Welcome to our Crazy/Beautiful - This Stylist's Life series! This series will reflect the crazy and busy lives of stylists, but also focus on the beauty of their creativity (hence the title Crazy/Beautiful). We want the nitty gritty from stylists. Why did they chose this career? What keeps them here? What has the journey been like? And what’s next for them.
Experimenting with your hair is a rite of passage in high school, but for most of us the result is an emergency trip to the salon, not the start of a road to a successful career. But for stylist Natalie Kaufman of Urban Hair Studio in Littleton, Colorado, that is exactly what happened. Between dances and football games you could find Natalie using her friends as guinea pigs for the hottest hair colors of the season, or getting yelled at by her mom for yet again dripping dye all over the bathroom countertop.
Sitting in the 130-year-old house that is now home to Urban Hair Studio, Natalie took time out of a busy Wednesday to reflect with Loxa Beauty on her journey from amateur bathroom box colorist to professional salon owner:
Jada: Did you always know that you wanted to become a hairstylist?
NK: Even though I loved doing hair, I never really thought seriously about being a stylist. I was always too discouraged by how looked down upon it was as a career choice. I felt as if people viewed it as something only a stupid person would do.
Jada: What caused you to change your mind?
NK: When I graduated high school I realized that I loved doing hair and didn’t have a desire to do anything else so I asked my parents if I could go to beauty school. That is when they told me that they would only pay for college, so instead I had to negotiate a deal. We settled on me doing a year of college and then after that discussing other options if I wasn’t happy. After watching how miserable I was they let me switch schools, and once they saw the straight A’s that I got and how passionate I was, they were happy that they did.
Jada: What was your first step after you graduated from cosmetology school?
NK: Right out of school I did an internship with a high-end salon. This mainly consisted of sweeping the floors, shampooing clients, and observing the techniques of senior stylists. During that time period I would also go to classes paid for by the salon, which was so important because I felt as if beauty school only taught me sanitation and safety, not how to actually cut hair.
Jada: Did your internship result in a job with the salon?
NK: Yes it did. After 3 months I began on the floor and stayed there for about a year until myself and two other stylists decided that we no longer wanted to work for anyone and instead wanted to start our own salon.
Jada: What are the drawbacks to owning your own salon?
NK: I don’t see many drawbacks. Well, besides paying for stuff, but I feel like it evens out in the end because I don’t have to answer to anybody and I can come and go whenever I want. But I guess the one setback would be keeping yourself motivated because there is no one to tell you to clean up. You have to do it on your own.
Jada: What does your personal marketing consist of?
NK: I have done coupon books and flyers, but the most effective way of getting clients is through referrals. I have an incentive program where if you refer three people you receive a free haircut. I also do Facebook blasts to my friends where I let them know when I have cancellations and occasionally I offer 30% off.
Jada: Let’s talk classes. What is your favorite to attend?
NK: My favorite classes are definitely those focused on color because you are constantly learning new techniques and shades, but really I love them all.
Jada: Have you ever had co-workers that didn’t take classes regularly? How did that impact their business?
NK: Yes I have and what I have noticed is that their clients all start looking the same. Same cuts, same colors, and around the same age. I feel like if you aren’t taking classes you aren’t learning new stuff and you just become stagnate. There are new styles coming out all the time, every month even.
Jada: How do you budget for classes?
NK: Most of the classes that I take are around $50 so I really don’t need to budget that much for those, however once a year I will take a bigger class that costs anywhere between $200-$500 so I do set aside money for that. My goal is always to sell enough products so that I am able to use the commission checks to pay for the class.
Jada: Speaking of, how important are product sales to your business?
NK: Well, the way that it works in our salon is that the owners get to keep 50% of the commission and the other 50% goes towards the business account. So it is very important because we like to keep at least $1,500 in that account just in case of repairs or something going wrong.
Jada: One thing that Loxa Beauty tries to do is shed light onto how damaging it can be on an individual stylist when a client buys haircare from drugstores and big box retailers. How has the availability of high-end products at major chain stores such as Target or CVS impacted your business?
NK: That is a really great question. What we decided to do was only sell products that could not be sold in those stores. So for example, we feature J Beverly Hills, which doesn’t even have a barcode so it could never be seen somewhere like Target. We refuse to carry Bumble and Bumble and any other brand that won’t make us the promise that they wouldn’t eventually sell to big retailers.
Jada: Have you found that most of your clients are loyal to specific products, or do you think that they are more loyal to the convenience of picking up their favorite serum or shampoo at the same time as their groceries and prescriptions?
NK: I have clients come in all the time, even when I am not there, to buy products because they can’t buy them anywhere else and they love ours so much. So from what I can tell they are definitely willing to go out of their way for a good product.
Jada: What is your method for selling products?
NK: I never try to upsell my clients. I am very honest and don’t push anything on them that they don’t need. But basically what it comes down to is that the product speaks for itself. If I put something in my client’s hair they will always ask what I used because it feels so great.
NK: My hair gets so dry living in Colorado so I would definitely have to go with the Deep Conditioning Masque by J Beverly Hills. I love how silky and soft it makes my curly hair feel.
Jada: On the Urban Hair Salon website you describe yourself as a curly hair specialist, do you think that has helped to attract more clients?
NK: (laughs) I almost wish that I never put that on there because girls with curls usually have thick, thick hair, which takes forever to cut. But seriously, people do come to me for that because it is so different to cut curly hair than it is to cut straight hair. It is as simple as one slight turn of a shear that could ruin a cut, so clients with curly hair love the fact that I have taken specialized classes and truly know what I am doing.
Jada: Now to the question we all love to hear about: have you ever had a client that absolutely hated their hair when you were done?
NK: If a stylist tells you that they have never had an unhappy client they would be lying because it happens way more than you would think. For me it is always due to poor communication. Like when a client will tell me that they want something and not realize that it actually wasn’t what they wanted until after it is already done. That is why I always spend extra time trying to make sure that we are both clear about the direction. But sometimes even that doesn’t help.
Jada: How do you handle that situation when a client is unhappy?
NK: I have them come in on my day off so that I have plenty of time to do an entirely new consultation and work with them until they are happy. I want to show them that I genuinely care, but it is also in my best interest because their hair is a reflection of my work. If their friends see that I have done a bad job they would never want to come to me.
Jada: How important are reviews, like those seen on Loxa Beauty, to your business?
NK: So important. It only takes one negative review to keep someone from coming to you, which is another reason why I spend so much time working with an unsatisfied client. But good reviews are just as important.
Jada: What upcoming trends are you most looking forward to?
NK: I just took a class on razor cutting, which I am really excited about because I love the sharp look that it creates. I have honestly always been scared of razors, but the more that I learn the more comfortable I feel, which just goes to show how important it is to take classes.Jada: What trend are you most excited to see go? NK: Definitely ombre. I do it for my clients all the time but I absolutely hate it. To me all I can see are grown out roots.
Realizing that it had already been 30 minutes, a rare amount of free time for a busy stylist and salon owner, Natalie was off to make another client happy. But not before I could squeeze in one last question: since you don’t like the ombre look I take it you aren’t too excited about the reverse ombre trend for 2013? And exactly as I thought she would, she gave me an enthusiastic “NO!! That is even worse!!” I just hope I didn’t jinx her with an afternoon full of two-toned requests, but knowing the ways of the world I wouldn’t be surprised if that is all she heard!
For the love of hair,