is a national competition that looks for only the most talented cosmetology students in the country. They are looking for talent ranging from makeup artistry to nail design and, of course, hair styling. With that being said, there is no reason why a student from any school, in any state should not enter into the Beacon program.

This is a competition where you create your own vision, anywhere from classic to avant garde, and are then given the opportunity to present this to a renowned panel of judges. In addition to showing your skills as a stylist/artist or designer you are required to createa professional marketing piece about who you are as an individual. This is another great chance to show yourself. So take risks and get messy. The more outgoing you can be, the more you will shine! Give it your all because you have nothing to lose!

 The Guiding Light
Noreen with Vivienne MacKinder, whom he dubbed the Julia Roberts of our industry.

My experience in Las Vegas for the Beacon/ Symposium program was nothing short of amazing. It all began with a brief e-mail telling me I had been chosen as one of the 100 winners out of an average of 500 applicants. From this point on, there is an immense anxiety leading up to the day in which you leave for Vegas. So you've arrived, and it starts with a kick-off party that allows you to interact and network with some of the top talent in our industry. Here you can meet anyone from NAHA nominees to salon owners, even product distributors.

The next two mornings began with a wonderful continental breakfast, followed by a general session with professional business presentations. These range from how to maximize profitability to a panel of industry leaders, such as Lou Carbone, Neil Stern, NeCole Cumberlander and Ann Mincey. We heard from presenters about how to retail, retain clients, build a clientele and salon business. For our afternoons, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by Geno Stampora, an amazing industry leader, as well as the most kind-hearted, genuine person.

The second night was strictly devoted to the NAHA red carpet reception and, of course, the NAHA awards ceremony, where ONE Beacon winner is personally selected to be back stage as the NAHA trophy holder. I happened to be fortunate enough to be this chosen student.

The following day, which sadly was the last, was spent listening to salon owners and top stylists speak to us about how they became a success along with a question and answer session. In our free time, we were given the choice to go down to the Cosmoprof show floor and look around at all of the newest and latest products and technology to hit the market.

 The Guiding Light
Noreen with industry visionary Robert Lobetta.

If I can give one piece of advice, make sure that you bring business cards! You will have the opportunity to meet anyone and everyone from the Julia Roberts of our industry, Miss Vivienne Mackinder as well as Robert Lobetta, Michael Baker, Heather Wenman, SamBrocato, my Arizona native Kendall Ong, Ruth Roche and, of course, Geno Stampora.

 As a finishing note, I would like to leave you with a few suggestions in addition to a brief summary of what this has done for my career since attending the event. What to do when you are at Beacon: Make sure to take notes! You will be learning so many great things from so many great people that you don't want to forget! Be attentive! Things move rather quickly throughout  the day, and you don't want to miss it. Make sure to come prepared! Bring business cards, resumes, proper attire and a good attitude, along with any extras you think you may need along the way.

What not to do: Don't go out too late! Your day starts at 7:30 a.m. and you want to make sure that you are looking and feeling your best. Don't look at other Beacon winners as competitors, but as peers who you can learn from and become friends with. I can't say it enough, DON'T BE UNPREPARED! This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and you don't want to ruin it.

Since attending Beacon/Symposium, I have kept in contact with a number of industry greats. In doing so, I have been contacted by Salon Today, as I am writing this for them. I have also been included in an article for the "Moments with Kris Sorbie" newsletter. I have been looking into a few different salons from coast to coast and have decided to enter into next year's NAHA Awards. I have been nothing but grateful to have been able to share this experience with you, as well as all the wonderful people I met while in Vegas.

I would personally like to thank Geno Stampora for his kindness and belief in me and what I can do. I would also like to thank Kris Sorbie, you are an amazing woman and I am so happy to have met you. In addition, thank you to everyone who came out to speak to us and, of course, Jill Kohler. If it wasn't for attending her school, Kohler Academy, I would not be where I am today. She has inspired me to strive for nothing but the best in everything I do and it wouldn't be the same without her.

Find out more about Beacon, including how your salon can become involved and how to encourage students to apply.





The Guiding LightDrew Noreen is a recent graduate of the Kohler Academy in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a member of the 2009 Beacon program. In a letter to other cosmetology students, he shares his day-by-day Beacon experience.

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