Women on Having It All: Renee ShakourRenee Shakour; Executive Vice President, Essential Salon Products; Westborough, Massachusetts

After earning a bachelor’s degree in business and working for a Fortune 500 company, Renee Shakour returned to her roots, working for her father Jon Shakour in the family distributorship, R.G. Shakour Inc. Still with the company, Shakour currently has full responsibility for Essential Salon Products’ branding, marketing and education. Renee also oversees the Salon Concepts stores located throughout New England.  As a member of the Professional Beauty Association’s Board of Directors and Government Affairs Committee, Renee has been an active advocate on behalf of the industry and beauty professionals. She is committed to raising awareness and artistry in the industry through her involvement with the North American Hair Styling Awards.

Do you believe a woman in the professional beauty industry can “have it all”? And what does that mean to you?

“Having it ‘all’ is something truly up to us individually to define. I know it has meant different things for me at different times both in my personal and professional life and it is a very delicate balance. I also know I need to be prepared for that balance to occasionally shift, because it will.”

In the pursuit of having it all, what sacrifices have you had to make, if any?

“As someone who has grown up in the beauty industry, I have learned many ways to balance the demands of life.I have made choices that have afforded me great success in my professional life and with those choices I have sacrificed, as many people have done. 

When you reach a certain place in your career, you are faced with the choice to start a family or continue to build your career.  It’s not an easy choice and one that is personal for every woman in the workforce.  My choice was to continue to build my career in the industry I love.”

If we were looking through a scrapbook of your life, what would be your favorite page?

“It wouldn’t be a single page, it would be a collage of people who have supported me, collaborated with me and have helped shape me into the woman I am today.”

If we were looking through a scrapbook of your life, what page would you want to rewrite?

“1985! My hair at that time was—let’s say “memorable”—but not in a good way! I mean did anyone love their hair back then?”
What’s your favorite tool or strategy for maintaining balance in your life?

 “Keep the two separate. I have learned through experience as taught to me by my father to put aside work when I get home and enjoy the fruits of my labor with friends and family.You need to be whole and present, and if you take one into the other it takes away what each of them deserves. It allows you to be successful in both areas.”

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you, and how did it change your life?

“Listen to your heart and follow your passion. Whenever you listen to your heart it changes your life, because when you do what you feel is right, it makes you happy.”

What wisdom would you share with a young woman entering a career in the professional beauty industry?

“Find a mentor. Regardless of your path in this industry, be it technical or otherwise, there is always someone who can help you through that experience. Through the years I have had the opportunity to meet and work with many leaders in our industry and who have influenced my journey. I remain in close contact with many of them and it means the world to me that I can pick up the phone and bounce ideas off them or just check in with someone who understands what I am presented with on a day-to-day basis and the responsibility that comes with being a leader and woman.”
What keeps you up at night?

“Well, as a member of the Government Affairs Committee for PBA, there are two issues in particular that keep me up at night—fragmentation within our industry, and the real threat of deregulation.      

“I have worked much of my career in this industry and believe we must keep it professional and I feel very passionate about that. The beauty industry as a whole is thriving. It perhaps is not recession proof, but it is an industry that has shown consistent growth while other industries are struggling. Like any other business, our industry faces challenges from the government. However, we seek to remain regulated, structured, and to uphold the highest level of professionalism.

 “Fragmentation: The professional beauty industry is comprised of several parts: schools, manufacturers, distributors, salon/spa business owners, and licensed professionals. When we fail to come together to elevate the industry we collapse or break down resulting in inconsistencies and the devaluing of the industry as a whole.

“Deregulation: The reduction or removal of government regulations over an industry. As an industry that has personal contact with the general public, we are particularly concerned with the health, safety, and sanitation risks that would result from deregulation.

 “The perception of licensed professionals in the industry along with the services they provide are so undervalued that state legislators do not see past the profession to even acknowledge that such health, safety and sanitation risks actually exist. 

“The industry finds itself not only fighting with each other on issues such as school hours, licensing, and the role of state boards, but we now must face the challenge of defending a legitimate profession that requires proper training and education.”    

What makes you feel powerful?

“I don’t like the word powerful because it implies that someone has less or none. I prefer to empower others because that is where all success is built. When you are part of someone reaching their goals or guiding their path in life it is very impactful (to me). No one can be “powerful” alone, so to build with people only makes everyone stronger.”

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