A Colourful Career
By admin | June 15, 2018
Magnetised by the glamorous and endlessly creative hairdressing industry, Colourist and Salon Owner, Kristie Kesic has channelled her energy and passion into her craft from the moment of her graduation from the Wynne-Hoelscher Academy in 2005.
Working her way up from apprentice to Colourist and now Owner and Creative Director of Stelios Papas Toowong, Kristie works hard to not only push her own creative boundaries, but also share her knowledge and skill with her team, just as her mentors once did for her.
It’s not that common to find a Colourist at the head of a salon business, so we were intrigued to know more about Kristie’s career progression to date, knowing that many other young Colourists may also aspire to business ownership.
Hair Biz Editor, Kym Krey spoke with Kristie recently to hear her story.
Kristie, tell us how your career in hairdressing began.
I was never one of these people who always wanted to be a hairdresser. I started working in my Auntie’s friend’s salon as a tea and tidy on Saturdays while I was in Grade 12 and then an opportunity for a hairdressing scholarship came up at the Wynne – Hoelscher Hairdressing Academy so I applied. I got it, so I thought to myself … “Why not? If I don’t like it, it’s only a year!” But I loved it and I’ve never looked back since I realised that I actually needed to validate my skill and worth and I did this by personalising all my colour services. I needed to make sure no one was doing the things the way I did or to the level I was executing them at. The formulas and techniques I use are personalised to the individual so not anyone can do that colour. People need to see the technical skill that is involved in colour work on a daily basis, not just in photoshoots. In fact, the thing I love within the industry moving forward, is that you can see colour and techniques are more freehand and personalised to the client. Being able to do great hair isn’t good enough anymore, it’s the personal touches, and it’s changing up techniques and applications on each colour client that gets others excited because they want to know what that person is having done as it’s different to theirs and they want that next time. I think this perspective alone is unique to a colourist.
As a colourist, being a salon owner is not common. Tell us about your journey to business ownership and your experience of running a salon as a colourist.
I’ve owned the business now for 2 years but before I bought Stelios Papas Toowong I had worked in the business for 8 years. In that time, I had worked my way up from Colourist to Head Colourist to Manager and then 4 years ago, the idea of me buying the business was thrown out there. I had worked so hard in the business and had been working with an amazing business coach in Faye Murray, so, already knowing so much about this particular business, I felt that buying it was just the next natural progression.
It was a lot of talking for about a year and then during the progress I fell pregnant. In the end, I had a baby, came back to work 8 weeks later
and then 6 months later the business was officially mine. It was a crazy process and a massive learning curve and I was probably a bit naive because if I knew the things then that I know now, I would have done things very differently! Colour was always seen and considered within the brand as second to the cutting department. This was just because of the reputation built and accolades won around the cutting side of things. Coming on board as owner, I’ve changed this. People no longer come to the salon for their cut and just get their colour done while they are here, they come here just as much for the colour. This has changed the dynamics of the brand and is a big focus of mine moving forward.
And the benefits of being a colourist as business owner?
Firstly, I always have my colour orders in on time and have plenty of colour! I personally have a great relationship with my product company and am able to be involved with new season trends and pre-release of products. But I think the biggest benefit comes with stock control. One of the biggest expenses in the salon is colour. I’m controlling this expense first-hand and using it, so as a result, my stock-to-sales percentage sits at less than 8%.
What are your business goals for the next 1-2 years?
Reinvention and Education. This business was established and respected for 40 years before I bought it, so the benchmark was already set very high. My goal is to continue to grow and reinvent the brand to align with my core values and new generation way of thinking. My team is a modern team with an amazing skill set and we want to be able to share that more with the industry and will do this through developing and sharing our own education.
Is there any specific advice you would give other colourists who aspire to own their own salon one day?
Anyone will tell you it’s hard work, but if it wasn’t, everyone would be doing it. Back yourself and most importantly surround yourself with a team and a network of people you can trust. Talk to them openly and listen to them. Take on board all the advice you can and never think you can do it alone, because the honest truth is, you can’t.
You’ve chosen to be a colourist. Was this always your plan?
No, definitely not. After college I worked in salons and did both cutting and colour and probably did more haircut clients. A friend of mine who I’d worked with was working at Stelios Papas and told me they were looking for colourists and that I should apply. I was so hesitant because I loved cutting and I hate change, but it was a great opportunity and I had already worked with some of the staff there, so I went for it. I got the job on the day of my trial and have been a specialist colourist for 10 years now and have never done a paying client haircut since.
How has this given you a unique perspective on client service or the hair industry in general?
A stylist said to me one day when I was trying to figure out how to accommodate all my clients, “Anyone can apply a colour. Just get someone else to do it!’ And I instantly replied, ‘That’s like me saying to you that anyone can cut a straight line!’ It got me thinking though, that if this is how some hairdressers approached colour work, what are consumers going to think when they see salons a lot cheaper than me and box dye on the supermarket shelves?