Being Present in NOLAWith 1,550 salon owners, managers and stylists in attendance, the 16th annual Serious Business conference drew a record crowd by combining education that was as inspiring as it was informative. Held at the historic Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, the two-day business conference, hosted by Neill TSP, opened with Puppetji, a muppet-style yogi who encouraged attendees to be present, both mentally and physically. Dressed in his Batman robe and conducting a conversation with a videotaped version of himself, Neill Artistic Director Michael Baker continued to stress the importance of the conference’s theme ‘Being Here,’ as he switched the logo around to show the words, “I’m here.”

Inspired Thinking: Several top-notch keynote speakers claimed the main stage, shedding fresh perspectives on life and business.  Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, showed the audience how to create sustainable positive change and offered the audience five proven strategies for improving happiness in their lives. Best-selling author Marianne Williamson demonstrated how owners can break through a world saturated by negativity. Aveda General Manager Martin Kaufmann proved that a successful brand is a positive experience. Controversial Spin Doctor Erika Napoletano got participants to rethink the meaning of unpopular. CNN Hero and Wine to Water Founder Doc Henley shared his motivational personal story of bringing clean water to people in some of the toughest regions of the world. And, performance artist Erik Wahl brought the audience to a standing ovation several times as he painted several portraits to music as he communicated inspirational messages.

Working Sessions: Attendees customized their Serious Business experience by choosing among a variety of breakout speakers who really focused on key aspects of salon business management. For example, Red Chocolate’s Virginia Meyer and David Adams demonstrated how to build a color business; Gila Rut Salon’s Keri Davis showed how to make the most out of multiple locations; Jeanine O’Neill Blackwell coached attendees how to lead from the inside out; while salon owners Jon & Alan Snetman and Arsalan Hafezi talked about rebuilding after a walkout.