A Wella Top Artist, Aubrey Loots is owner of Studio DNA salons in Los Angeles and the newly founded Hair and Technology Academy on Beverly Blvd, in Los Angeles. A familiar face backstage during New York Fashion Week and a stylist with a roster of celebrity clients, Loots wanted to create something special with his academy. "We hire future stylists, not long term assistants," he says. Below, Loots answers questions about the program he created:
QUESTION: Many salons have an apprentice or assistant program set up so newly-graduated beauty pros can learn from more seasoned professionals. What are you doing that is different from a traditional assistant program?
LOOTS: The typical assistant/apprenticeship relationship is hands on experience in a functioning salon and the possibility of "once a week" education where the assistant brings in a model to learn a technique. We operated under this model and discovered a few things:
1. Many salons provide education, but find that it becomes very difficult to remain consistent with the education.
2. Our assistants/students would spend time testing out on a service, and then never revisit that service until they starting working behind the chair. In many cases, they lost their confidence on as much as 50% of the services in which they were once proficient.
3. Many key elements were missing once they got “on the floor” such as customer service, product prescription, pre-booking, time management and business management.
Hair Art and Science Academy is unique in that we not only provide hands on classes that requires live models for both Color and Cutting Class every week but we have designed a salon environment where they can take real clients during the rest of the week for one to three days a week. These services are offered at a lower price point thus providing our community an inexpensive, professional salon experience. The stylist/student/assistant gets great hands on experience in a real world environment supported by senior stylists/educators. Students/Stylists only provide services that they have tested out on without education team. Hair Art and Science Academy is set up as a high end salon and functions just like a normal salon. On the other days, they are scheduled in our salons (Studio DNA) where they can assist stylists and learn from them. As they progress through the program, they can become junior stylists managing the standard in the salons and working directly with the assistant manager. We also provide front desk training, marketing and business training (inventory management, cash management, etc.) At no time are we without support staff in any of our salons. We thought this was important for our students so they can feel what it's like to work in all aspects of the salon.
The other aspect of Hair Art and Science Academy is our community outreach. As we continue to grow our pool of assistants/stylists/students, we will begin to introduce them to other salons in the surrounding area. This will provide them with opportunities to work in other salons and experience other business models. These placements can be temporary (from one day to several weeks) or permanent if a match has been made.
We are also available to provide training for assistants who work for other salons where there may be little to no infrastructure for advanced training. This gives the owner/manager some freedom to work with the assistant while they pursue their education with us.
QUESTION: How much time is required?
LOOTS: Our Program is between 12 - 24 months depending on the Students performance and progress. We also have a Fast Track Program which a student can only become eligible after 3 months of employment. It is at the discretion of the management and education team. We have had some students complete our Program in as little as 8 months.
We let our students know that this is there program to create. We are only looking for their greatness. It is not our intention to hold anyone back, nor do we want to accelerate anyone’s progress when they are not quite ready. The flexibility of the program allows for all of our students to excel if they so choose.
QUESTION: Do you call participants students or assistants?
LOOTS: When students are at Hair Art and Science during class hours, they are referred to as students. When they work on clients during the week they are referred to as stylists. When they assist at our Studio DNA Salons in Los Angeles they are referred to as assistants.
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