A letter from our founder...
When I first started on my career path, I wish I’d known what I know now. Honestly, I was so young, I probably would have ignored it. But I’d like to share my story with you in the hope and spirit of helping others.
I dropped out of high school at sixteen and went straight to beauty school. My dream was to do something I felt good about while making people happy. I also wanted to be self-supporting, have financial security, and be open to opportunities. I had no idea my dream would turn into a greater reality.
I began in a Beverly Hills salon, making 35 dollars a day. I wasn’t given the opportunity to learn, so I moved on quickly to a salon in Hollywood. My boss mentored me and showed me that success was possible behind the chair. I became more excited about my chosen industry. Working with successful, opinionated, and driven women opened my eyes: It is possible to be a successful woman who makes a difference. Yet starting so young bred a lot of insecurity. But I decided to utilize my insecurity by taking every class I could, trying new techniques, and rewarding my loyal clients with the best customer service.
When my friends were going on vacations, I was saving up for classes in New York or buying new tools. What I didn't do was say no. I took every new client and welcomed every challenge that came my way. I decided to view the 2008 recession as an opportunity to not be afraid of the future. By earning more certifications and knowledge within my industry, I gained confidence and security. I also became a American Board Certified Haircolorist.
I then marketed these certifications to my clients, so that they, too, could gain confidence in my abilities. Marketing is important. Otherwise my knowledge and certifications would have gone to waste. This eventually led to a full book of business. Clients knew they had to pre-book to get in to see me. With my services in such demand, I was able to pick and choose clients. I discovered I no longer had the energy or need for clients who were rude, dismissive, or inconsiderate of my schedule.
Since I was given the opportunity to assist, I wanted to pass on this service. I know how valuable it is to mentor others. For the last ten years, I've been able to train assistants and then witness them go on to have successful careers behind the chair. I’ve not found a more fulfilling way to mentor.
Money can be uncomfortable to discuss, but it's so important for new professionals to know that there are opportunities for everyone. I built my business and made my first million working in a friendly neighborhood salon in a small city in South Orange county. I talk about the financial aspect of our industry because unfortunately most self-employed professionals don't have retirement, health insurance, etc., so it's very important to be financially self-supporting with the ability to pay for these necessities. Rather than being threatened by newer stylists, I have continued to be successful by learning from them and thusly providing my clients with the best services and techniques.
I try to emulate my favorite qualities of my millennial coworkers. They’ve taught me so much in this last year about how important it is to take time for myself and place my family and friends first, while still maintaining my career and valuing my clients.
I write this out of a place of love and sharing. I believe every single one of you has the opportunity to fulfill your dreams and more. Like most things in life: you get out of it what you put in.
xo. Amber O'Hara, Co-Founder of The Business of Balayage