I had the pleasure of chatting with Sherri Jessee about her roles as a stylist, platform and runway artist, and a salon owner. Learning more about her experiences was so inspiring to me, and I’m sure it will be motivating for you, as well! Read on for her insider tips on how to continue growing and succeeding in this industry:
Fashion Frenzy: You’ve had such a successful career as a platform artist, what is the first step a student or new stylist should take to follow in your footsteps?
The first step would be to find a salon environment that encourages growth and education.
After gaining experience working in a salon, you may try becoming an educator for a professional hair product manufacturer. Personally, that helped to develop my skills outside the salon. It also helped me go beyond my immediate circle to expand on the education I received in school.
So many different hair care companies have opportunities for dedicated stylists to become educators — to start at the bottom and work your way up. When I first became an educator, I did classes in 8 states. I would go anywhere within an 8-hour drive to do classes in salons to gain experience. After showing that I was willing to go the extra mile, I was offered the opportunity to be a member of the show team. From there, I began working smaller shows, then medium-sized, and on to major shows and numerous exciting international opportunities.
I have had wonderful experiences when working with manufacturers because it gave me the opportunity to develop and grow my skills. Also, don’t underestimate the importance of developing your speaking skills for both large and small audiences. These skills can expand into other opportunities like video, commercial, and television work.
It’s really important to recognize that you have to be willing to do the work to build your skills to get to the next level. I am a big believer in setting goals, and it is important to set long-term goals, as well as short-term goals, which are the steps to get you there along the way.
Fashion Frenzy: Can you share any of your tips for a successful stage presentation for our fashion frenzy finalists?
Organization, preparation, and planning are all essential. Before you arrive have a plan, including what you want to communicate about the look you create. Then, when you are speaking on stage, you know what you are going to say and do. Knowing your lines and having all the tools necessary to create the look will help you feel more confident.
Fashion Frenzy: What is something you do every day that you feel contributes to your success?
Having a good grasp of basic skills is the basis for all the other opportunities. Some people consider the things they learn in school to be unimportant, but they are the launch pad for all of the other skills you will develop throughout your career.
I like to say that, “I have a new boss every half hour“, and that explains the importance of being good with your clients and with people in general. All the things I do on the road are grounded in the skills I practice in my salon. Good knowledge of how to do a great haircut and a great finish and being able to execute an effective consultation are key. Once you have those things down, you can then get creative and build upon those skills.
Fashion Frenzy: Was there someone in your life that inspired you to achieve the level of success you have?
I’ve been fortunate to have had many mentors along the way as my roles have changed.
My mother, Charlotte Duncan, has given constant encouragement. In her words, I have “always been looking for new things to learn…never satisfied with the same old thing.” She also says that I maximize every opportunity and experience.
The first salon in which I worked was a husband-and-wife team, Sam and Cheri Arnold. Cheri was the most amazing haircutter and finisher, and I would just stand and watch her — which gave me a good grasp of what skills I should strive to perfect. I worked with her when I was in beauty school, and they hired me once I graduated.
I was greatly influenced by Irvine and Louise Rusk, and working with these industry icons for nearly10 years was such an incredible opportunity.
Numerous magazine editors have assisted me with my editorial styling and helped me drive that side of the business. Among the list are Maggie Mulhern, Helen Oppenheim, Jeryl Spear, Mary Greenberg, and Joan Harrison who have been especially kind to share their knowledge and support of my skills as an editorial stylist.
As a member of the Intercoiffure Artistic Team, it is a real pleasure to work closely with the talented Vivienne Mackinder and Mary Brunetti. I am inspired by working with strong women in the beauty business, and I aspire to be that same kind of example for others in our industry.
Fashion Frenzy: Looking back at when you started, is this where you expected to be?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would have the opportunity to travel to five continents from a small town in the mountains of Virginia. I never could have imagined it. But I will say that even from the beginning, my first boss, Cheri, told me I could take my career farther than the walls of the salon and travel the world doing this. Sure enough it happened!
Even considering all of the unique experiences I’ve had, the basis of my business has remained my salon. I’ve had my own salon for 27 years, and it is my true passion. My daughter and my sister also work with me, so we have this great family business. I feel so fortunate to love what I do. I don’t “have to” go to work, I “get to.”
Fashion Frenzy: Many students and stylists who are just starting out aspire to own their own salon one day. What are your keys to success as a salon owner?
We’ve all heard the saying “Get a job you love and you will never work a day in your life.” This is cliché, but it’s also very true. To be a successful salon owner, you must be willing to come in early and stay late. Even when I’m not in the salon, I’m planning a photo-shoot, spending time on social media, and marketing to get the business name out there. I wouldn’t have it any other way…my profession is also my obsession.
The main thing is to set your goals, be willing to work hard, and recognize that no job or task is too small — it’s all-important. Our motto at the salon is to “be nice and do pretty hair.” If you do that, you can’t go wrong.