Stylist Spotlight

Beauty Changes Lives: Paul Laurie's Story

Paul Laurie | July 24, 2015 | 8:10 AM
Paul Laurie and Andis Educator Sean Casey at the Andis Clipper Ace Challenge in Orlando, FL.

The American Association of Cosmetology Schools is a network of more than 900 schools dedicated to providing excellence in beauty education and to championing a message of “beauty changes lives.” Paul Laurie of Buffalo, NY, didn’t fully realize his passion until he was 27, when he made the decision to pursue barbering instead of his sales career. In just about a year, he was named the student winner of Andis’ Clipper Ace Challenge.

I’m 28 years young and full of energy. I attended the Master Barber Program course at Erie 1 BOCES School in fall 2014 and completed my hours in spring 2015. I worked in sales after college; I went from selling cars, to crazy expensive vacuums, and most recently at Verizon Wireless.

Barbering and I are like friends who grew up together but never knew we actually loved each other. I’m from a pretty big family, and in most big families, parents try to save money. We got free haircuts. Whether it be from Mom, Dad, my aunt—someone was cutting our hair so we didn’t have to pay for it. I remember trying to explain to them what haircut I wanted, but it never happened. I could envision what it was and even how to do it.

After high school, I started cutting my own hair. I still had no idea I had love for barbering. I went to school for criminal justice but didn’t pursue that. When I was 27, I had been working at Verizon for nearly four years. My wife, Monica, is a part-owner at her salon, and I knew I wasn’t doing what I’m passionate about. Monica mentioned I was be good at cutting hair, and I always felt great after giving a haircut; it was really rewarding. At the time, the closest barber school was more than an hour away, and I didn’t want to go full-time knowing I have a mortgage and a decent job at the time.

I took a vacation from work in February 2014. I was sitting at home realizing I wasn’t where I wanted to be career-wise. It hit me how much I love to cut hair. I Googled barber schools and, believe it or not, Buffalo started a barber school and it was a night school! I could still work and go to school. I signed up and took the entrance exam that week.

When I first enrolled, I went on YouTube every day and watched barbering videos until I fell asleep.

In May 2015, I won the Andis Clipper Rising Star Challenge—my wife encouraged me to enter. I first thought, “Why bother? I’m not going to win.” But then I thought, “What’s the worst that could happen?” I would lose if I didn’t enter, so I might as well try.

Winning this contest changed my perspective a lot as far as what opportunities are out in this industry. Attending Premiere Orlando was like going to Disney for the first time instead of a local carnival. I learned so much and connected with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Andis has a great team, company and awesome products.

Prior to school and the contest, my goal was to open my own shop right away. I’ve revised it slightly. Recently, I was offered an opportunity to work with a new barbershop called The Rust Belt Barber and Salon Co. Eventually I would like to open my own place with five or six chairs and help others prosper. I don’t think there’s a greater reward than helping others succeed. Being a platform artist/Andis educator is on the vision board. I want to share my experiences and help others learn new techniques, motivating others to not chase their dreams but to go get their dreams and make them happen. 

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