Industry News

Women of Substance: Paula Malloy

Stacey Soble | October 6, 2011 | 12:49 PM

Women of Substance: Paula MalloyPaula Malloy

Director of Marketing and New Product Development

JCPenney Salons

Licensed: In 1982 after attending the New England Hair Academy.

Affiliations: NCA, PBA, ISBN

At 29, Paula Malloy determined she was ready for the next step in her career and boldly sold her salon. For Malloy, the next step was Sebastian, where she worked first in sales, then as the brand’s education manager, and eventually adding the responsibility of heading the company’s research and development department. In 2003, the need to be closer to the energy of the salon and the working stylist led Malloy to her current role at JCPenney Salons. There she leads within the company’s salon division, which has 17,000 stylists, and she’s emerged as a leader within the industry as the first female president of the International Salon Spa Business Network.

Who was your mentor along the way? I have so many people I consider mentors and with whom I ask for advice, people such as Jeff and C.B. Sullivan in Manchester, New Hampshire who I worked for after I sold my salon, Geri Cusenza at Sebastian and Debra Carver who’s been a dear friend for 15 years. I think its good to have many mentors, and good to mentor many different people.

As a woman, what barriers, if any did you come across during your professional growth? “This is an industry fueled by women both in revenue and in manpower, but when I started 20+ years ago, it was still very male dominated in areas such as salon ownership and leadership within manufacturers and distributors. I don’t feel that I was held back as a woman, but I did feel I had to work that much harder and be that much better to achieve what I wanted. But I think those barriers fueled me. I do think it’s an asset to be a woman in this industry. I think women instinctively have more communication ability and empathy and that’s helped me.”

What would you consider your biggest professional break? “Sometimes when you get cancer, it’s a good thing. When I was working in education for Sebastian I was diagnosed with Hodgkins Disease and needed to take a year off. They were good to me, and assured me there would be a place for me when I was ready. But when I came back, the only open position involved travel and I couldn’t travel at the time. When Geri Cusenza heard, she put me in charge of research and development. I told her I knew nothing about R&D, but she told me, ‘I’m the owner, and if I said you can do it, you can do it.’ Not that she cut me any slack, it was a baptism by fire but it was great to work with John and Geri Cusenza and it changed the course of my career.”

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? Scott Cox, my boss and the senior vice president of Sebastian told me, ‘Hire people who are smarter than you. You have to surround yourself with people who can do your job, or you’ll never be promoted.’ People get so insecure and it happens in the salon where the owner will have someone really talented and will hold them back, but it’s important to let them excel so you can step away from the chair.”

What business achievement are you most proud of? “There are many: I’m proud I was stupid enough to open my own salon at age 25; I’m proud of some of the product lines I developed when working with Geri at Sebastian, such as Potion 9 and Colorshine, and I’m proud of the work my JCPenney team has done to upgrade and modernize the brand.”

What’s the best business book you ever read? “Again there are several: “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles; Who Moved My Cheese?  By Spencer Johnson; and In Search of Excellence, by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman.

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? “Originally, my mother told me cosmetology wasn’t a good enough career for me. I want to continue my work with the team at Penney’s to grow the salons and grow the hairdressers—I want to continue to see our associates enjoy financial success and be emotionally rewarded.”

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