If there's one thing we've learned in our Crazy/Beautiful interviews, it's that sass is always a healthy part of the stylist career. Our new subject is no exception. Lizzy Becknell fell into cosmetology in high school, created a makeshift hair studio in her dorm room, and eventually ended up in San Diego, where she opened the sleek and sexy Tailored Hair for Men just five months ago. Her clients get treated to a cool, personalized experience, complete with scalp massage, a warm cookie, and the promise that they'll be the center of attention during their time there. What more could a guy want?
We asked Becknell to tell us more about her career path and how she's making her mark on the hair industry.
You've been doing hair since you were 16. Tell us a little bit more about how you got your start. What attracted you to being a stylist?
It was actually really random how I got in to hair. At the high school I went to in Richmond, Indiana, you could take a vocational class and my sister suggested it to me. I thought to myself, "I can't even braid hair!" But I did it anyways. I went to the greatest cosmetology school called David Demuth Institute of Cosmetolgy. The owner, David, has been an amazing mentor of mine since.
Unlike a lot of other stylists we've chatted with, you attended Indiana University instead of just a cosmetology program. How has that experience shaped your career?
The one year I spent at IU was so much fun! I had already gotten my cosmetology license in high school so I did a ton of hair! I never got a roommate so I turned half of my room into a salon. My dad would call and ask me how school was going and I would be foiling someone's hair or cutting [for] some cute fraternity boy. IU shaped my career because if it weren't for IU I would never have discovered the marketing internship with The Southwestern Company that I was apart of. After my freshman year of college I sold books door to door in Dallas, Texas, and I can say I truly wouldn't be where I am today without the experience. I met my business partner, Tina, through it and some of my biggest supporters and friends.
After IU you moved to Nashville where you worked for Salon FX. What was that first salon experience like for you?
The first salon experience was great! It was a big salon in the heart of Nashville. I learned a ton and we traveled to Florida and to Chicago, where I got to meet John Paul Dejoria, Co-Owner of Paul Mitchell.
What brought you to San Diego?
My dad. He moved out to California when I was in middle school. We have always been extremely close and I knew I wanted to build my career near him. Also the beach, good looking men and amazing food!
Tailored Hair for Men opened its doors in December 2012. How did you know it was right to make the move to being an owner?
In my previous jobs I was always strategizing how to improve the company I was in. Everything to me since I was little, I have seen through the lens of a business owner. I was an educator at Paul Mitchell the School-San Diego, where I learned a ton about leadership and inspiring others. Having my own company was always in the back of my mind and I remember a quote that my mentor from The Southwestern Company, Lester Crafton, used to say to me: "Most people spend their whole lives trying to make the "right" decision. Successful people make a decision and then make it right." I decided I wanted to own one of the best men's salons and product lines in the industry and I won't ever stop striving to attain that goal all while building an amazing group of talented and passionate Lady Barbers....my Tailored Ladies!
What was it like preparing to open your own shop?
I had so much support all while preparing to open so it made the transition as easy as it could be. I was a little anxious, hoping the location was in the right spot and that the salon would actually be something that men would enjoy coming to. Now 5 months in, we are one week booked out and preparing to open our next location in July!
Tailored Hair for Men has a very distinct vibe and energy, with lots of great experiential touches like warm cookies for clients. How did you develop that brand and land on what you were looking to create?
I thought about it from a man's perspective and talked to a ton of men about what they would enjoy coming in to. I wanted it to feel like they were coming over to a buddy's house to relax for an hour and just so happen get their favorite haircut! The one chair concept of our salon works because it makes it all about them. It's so cool to see a guy walk in stressed out and walk out looking handsome and smiling ear to ear with a cookie in his hand! As far as brand development, I wanted to target all men, not just a specific group. Every man deserves a tailored experience. What man doesn't love a good haircut, scalp massage, neck shave and warm cookie? So it needed to be simple but with purpose.
What attracted you to men's hair?
I have always preferred men's hair. To me it's like a sculpture. I feel like I am creating art with their hair. Women's hair never appealed to me in the same way.
You've tackled your own little niche in the market. What advice would you have to other stylists who looking to do the same?
My advice would be to focus on what you are passionate about. Your guests will notice it. One of my mentors, Jason Waters, said to me, "I don't care if you want to sell lemons, love it and be the best at it." I choose men's hair.
You've also been an educator in a Paul Mitchell school. What did you gain from that experience?
I gained a ton of experience on how to work with and teach to many different types of personalities. I learned that teaching is like another form of sales. If you want someone to be excited and passionate about something, you have to exude excitement and passion while teaching. It is a transfer of emotions.
Trends are always changing, new products are always hitting the market. How do you stay on top of what's hot?
Many times it's first my men bringing me the style that they saw on their favorite TV show and then I'll go and check out every character on it. I am constantly thinking of new styles as well. Every man is different to me and I give them an individual experience. Just because something is "in" right now doesn't mean all of them need to walk out looking like David Beckham. Take what's in and make it your own.
Stylists always seem to have their go-to product or products they can't live without. What are yours?
I LOVE the Tea Tree hair and scalp treatment by Paul Mitchell. It has a little tingle to it and I use it for all of my scalp massages. I also love Paul Mitchell's Clean Cut. It is a semi-matte creme that is amazing for most hair textures and shorter length hair.
A big thank you to Lizzy for talking with us about her hair journey!
Our Crazy/Beautiful series reflect the crazy and busy lives of stylists, but also focus on the beauty of their creativity (hence the title Crazy/Beautiful). Why did they chose this career? What keeps them here? What has the journey been like? And what's next for them. Read our other Crazy/Beautiful interviews here.