FEATURE STYLIST BLOG JANUARY EDITION

Stacey Smoker
Hairstylist and Artistic Director at Matii Salon NYC
Instagram- @stacey_smoker
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Stacey Smoker by Andrew Werner, AHW_7172.jpg

 

Stacey has been behind the chair on and off for 20 years this April. She is originally from mega-rural Pennsylvania and is now living in New York City. "I’ve lived  & worked both extremes in our industry."
If you haven't followed Stacey and her work, I highly recommend you start! Passion, extreme creativity, driven, humble, and an inspiration to so many. These are just a few things I would say represent Stacey and her work. Stacey was a Silver Finalist in 2016 NAHA, a Contemporary Classic Goldwell Artist, and the Regional Educator with Goldwell
 As you read in our interview below, she talks about the importance of education, mentorship, and how "consistent excellence," is key to building a loyal clientele. 
As always, we hope this interview will motivate you, inspire you, and encourage you, to continue to share your love and passion for the beauty industry. Enjoy!

 1.   What advice would you give to a stylist coming out of school? What should they expect?
“I can’t speak enough to the importance of advanced education and mentorship. Find someone you look up to and be a sponge. They don’t have to be famous or “The Best” to have something to teach you.  Take as many classes beyond cosmetology school as possible. Even if you went to one of the best academy’s in the country, there is so much left to learn. Lastly, I think learning that there is so much opportunity in this industry beyond just working behind the chair is really important, just know that if you love hair there are a million ways to make a living in support of this craft.

2.   What makes you a stand out in the industry? What is your specialty.
Well, I’m not sure I’d describe myself that way, but if anything makes me a “stand out” it’s probably my blind, unwavering bulldogged determination to improve and succeed, that and my willingness to stay open and try new things. For me it’s all about continued growth. If I'm not growing, I’m regressing and going backwards isn’t an option. But honestly, I don’t know that I’m a “stand out”, I just give my best everyday and every day I try to be better than the day before.

3.   How did you decide this was the career for you ? When did you know this would be your career path?
I started cutting hair without intention at 15. By 19 I was studying at Toni & Guy and graduated with top honors. When it came to hair, my hands always just knew what to do. And because of that I don’t think I truly valued my ability. It wasn’t until I was 10 years into my now 20 year career that I TRULY chose hair as my future and started giving it everything I had. Since then, the sky has been the limit!

4. You are involved in hair competitions .Tell us how you go about planning your looks and model etc.
Competition has breathed new life and energy into my existence. I finally found an outlet for my “crazy ideas”! And I’ve been blessed that, of late, my work has been getting some attention. When putting together a new collection I pull inspiration from everywhere. Usually it’s an abstract image, sometimes a quote or the lyrics of a song. But when inspiration strikes, I see exactly what I want to do in my minds eye and then I go about figuring out how to do it. I sketch out what I see in my head, usually it’s one finished look and I build from that. Once I have a clear Idea I start looking for my models, they play a very big role in my final looks. Most of my models are just regular lovley humans willing to help me create art, only recently have I brought in a few profesional models. The concepts I am currently developing I’ve been working on for 6+ months. It’s a process much like riding a roller coaster and takes patience and diligence, but for me there is nothing like bringing something that only ever existed in your own mind into reality. It’s  the absolute best form of magic!

5.   Besides giving a great cut and color what do you feel is also important in terms of retaining clients and growing a book?

It takes Consistent Excellence.  We exist in a world now where a great cut or color are the bare minimum of expectation and good work isn't enough to build a loyal clientele. Your client experience must be top notch but more importantly, it must be consistent. From the moment they make their appointment to the moment they leave with their new hair, their experience needs to be consistently awesome, and then that awesome experience must be duplicated at appointment 2 and ESPECIALLY at appointment 3! At appointment 3 most people relax and the client experience suffers, appointment 3, in my opinion, is where you show how you are different from others and why you are worth it.  

In addition, I think true retention also comes from the relationships you can develop during an indepth consultation. The consultation is the absolute most important thing, that and a clear idea of your target client. Attract the right (ideal for you) client to your chair, add a thurough consultation and an excellent experience and your ‘chances’ of making a happy loyal client go straight thru the roof ;-) It becomes a garuntee.

6.   What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you most proud of in your career?
In General,  the thing I am the most proud of is that I have been in this business for 20 years, and I honestly feel like I am at the very beginning. Specifically, I am beyond proud of my 2016 NAHA Finalist nod, it is also my biggest accomplishment, simply because almost every other exceptional thing I have achieved since can be connected to that, well, maybe everything except my 2017 ColorZoom U.S. Partner Silver, I’ve worked for 5+ years to achieve that one!

7.   Using only 4 words. Describe the most important attributes of a successful stylist?
Persistent, Driven, Curious and Humble

8. You are also a Goldwell Artist. Tell me How important is continued education is to your success behind the chair. How often are you investing in education?
I think continued education is pivotal to any real success behind the chair but for me personally, becoming an educator, first briefly for two other brands and, the last 6 years with Goldwell has opened up my mind to what is possible. Getting into education can open up incredible opportunities as a stylist behind the chair, especially if you are looking to push yourself or are feeling a little stagnant.

In addition, I learn as much as possible. In addition to all the Goldwell education training, I also take paid (meaning I pay) brand classes at least 4 times a year and spend a minimum of 2-4 hours a week pursueing other forms of education, both independant and brand based. When I take a class now I come to it as a behind the chair stylist and as a fellow educator, it’s like learning with 2 brains! In short, continued education is essential. I don’t believe you can be competative in this social media saturated, 6 second attention span world without aggressivly pursueing personal excellence in your craft in some way EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.

 

Check out Stacey's Work!
Photo and Makeup credits!
First two photos: Photo: Andrew Werner, Make Up: Sam Alter.
3rd photo- Photo: Kale Friesen, Make Up: Antonio Adrian Hines
Last photo- Photo: Kale Friesen, Make Up: Cheryl Esposito.
Headshot- Photo: Andrew Werner, Make up: Cheryl Esposito

Nina Tulio
FEATURE SALON JANUARY EDITION

Michelle Cao
Blossom Salon and Spa
San Mateo, California
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Meet Michelle, Owner of Blossom Salon and Spa in San Mateo California and here is her story! 

"Blossom Salon and Spa opened its doors in 2014, but the idea for Blossom first bloomed in 2012. I have always believed that a great haircut can change lives and boost confidence. I see women walking out of the salon with a confidence that can only come from knowing that they had great hair to complement their personality. Who doesn’t love a good blow-dry? With that said, I also see women whose life was made miserable by a horrible haircut. I wanted to build a place where women can come in and confidently walk out knowing that they are fabulous. This February marks the 4th year that we will be bringing beauty and confidence to the women and men of San Mateo, Bay Area.  We currently have 6 stylists with varying level of experience and 2 Aveda-trained estheticians."
Not only is Blossom celebrating their 4th year in business. They are also named one of The Bay Area A List Top 10 Salons! How exciting is that? As you read our interview below, you will learn how much they love being an Aveda salon, and how taking a direct approach in coaching her team has made an impact on the growth of her business. As always, we hope this interview will motivate you, inspire you, and encourage you, to continue to share your love and passion for the beauty industry. Enjoy!

 

1.      What has been one of the hardest things to overcome since becoming a salon owner?
The most challenging thing that I have had to overcome and continued to experience is identifying the right people for my team. My vision for Blossom has always been to guarantee an exceptional experience regardless of the technician. I want clients to come to our salon without worrying about the quality of the services. Maintaining that quality of service means having to provide a lot of feedback and guidance to my technician; some technicians appreciate the feedback, but there are always those who take feedback more critically. I have learned to give feedback as more of a project which we can all work on together, instead of something that the technician has to change by themselves.

2.   Tell me about your mentor and the importance of having a mentor in this industry.
I never had a specific mentor in the past. I grew up seeing my mom working every day and taking care of myself, my grandmother and 6 of my other siblings. We were not wealthy by any standards, but my mom always taught us to be positive, kind, honest, hard-working and always search for new things to learn. I am where I am today because of the support from my children and also the values and ethics that have been taught to me by my mother. I opened my business to create a good platform for all those who need a mentor and are dedicated to their career. A mentor is so important especially for those who are just starting their career, because the beauty industry evolved so rapidly that sometime a misdirection may be detrimental.

3.   What piece of advice would you give to other salon owners who are also just starting out in the business?
My advice to new salon owners is...be resilient. It takes time and a lot of patience before progress can be seen. Of course, there will be times when you feel like everything is impossible, but know that your limit is where ever you set it to be. The right team will come together eventually and you be glad that you have struggle.

4.   Describe your leadership style and the importance of being a great leader? How do you continue to motivate and inspire your team on a regular basis?
I am naturally a straightforward person and this translates itself into how I choose to communicate with my employees. I don’t shy away from giving my honest opinion, whether it’s services or behaviors. I value critiques and feedback, and I believe growing with them is essential in developing yourself. That being said, a great leader in my opinion is someone who’s honest to everyone around them and have the ability to help everyone achieve their maximum potential.

 5.  You are an Aveda Salon. What made you choose the Aveda line for your salon, and how it has helped you grow your salon business?
I chose Aveda because I fully support their plant based products and environmentally conscious production. Beauty does not have to come in the expense of the world we live in. Those who use Aveda or are looking to be more environmentally conscious, love to come to an Aveda salon because they know that the products are high-quality and the technicians are well-trained.

6.   What are 4 things salon owners MUST do on a regular basis to grow and maintain a successful salon business?
Keep everyone on track, provide encouragement to those who have earned it and feedback to those who need it, have a clear vision of what you want because a distorted vision has no clear path.

 

Nina Tulio