Behind the Shampoo Bowl – A Look at Our Apprentice Program

April 11th, 2012

festoon apprentices

My career as a hairdresser started when I was still in high school. I had no idea where beauty school might lead me, but I trusted my mom and enrolled in a program to teach me how to become a stylist. Since then, I’ve had many teachers and in turn, have taught many students. In fact, I love teaching people to do hair as much as I love doing hair myself! And our apprenticeship program is not only a cornerstone of our business model, but one of the favorite parts of my job.

With many different types of students and learning styles, each apprentice learns at their own pace. My current team of apprentices is the smallest I’ve had in years…and they want it that way! They realize that the right addition to their team is critical – a good teammate makes them better, stronger, and they have more fun.

One of the things I’ve grown more certain of over time is that I have lots still to learn. We all do! And asking questions is one of the best ways to get smarter, be more engaged in life and to grow. The more I teach, the more I learn. I am grateful for the continual exchange that happens throughout the training process and also for this sustainable business model that keeps our salon at its very best to serve you!

Many of you have seen our apprentices become stylists. Many of you have been shampooed and blow-dried by them. But many of you have no idea what it takes to go from beauty school graduate to apprentice to stylist – and why each step along the way is so important.

I’ve decided to share a few interviews with my apprentices, so you can see how their interactions with you – our clients – actually help shape their future and build their dreams.


Interviews with Apprentices

Melissa: Why did you choose to apprentice rather than go out on your own and become a hairdresser directly out of beauty school?

Kate: I felt like I didn’t have the right tools and skills out of school to be able to solve people’s hair challenges and I wanted to gain confidence and be the best I can be at what I do. There are many hair stylists out there that can create looks once and have no idea how to replicate that same thing the next time a client sits in their chair. Festoon teaches techniques that can be used over and over again and we are taught WHY we use them.

Melissa: Why Festoon?

Emily: I had interviewed and looked at a lot of salons before I finally chose Festoon. I knew right away that this was somewhere I wanted to work. As soon as I walked in, I felt so welcomed and everyone was so warm and so sweet – the vibe and energy was just there, and it was something I didn’t feel at other salons. The other benefit of training at Festoon is that the program here offers a full spectrum of education…we don’t have to specialize in cut or color. We get to do both.

Kate: I think I got lucky and Festoon chose me. I chose Festoon because we specialize in BOTH cut and color. I want to be a well-rounded hair stylist and be able to maximize my business. Other high-end salons make you choose one or the other. I can’t imagine choosing one or the other. Color is so creative and cutting is so technical. It’s like yin and yang, polar opposites, that just belong together.

Richie: Reputation and location! I walked by the SF salon everyday when I was in beauty school. It always looked like fun inside those big corner windows on Bush and Claude Lane!

Melissa: How long do you think it will take you to get to be a stylist?

Kate: I’m hoping I will be a Jr. Stylist by the end of the year. That would put me at 3yrs in the program…

Melissa: What’s the best thing about being an apprentice?

Emily: The best thing about being an apprentice is that you are constantly learning and watching a skilled stylist do things in ways that you wouldn’t think of before being on the floor.

Melissa: What’s the hardest thing?

Richie: Finding models for Monday’s class. Keeping a smile on your face. Having to keep up with stylists, clients and the rest of the salon staff when you’re so busy trying not details get lost. Keeping the clients happy and not letting things fall apart.

Melissa: Tell me about a funny thing that happened with a client….

Richie: Not sure if you can use this but once told the client I would be right back and wipe their foreskin! I meant forehead. We all laugh.

Emily: I was washing out a clients color and she kept raising her head, I soaked her so good it came all down her back and even through her underwear.

Kate: I’ve seen at least 4 clients take off the smock thinking that they still have their shirt on underneath…

Melissa: What are the benefits of booking with an apprentice?

Kate: You get extra special time (2 hours per appointment) and extra special attention (2 pairs of eyes -the apprentice and the instructor).

Emily: There’s a lot of up-sides booking with one of us. It’s cheaper for people on a tight budget and it’s a way to see how the salon works If you are a new client.

Richie: A quality service supervised by an educator at a discounted price and helping new stylists learn…a client who gives us a shot early-on will earn our gratitude and loyalty when we are Senior Stylists some day!

And now for a final quote from Kate: Some say we are fearless, that we’re not afraid to take risks because hey, “we’re still learning.” When you see stylists that have been doing hair for years, sometimes they get bogged down with their own inhibitions because they have made “this mistake” or “that mistake” and that may reflect on the outcome. Apprentices, well, you might say, “ignorance is bliss.”


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