Meet Megan Bowman, stylist and co-owner of Wild Horses Salon in Indianapolis. The Illinois native moved to the Circle City just shy of her 16th birthday, bringing with her a passion for hair and enthusiasm to practice on anyone--sisters included--who would let her experiment on their hair. Here's more about her Crazy/Beauty life in the world of hair styling:
When did you know you wanted to be a stylist? Was it something you always knew you wanted to do or a love you discovered later on?
Since I can remember (maybe the age of seven), I have wanted to do hair. My mom claims it was her zero hair skills that forced me to have the passion! But really I just always loved doing hair. I remember doing my hair for my 3rd grade pictures and making my bangs the perfect way I wanted them. Looking back, they DID look good too! It also helped having two younger sisters as my little dolls to always style. In 2nd grade my aunt gave me a perm, which led to me giving my sister a couple "fake perms!" Don't know how she had the patience! From then on I also used to trim my bangs and even my hair sometimes and my mom never even noticed! I think I just had an eye for making it look right.
What was your cosmetology school experience like? How did you choose your program?
My freshman year [of high school] we did some kind of survey that helped you decide a good career choice. Cosmetologist was one of my top results but showed that you could barely make any money in this career path. So I was set on my second choice of being a psychologist! Shortly after we moved to Fishers [Indiana] and at the end or my sophomore year my school counselor told me about their vocational program where you could do beauty school part of your school day. I figured I should give it a try since this was always my passion. So junior year I started at Hair Fashion by Kaye's. Immediately I loved it and knew it was the right choice! The day we did foil highlights with conditioner for the first time at school, I went to Sally and bought bleach and highlighted my sisters hair that night! Everyone thought I was nuts, but I just was so into it and eager to learn. This shortly led to me doing my sister's friends' hair, people she babysat for, to neighbors, to neighbors' friends, until I was running a bootleg salon on my basement literally at the age of 16-17! I just picked my teachers' brains at beauty school until I knew exactly what I was doing each night when I was working on people. I was taking new clients who I never had even met in my parents basement and just accepted "donations," since I couldn't legally charge. Needless to say, I never had to get a job in high school after that and by the time I graduated I didn't think there was anything I didn't know. When my teachers at school were too busy they actually had me help the other students because I just really knew what I was doing with all the practice I was getting at home.
What were the challenges you faced fresh out of school?
Well, luckily I was able to work at a booth rent salon out of school with an owner that worked with me on the amount I paid weekly for booth rent. A challenge I faced was having to wake up early without knowing I was going to have a client right away. Due to the amount of hair I did during school, I did have a decent clientele built and usually had at least one appointment on my book everyday. But I still did a whole lot of sitting. During this sitting, I did have a lot of time to type up flyers and such to get new clients and also help the other stylists in the salon. All of the sitting I did paid off, as it only took me three months to start paying the full booth rent that the other stylists paid.
You're a co-owner of Wild Horses Salon. How did you know it was right to make the move to being an owner?
Well, when I started at Wild Horses Salon 10 years ago, the owner told me she would sell me the salon some day. So someday owning the salon was always in my plans. Because our strip mall has five year leases, the previous owner approached me after the first five years about buying it. At that point, I was 25 years old and just not in the right mind set to do so, and don't think she was truly ready to give it up yet either. Towards the end of 2012 was when I really ready to take over. My younger sister and I work a lot of hours and also work in the front two stations, which meant we dealt with most people that walked in the door, and it was a good chance we were dealing with the people calling. After a while, it just kind of seemed like we may as well own the place with all the extra time we spent doing such things. So in April of 2013, I approached the previous owner and she also said she was definitely ready to be done. As a result, my sister and I as a team bought Wild Horses Salon.
Is it challenging to add the business side of salon management on top of your stylist career?
It ABSOLUTELY is challenging to add salon ownership to the job of being a stylist. Without having my sister there to take on our daily issues, I literally would have given up. There is never a day that there isn't something we have to deal with at the salon and lots of times it is with a client in my chair. I am so lucky to have the clients I do, because many people would feel that this was taking away from their "salon experience." I can't say I wasn't warned of such things, though. That's the way owning a business is.
What would be your number one piece of advice for those stylists dreaming of opening their own salon?
My first piece of advise would be to start your own salon. Do not buy a previously owned business. The amount of stress it adds to get all the stylists to adjust and not want to leave is literally unbearable. I have never lost sleep over anything in my life, and I had numerous sleepless nights, which just added to my stress. Also, when buying a previously owned business, everything is used and ready to break at any moment. Every month it seems something is breaking and needs fixed or to be bought new. I guess the perk is that hopefully there are a decent amount of stylists there when you purchase it, so you don't have to go search for stylists. Fortunately, we only lost two stylists in the transfer of ownership, but almost lost everyone at one point. It was very scary!
Also, if buying a booth rent salon, make sure to explain what being self-employed means and to let the stylists know what is their responsibility and what yours is as an owner. It's really easy to get your roles confused, which adds a lot more work to being a booth rent salon owner.
We love that you're a fan of Loxa Beauty! What attracted you to the site and how do you incorporate it into your daily business? Would you recommend it to other stylists?
With Loxa Beauty, I am able to suggest products to my clients via email and without pressuring them to buy things while they are in the salon. I have never been much of a "product pusher" so this helps me subtly recommend products to them that will benefit their hair without making them feel pressured. Also, the owners of Loxa Beauty are long time family friends of my family. They are nice people that have great character. I would definitely recommend them to other stylists.
Trends are always changing, new products are always hitting the market. How do you stay on top of what's hot?
Furthering my education is always a great way to keep up with the trends. Again since we are booth rent at our salon, we can't make everyone go to hair shows. But we always throw out the idea, and a lot of our girls are excited to attend these shows and classes, and we are able to go as a group. We always have a great time and come back and share the things we learn with other stylists. We definitely have a team attitude at our salon which is hard to come by at a booth rent salon, and my sister and I are so grateful.
Stylists always seem to have their go-to product or products they can't live without. What are yours?
Anything Abba is usually my go to product. Abba offers many different products for all hair types and because it is all natural, it preserves color, doesn't build up, and rarely gives an allergic reaction to the scalp. I also love Moroccan Oil for the same reasons. It also can be added to color to help the hair take the color, which works amazing.
Every job has its ups and downs. What keeps you going even on the worst days?
My amazingly awesome clients keep me going on the worst days. When I went through the worst break up a while back, all I could do was work, because I had positive encouragement all day long from my clients. I even had two of my clients (a married couple) take me to dinner for Valentine's Day. Clients, too, are our counselors even though I know they say vice versa a lot of times! Also, our amazing team at the salon keeps me going on these rough days. Everyone kind of helps each other out and respects one another, which is more than I could ask for!
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.