty industry.
MODERN SALON: Congratulations are in order! This is big news! Because the two of you are so close, Ammon you’ve sort of been learning along the way watching Nick in this role.
AMMON CARVER: I’m very excited. This is going to give me a whole new set of skills, and a powerful perspective. It’s definitely going to stretch my brain, but I’m ready.
MODERN: How do you even begin to train someone to fill your shoes?
NICK STENSON: When Ammon and I first met 15-plus years ago, we did not like each other! But Martin Dale from Matrix put us on stage together to collaborate and it was this pivotal moment where we instantly realized how much we complemented each other, even though we’re very different. Backstage, he always preps extensively, saying out loud what he plans to say on stage or, now, in the boardroom. And he knows if I’m not listening. He’ll look at me and call me out on it. I always laugh and say ‘You feel better now? You’re going to kill it. Let’s go have fun.’ If I had to train someone who was really great at doing a lot of things, but had no history with them, it would be next to impossible, but Ammon and I can finish each other’s sentences. He knows my brain and I’m totally confident in him being able to run with this even better than I did.
MODERN: Ammon, as a salon owner, you’ll certainly be bringing a strong perspective into the role of Chief Artistic Director, leading the Pro Team and working so closely with the educators.
CARVER: Being a salon owner definitely keeps me grounded and connected to the everyday stylist, their creativity and their challenges. I became a hairdresser because I like the way they make people feel—hairdressers can change the world. When I was a 17-year old living in Utah, I didn’t know where I fit in. I had so many insecurities about accepting and loving myself. The stars aligned and I was introduced to someone who encouraged me to go to beauty school. I was like, ‘I just told my parents I’m gay, I can’t go to beauty school!’ But I decided to go, and that first day of hair school was one of those pivotal life-changing moments for me. The hairdressers were so accepting, and everyone was so different from each other, but were unified in this place of celebrating individuality, and being unique and awesome. I fell in love with the spirit of hairdressers and their ability to change lives. They helped me in that day to learn to love myself. I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to blow dry or cut hair, but I knew I wanted to be around these people. So every time I have the opportunity to stand on a stage or reach a stylist, I want to do the best I can to maybe create that moment for someone in the audience. It doesn’t matter if you’re weird, tall, short, gay, you’re beautiful and amazing.
MODERN: Nick, as a Matrix Artistic Director and celebrity stylist, in addition to your role at Ulta Beauty, you’ve had so many incredible experiences. What are the opportunities for stylists with the Ulta Beauty brand?
STENSON: When I got into this business, I begged the first salon I worked for to hire me. I told them they didn’t need to pay me, that I would work off tips because I wanted to grow my career and build my book. All stylists know it is so hard to build a clientele based on walk-ins and referrals. At Ulta, we have the world’s largest waiting room. We have 22 million loyal people, who love to come visit Ulta and shop and spend money and time in our stores. So it’s much easier for a stylist to build a book and a clientele working at Ulta Beauty. When I was a new stylist, so much of what I was doing was trial and error. At Ulta, not only do we pay you to go get educated, but we pay for the education, and we make sure you feel good along the way.
MODERN: In the official announcement of the new roles, Kecia Steelman, chief store operations officer, said this just proves Ulta’s continued commitment to the hairdresser. What did she mean by that?
STENSON: She’s right. As a company we believe in hairdressers, we want hairdressers to grow. It’s not just about having the best products to buy, it’s not just about being a beauty playground. As a company, we want to give amazing careers—not just jobs—to people, allowing them to have a platform to celebrate their artistry, surrounded by the best products out there.
MODERN: Ammon, how will your role shift within the L’Anza family with this new focus at Ulta?
CARVER: It won't change--I will continue to be the Global Creative Director and will work to develop the culture and connection with the L’Anza Tribe, alongside Leah Freeman and Matt Swinney. And I’m excited to bring that out-of-the-box mentality we’ve created at L’Anza into Ulta Beauty, too, always challenging the status quo.
MODERN: Nick, you’ll continue in your role at Matrix as Artistic Director?
STENSON: Yes. The synergy between the two brands—Matrix and Ulta Beauty—is seamless. This is one of those moments where it’s good all-around for everyone.
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