Mio Sota- Stylist at Trio Salon
Chicago, IL
Facebook- Mio Sota
Instagram- @Miosotahair

Mio is a force to be reckoned within this industry! I have been following her for a few months and her talent is truly incredible! She is a Colorzoom 2017 International Gold Winner, 2017 North American Stylist of the Year, and a Goldwell Educator! Mio has been in the industry for 14 years and here is her story! 
 "My mother had cut my hair up until I was 16. It was very simple, one length blunt cut. But I wanted to be like the girls at school with beautiful layers, so I had my mom take me to the hair salon. I asked the stylist to keep my long length and give me some layers. She had me take off my glasses and without them, I was really blind so everything was a complete blur. 
She chopped off about 15 inches, all the way above my chin. She also had a really hard time blow-drying my frizzy texture..so I ended up with a crazy Japanese afro.. It was quite traumatic, ha. My mom asked her if there was any product she could buy for me to calm the frizz. The stylist recommended a serum, but never explained how to use it. So I went home and dumped the entire bottle on my head. I was pulling on my hair and bawling my eyes out. It was a greasy disaster.. That was when I thought to myself, I want to become a hairstylist who will actually listen to her clients and make them feel amazing, complete opposite to how I was feeling at that moment. Now I guess I can say that I'm actually very grateful for that experience!"
Checkout our interview below! And as always, I 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 do you feel is the biggest misconception of being a hair stylist?
I believe there's 2 different answers. 1, for people who are considering becoming one, I feel that it's often mistaken that you can build a clientele very quickly and make so much money right away. I've seen a lot of new stylists feeling disappointed for not being fully booked all the time. It takes years of hard work and consistency to build up. But I assure you, keep that up and you will get there!
And 2, I feel that hairstylists are often viewed by many outside the industry as though we are not the brightest people and incapable of holding intelligent conversations. I'm not sure if this is the case due to becoming a stylist requiring no college degree, but we all know college education does not necessarily mean "intelligence."

2.   You are part of the design team for Goldwell. Can you tell us a little bit of the process and some advice for stylists wanting to become an educator?
I have been a GOLDWELL educator for 2 years now. Prior to that I worked for another leading educational company for about 9 years. I actually started off teaching because I was told I should try it. I never thought it would be something I'd enjoy...and it did take me a while to appreciate it. But one day it finally clicked. I realized that by teaching, I became a lot better with my own craft, but most of all, it was such a rewarding feeling seeing a student who had been struggling with a certain technique finally mastering it. Now I enjoy it very much.
My advice for anybody wanting to become an educator would be to take as many classes as you can. Watch as many videos as you can. Observe the masters and take lots of notes. Set up a video camera on your spare time and record yourself working on a mannequin or giving a lecture and re watch it so you can see exactly what you need to work on. Practice practice practice. 

3. You have been a NAHA finalist 2 years in a row, tell me the process of creating that perfect look for this type of competition. 
This year I started about 5 months before the actual photo shoot day, pretty much right after I got back from last year's NAHA award show. Once I have a concept in mind, I love to draw so I always start off with sketching out rough ideas. Then comes the hardest part for me, finding all the models. I see beautiful and interesting looking people all the time but sometimes it's challenging to find ones that are completely open to change and fit the look I'm shooting for. Most of the times I find them on the street or through friends. Yes..I'm that crazy person chasing people down the street.. 
Once all the models are found, I then mood board. I lay out pictures of each of my models side-by-side and under each of them, start pasting cutouts of images I've collected from magazines, online, etc, showcasing shapes, color, makeup, wardrobe ideas. Even though I've done a rough sketch in the beginning, the looks can change completely since a lot of my inspiration comes from my model. So I do a second and final sketch of all the looks. This year each girl took about 18-20 hours of hair prep.

4.   Besides giving a great cut and color what do you feel is also important in terms of retaining clients and growing a book?
I feel establishing a trusting relationship with your guests is the most important. From starting off with being on time, to really listening to everything they are trying to communicate with you. By listening and not just hear, you can fully understand their needs and provide options that you truly believe would be the best for them. Though being ambitious is a great thing and important, if your only focus is to grow your bank account, you are not going to retain your clients. 

5.   What is your biggest accomplishment? What are you most proud of in your career?
Most definitely this year has been the biggest accomplished year in my career.. Winning NAHA Hairstylist of the Year as well as Globalzoom in the Partner category last month in Barcelona only confirmed that when you work hard, you can make anything happen. Trying out something even if you fear it is not your fortè, is all worth it because the result is going to be FAR better than anticipated.

. 6.  What 3 things would you tell new stylists to look for when searching for their first salon job? 
Decide if non-departmentalized or departmentalized salon is for you, from there scope out different salons by actually going in and checking out the atmosphere. Does the vibe when you walk in fit the kind of vibe you'd want your clients to feel? See if you can shadow at least for a day, which will let you see how things run and how all the staff interact with one another. I'd recommend looking for a place that has a great training program as well. Try checking out their social media so you can see if the kind of work being produced is the kind of work you'd like to surround yourself in. 

7. You have been in the industry for 14 years. What advice would you give your younger self as you were just starting out in the industry? 
Try not to get too down from your "failures", it's only setting you up for future success. So keep being curious. Keep trying new things and fail many times.  There's no point in comparing yourself to others, be only in competition with yourself. Continue to work hard but don't take yourself too seriously. It's okay to keep being you and to have a lot of fun while at it. 

8. Tell me the importance of continued education, whether it be a new or seasoned stylist? How often should stylists be taking classes?
Very crucial.  At bare minimum one a year. At any level. Like many other industries, the beauty industry is constantly changing and evolving. We always want to provide both our new and regular guests with fresh ideas and give them the option to maintain or change their look. It keeps it exciting for the guests and ourselves. 
Even if you don't have the time or the finance to take multiples of full on hands-on work shops, there are tons of options available online. Infinite amount of tutorial videos by so many incredible educators are available, at no cost! So definitely take advantage of that. When you stop being curious and stop striving to be better, you start to get worse at your craft.. 

9. Tell me 4 things stylists must do behind the chair to become a true success in this business? 
Love what you do! Never stop learning. 
Master the fundamentals first. After that you can then break the rules and improvise all you want to develop your own unique style. 
Be available, show up,  always look great to feel great so you can spread that positive energy. Leave your personal problems out the door. 
Always keep in mind that it's only all about taking excellent care of your guests and creating a fun, safe haven for them. No need to feel competitive with other stylists or to have a big ego.





Meet Mio Sota! Check out her work below! 

Meet Mio Sota! Check out her work below! 

Photo credits: The first 4 photos were shot by John Rawson. The last photo was shot by NoAmy the Photographer.