Ready for Love

12/07/2012 2:05:00 PM


Spread the Love 2012, clockwise from center: Timmy Willy, Joshua Falewitch, Meredith Tye, Natalie Fox, Todd Kane, Suzy Henningsgard.

What’s the best way to kick-start a career that’s as people-centric as styling? Enter every competition you can. Matrix Spread the Love winners say you’ll build skills and confidence in your craft— and that’s just for starters!

Imagine traveling the country for six months (all expenses paid!) visiting schools and salons, seeing the best beauty shows, exploring industry options, taking part in the most rewarding philanthropy and networking with the top names in the industry. Okay, so Matrix created the mother of all road trips with its annual Spread the Love (STL) competition. But entering any professional contest promises pay dirt. Even when you don’t win, taking chances exposes you to new ideas and helps you grow—professionally and personally. And when you do win, you get the experience of a lifetime and rewards that can translate into future success.

Head for Glory

Meredith Tye with Matrix Artistic Director Sandra Smith. What it takes to be in it and win it depends on the competition. Sometimes it’s a sizzling photo shoot. Often, it requires determination, trial-and-error and reaching out for advice until you get it right. For Spread the Love, it was all about finding the best fresh-out-of-beauty-school Ambassadors who could prove industry power, benefit from mentoring and most of all, Spread the Love.

The STL lowdown: Any licensed grad (21 and over) can visit and apply. Submit a video essay explaining why you want to be a STL Ambassador; include links to your personal social networking sites and blog entries. You must be willing to travel the country for six months and blog about your adventures. In turn, winners get to interact with industry members at every level, are mentored by Matrix Artistic Directors and take part in philanthropic activities through Matrix’s Chairs of Change. It’s a serious commitment that’s akin to winning a scholarship to the beauty school of life.

Remember, before you enter any competition, get the rules straight and be ready to take max advantage of the opportunities that winning can bring. The fi rst round of 2013 STL judging is completed and the winners will be announced this December. How can you still make STL a win for you? Follow the winners on their blogs. It’s like getting a virtual tour of the business at every level.

Great Expectations

Unlike a lottery win, which may attract thousands of strangers asking for money, winning a professional competition has almost no downside but for the fact you pay taxes on the value of any prizes or cash winnings. Sure, you can expect a little fame, but in this case, it’s a good thing.

"Winning is really cool; your friends think you’re a celebrity— you’re even on posters!” says Joshua Falewitch, a 2012 STL Ambassador who graduated from Xenon International Academy in Omaha, Nebraska.

Like many competitors, Falewitch didn’t know what to expect when he entered STL, but he was prepared to make the most of the experience. As a result, he says, he learned both the business and creative sides of the industry.

“Besides doing philanthropy, we attended educational events and interacted with employees of salons and beauty supply stores,” says Falewitch. “We learned about marketing and saw a complete view of industry, from sales to actual salon work. I never thought I would be able to do any of this, but I have changed so much—especially in terms of confidence. Now, I can speak comfortably in front of a group.”

Any competition can be more work than you think—to enter or to win. Suzy Henningsgard, a 2012 STL Ambassador from the Aveda Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota, says there were lots of 5 a.m. flights. While some entrants had specific goals, she says she avoided expectations because the journey is the point.

“It’s important to participate in life,” says Henningsgard. “You don’t get to experience anything to the fullest if you’re just waiting for things to happen. Go through every experience with an open heart and an open mind.”

Good advice, whether you’re entering a photo competition, writing about your favorite moment in order to win products or even courting new clients by handing out flyers at the local mall. Put yourself out there and enjoy the ride.

Two for the Road

Most competitions eventually involve some travel— especially if you win. Maybe you’ll fi nd yourself styling backstage at NY Fashion Week. (Some product-sales contests provide this opportunity.) Or, you might end up doing a photo shoot with a top-name stylist.

STL’s top 20 2012 fi nalists were flown to New York City to meet the previous year’s winners and take part in an American Idol-style live audition in front of a panel of judges. Once the final winners were chosen, they got ready to hit the road with a partner—the six winners were paired up to work as teams.

Timmy Willy, a graduate of Lafayette Beauty Academy in Lafayette, Indiana, was paired with Todd Kane, a 43 year old who holds a Masters degree and had worked in other industries before attending Kohler Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona.

“The best thing about the tour was traveling with Todd,” says Willy. “He helped me hone who I am as an individual and got me thinking about what I want in life. At times, I found myself lost in conversation and he’d help me with speaking skills.”

“I look at STL as a business model,” says Kane. “Salons used to bring in people and mentor them. There was quite a bit of training involved for the good of everybody. Now, there are a lot more salon suites and rental operations; everyone wants their own. With STL, Matrix is reminding us that we all need to mentor the upcoming generation. If you don’t, you’re doing yourself a disservice.”

The STL teams spoke to schools everywhere they went and not surprisingly, Kane and Willy ended up focusing on the importance of total training for success and ways to beat burnout. Noting that the average stylist has an industry longevity of about three years, Willy can now rhapsodize on professionalism and ways to stick with it.

“Multiple states have issues with trying to eliminate licensure—people perceive hair professionals as being lesser than,” he says. “As hairdressers, often we bring it upon ourselves. We don’t speak the proper language or use professional terminology. The reality is we should be doing a proper consultation, analyzing the hair and sharing our findings with our clients. We need to change people’s views about the industry, which starts with telling new students how great it is.”

Henningsgard also says school visits were her absolute favorite. Her platform was to talk about the power of the hairdresser and the importance of giving back. “To have the opportunity to travel the country based on your passion—as opposed to how great you are at doing hair—is such a rarity that it reignited the feelings I had when I entered beauty school,” she says.

Love Fest

Suzy Henningsgard with mentor Nicholas French. Lest you get the idea that the STL teams were set free to roam wild on their own, realize that every day was carefully orchestrated. As the teams visited new cities, states, salons and distributorships, their Matrix Artistic Team mentors guided them carefully. And talk about high-end help: Nicholas French, Patrick McIvor, Chrystofer Benson, Brian and Sandra Smith, Ammon Carver and Daniel Roldan did the teaching, guiding, cajoling and coaching. The Matrix mentors were present at all the local shows and classes, and were constantly in touch via Facebook, Skype and the phone. They also guided their charges during the team’s end-of-tour photo shoot for First Chair’s sister publication, MODERN SALON.

Still, not everything can be scripted or wholly controlled, and it was the philanthropic activities that brought the biggest surprises—and the real love fest.

Natalie Fox, a Kohler Academy grad from Scottsdale, Arizona, recalls doing makeovers in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and how spreading the love transformed not only her clients, but herself.

“We did makeovers for four women who had been through hard times—many were addicts who had made bad choices and were in the process of rehabilitating themselves,” says Fox. “Some people might see these women on the street and think, ‘Ughhh that’s their own fault; they chose that path.’ But they were trying to get their lives back on track.

“At first, my makeover client was quiet and insecure. But once I started doing her hair, she opened up. By the end, she was laughing with me and totally comfortable. They were all just so happy with their new looks—when they looked in the mirror and saw themselves with their new cuts, color, nails and make-up, they started to cry. They had come in with their heads down, but they left with their heads up.

“They were going out for first time in years to apply for jobs in the morning. They had done everything they could to change their lives, but they couldn’t take action until their exteriors matched their new inner selves. Until becoming a part of Spread the Love, I didn’t realize I had that much power as a hairdresser.”

Fox’s traveling partner Meredith Tye, who came from Caldwell County Community College and Technical Institute in Hudson, North Carolina, also found her favorite moments in the give-back.

“My favorite fundraising event was Love for Lilly,” says Tye. “She was a second grader with angiosarcoma. Thirteen stylists had been selected to do the event. The entire town came out for hair cuts, but only three stylists showed up. Natalie and I, the three stylists and a nail technician raised $2,222 in less than five hours.

“That’s what really solidified spreading the love for me. If you can work on a client’s hair, she can spread the word about your cause to her aunt or her children. We’re all so interconnected that we have the ability to change lives just by spreading our message!”

License to Thrill

Perhaps the biggest payoff when competing is that you get to hear unique points-of-view and see various aspects of your chosen career. For the 2012 STL Ambassadors, the six-month whirlwind tour meant they got to experience almost every option in cosmetology. For some, this provided food for thought; for others, it resonated in a specific way.

Says Fox, “I have no idea what I’m going to do in the future with this license, because now I know how much there is to do. I have a list of things like blogging—love that. It’s great when you do an event even if you don’t share it with people; it’s the modern way of writing in a diary. I still want to do hair on the salon floor, but I want to be an expert. I want to know my stuff to the point where can I blog about charity events, hair and make-up.”

After talking to salons and schools about everything from how to use Facebook to how to market yourself as an individual, Falewitch’s been bitten by the teaching bug.

“My plan right now is to work in a salon for five years, but I really want to get into education,” he says. “There are times I think I could do it, but on stage I start to question my skill—I’m still struggling with my confidence. I see myself doing platform work, but I also wonder if I could open a cosmetology school. Then I’d really have a firm hold on the future artists of the industry.”

Kane, who changed professions to embrace the beauty biz, says he may have entered the game late, but he now recognizes every hairdresser is a business onto himself. As for taking chances, he says he’s put himself out there many times and had to swim back but that, this time, he’s ready to keep on building his skills with success in mind.

“I got more out of STL than I ever imagined,” says Kane. “I want to be on stage, an artistic director in Paris, or launch a product in Tokyo or London. All of those things!”

“Every day now, I see a different opportunity,” says Tye. “You can become a salon manager, a sales consultant, a distributor, a manufacturer; you can get involved with marketing, education, platform work or go out and be the best hairdresser in your city. The possibilities are endless when you have a cosmetology license.”

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