Laura Piercefield grew up on the Southside of Indy before making making the move downtown, where she works at a stylist for the hip and urban Be Salon. With plenty of personality and 11 years in the field under her belt, Piercefield gave us a look at her career experiences so far.
When did you first fall in love with hair? Was it always a passion or did you discover it later in life?
It was when I was actually already in cosmetology school. I started school during the summer between my junior and senior years of high school through the Central 9 Career program. I wanted to do makeup and thought it would be the best way to get training. Little did I know that cosmetology was more the study of hair than anything. Turns out, I love it! I still do makeup for clients, especially weddings, but hair has been my focus since school ended.
Where did you attend cosmetology school? What was the experience like?
I went to A Cut Above Beauty College, though now I believe it's under a different name. The experience was honestly horrid! I was finishing my senior year of high school, worked a part time job, and was attending cosmetology school. I would only recommend this to a person that has zero debt and lives at home with their parents.
There are lots of cosmetology schools out there. What should a prospective student look for when deciding where to go?
I would say talk to graduates about how well the school prepared them for working in a salon. I was prepared to pass the State Board Exam from my school and how to deal with challenging employers while attending my school. I've talked to a lot of recent graduates looking for work and they seem to have a very unrealistic view on what working in a salon is like after graduation. Not many stylist are looking to pay an intern, yet they make it sound like that's what they're being told in school. The short answer, a school that is honest about how much work this industry is going to be and good color theory.
What were the challenges you faced fresh out of school?
I graduated on September 11th, 2001. I was interviewing at salons before I even graduated because they needed stylists so badly and after that day I couldn't get a call back. I ended up at a Regis Salon and sat on my butt for 4 months. After that I went and worked at a salon/day spa and did manicures and pedicures for 5 months trying to build a clientele until a senior stylist left and I took over some of the overflow of clients. Being 18 years old, living at home, and being debt free I didn't see this as a struggle. Making $500 a month was awesome!
How long have you been at Be Salon? What led you there?
I've been here a little over 2 years. I could give a really sarcastic answer about how a former co-worker revived my career by telling me about this place. I called a former co-worker about interviewing at a salon he had worked and he told me to come to Be Salon. I loved the space and location, so I stayed.
Trends are always changing--from pixies to bobs to long layers with ombre. How do you stay on top of what's hot and learn new styles?
I look at wearable Runway styles and celebrities on the Red Carpet. I do a lot of research online, but classes that capture my attention are few and very between now that Indiana doesn't require continuing education for stylists.
How do you market yourself as a stylist? Do you make efforts through channels like social media or do you rely more on referrals?
In recent years it's been purely word-of-mouth, but I'm lucky to have very vocal, happy clients. One client in particular told me to use Twitter. One tweet has led to over 17 client referrals. Yelp reviews have been AMAZING because of Tiffany Benedict-Berkson of Historic Indianapolis. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook...I use them all. I've been calling myself #Indystylist for years on usernames, so I just transferred it to social media, along with hashtags #LauraHair #IndyHair.
Lots of people don't realize how much stylists and salons need product sales to maintain profits. They're also quick to turn to cheaper options or high-end brands at big name stores that are often diluted. Do you have an approach to educating your clients on products to use and the reasons to purchase them at the salon?
Anytime that conversation starts, "What do you recommend from the store?" I answer honestly, "I don't." Diversion is a massive problem and I refuse to tell lie to clients and tell them it's the same product, because it probably is not. At Be Salon, we offer a variety of products in all price points, and I can also write a Hairscription from LoxaBeauty if we don't carry something they're looking for and I love that! I tell them the benefit for the industry and myself, and they love it, too.
Some people--myself included--sometimes have a hard time relaying to their stylist what they're looking for in a style. What advice would you give on how to have a successful dialogue with their stylist?
I believe in visual aids. Depending on how many different stylist a client has seen in their life, they may have a variety of different terms that don't translate to another stylist. I love pictures, the more the better. If I can see continuity in their selection it makes the conversation go in a very natural direction. I also ask what I am NOT allowed to do more often than what they like. Works like a charm.
You list your favorite products as the Moroccan Oil line and Paul Mitchell Awapuhi Wild Ginger Hydromist Blowout Spray as your favorite products on the Be Salon website. Why do you love these products?
Moroccan Oil has a product for every hair type and you can't bet that. Plus, the quality is outstanding. Hydromist Blowout Spray gives the hair natural movement and volume without being sticky. It also smells great.
We're in graduation season, which means lots of college seniors are getting ready to enter the "real world." What advice would you give to someone looking to make the jump from college student to a professional style?
College hair is about the worst you can find. Ugh, trying to tell a girl that the hair to your waist is not professional is the hardest sell. So, this is the best advice I have: Guys, look at Details magazine for inspiration. Professional hair can still be fun and that's a great resource. Ladies, excessively long hair is childish and distracting to look at. A cut 4 to 5 inches below the shoulders with soft layers is a great transition.
Are there any trends you're looking forward to as we head into the warmer months? What about trends you're ready to retire?
Wavy, beachy hair! I LOOOOOOVVVEEEE natural texture and Indiana humidity is nothing to fight with. Rocking curls and waves with a beach spray is the sexist summer style.
That no matter what, I get to be the one appointment people are happy to schedule. Think about it, when is anyone pumped to go to their car serviced, [or see their] dentist, doctor, therapist? No, I have the luxury of getting hugs and praise, happy tears, sharing your life events with you. I don't have a bad job, I've got the best career for who I am and I'm happy even on the worst days.
A big thank you to Laura for sharing her passion and stylist journey with us! To learn more about Laura and the team at Be Salon, visit them on Facebook.
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.