Business hopes to mentor ‘Rising Stars’

Published 1:25 pm Monday, March 15, 2010

Brookhaven’s Denise West is one of many young women inMississippi who work in the hair styling industry.

The 22-year-old began working at Shannon’s Hair Creation onBrookhaven Street before she graduated from Copiah-LincolnCommunity College more than two years ago. She got her degree fromCo-Lin, but got her know-how from the salon.

“It gives you an opportunity to learn hands-on. At school, theyonly teach you the basics,” West said. “You learn more here withthem than you do at school.”

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But not all fresh-out-of-college stylists enjoy West’s success.Being a stylist is not like being on the payroll – stylists pay fortheir station in a salon either with monthly rent for the chair orwith a percentage of the business they do. Many people are notcomfortable letting an inexperienced stylist learn the ropes ontheir own heads, and subsequently some college-trained stylist haveto call it quits when they’re unable to build up a list ofclients.

“In this industry, if you go into a salon and you don’t work,you don’t make an income,” said Monique Shannon, owner of Shannon’sHair Creation. “A lot of them fall through the gaps.”

Shannon is hoping to help bridge those gaps with Rising Star, aprogram that will pay fresh-out-of-college stylists a base salaryto train alongside established stylists while building a clientlist. Following guidelines set by the Mississippi State Board ofCosmetology, participants in the apprenticeship will earn minimumwage while training and working for 26 weeks without the financialrisks of renting a station faced by many young stylists.

Shannon said she and her sister, salon co-owner Pam Shannon,developed Rising Star as a transition program to help youngstylists who are struggling to put principle to practice. Thesisters noticed the problems developing when several recentlygraduated stylists working at their salon were unable to stayon.

“You have two problems – most people don’t want to go to astylist with no experience, and most new stylists are afraid oftheir clients because they don’t want to mess them up,” Shannonsaid. “I’ve seen stylists come in and they could not afford to staywith us because they were not able to make the cut. They couldn’tdo the work and couldn’t get the clients.”

Rising Star will be activated at Shannon’s Brookhaven andRidgeland locations by the end of the current school semester, shesaid.

Co-Lin cosmetology instructor Beverly Jones said anapprenticeship with Shannon would help prepare students for theprofession. She acknowledged the difficulties young stylists facein converting their education into a profession.

“The biggest thing is when students first get out, beingdedicated long enough to build that clientele. In this businesses,your work is your advertising,” Jones said. “With (Shannon) havingan established business, people are going to trust her judgment. Ifshe takes someone in, people know she’s overseeing thisperson.”

The Rising Star program is intended for upcoming and recentcosmetology graduates only. Applications are currently beingaccepted, and interested stylists may call Shannon’s Hair Creationat 601-833-3228.