Elise Cheval Galluzzo

, owner of Salon Cheval in Whittier, California, is not a hairdresser. Her background is in marketing and retail, but all her life she was the one who wanted to do everyone's hair. Fascinated by the art of hairdressing, she opened a salon never losing sight of the importance of personal expression. To hone and stretch the staff's creative energy, the entire team plans and executes frequent, themed photo shoots.

ST: Why did you decide to engage your staff in photo shoots?

ECG: I'm sure if you ask most stylists why they wanted to become a hairdresser, their reply wouldn't be "Because I am passionate about covering gray roots and cutting A-line bobs." Of course, creating great looks for our clients is our number one passion and we all appreciate a precise bob. But, doing the same services day after day can weigh down a stylist's creative talents. We have to remember we came into the industry as artists wanting to express ourselves creatively. Our stylists are passionate about the craft itself but if they don't get the opportunity to express themselves as artists, they can eventually lose that passion and creativity.

ST: How did the staff respond when you suggested this project and how do you choose the themes?

ECG: It actually was a group idea. We all watch Shear Genius and love to discuss the challenges presented on the show and how we would have executed them differently and, in our opinion, better. We all just figured… let's give it a shot.

The shoots are a great educational and team-building opportunity. Our educational classes are mandatory. Participation in the photo shoots is optional, but so far, it has been 100 percent. Each stylist looks forward to the challenge and the excitement of working together. Our theme inspirations have included editorial spreads from Italian Vogue and "Timeless," a shoot inspired by a Bumble and bumble University class that examined the influence of past decades on today's hair styles.

ST: How costly are the shoots and how do you secure supporting talent and studio space?

ECG: This is where a team effort really pays off. Obviously, hair and make-up are done by the Salon Cheval staff. We are fortunate to have a large and spacious salon with a 2,000-square-foot styling floor. We are able to set up separate areas for backdrops and scenes. The staff is happy to give up free time for the shoots and bring along personal items that fit the theme. We have borrowed guitars, bikes and furniture from each other. I am a photographer and I shoot and edit all the photos. I know what each stylist's vision is and I try to capture that. Friends and clients are happy to get onboard as models.

ST: How do you let your clients and the community know about your creative endeavors?

ECG: As soon as the photos are complete we e-mail them to our clients and post them on our Facebook page. Our "Timeless" shoot was a competition among the staff, so our clients got to go to our website and vote in for their favorite time period represented in the shoot. This lets clients do more than admire our work. They also become participants.

The photos from our shoots are blown up to poster size with the stylist's name and are displayed in the salon. Now, almost 90 percent of the art displayed in our salon is in-house work. It's gratifying to see people admire the work done by our staff. Since some of our models are also clients, they enjoy seeing themselves on the walls of the salon.

ST: Have the photo shoots translated into increased business for the salon?

ECG: When people check out our website, they can tell we have a passion for the craft and maintain that as the main focus of our business. People feel like they have connected with us before they even enter the salon, and this has translated into new clients. The photo shoots also keep the staff united and inspired, and they nurture personal development in each stylist and in myself. The photo shoots and the resulting images show that we love what we do, and people want to be a part of that culture.

Best Practices: Recharging Creativity
90 percent of the art displayed is in-house work.

Best Practices: Recharging Creativity
Elise Cheval Galluzzo, salon owner.

Whittier, California

Years in business: two and a half
Number of employees: 8
Product lines: Bumble and bumble
Most popular service: Cut and color
Average client ticket: $90

Best Practices: Recharging Creativity

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