Owner, Jamison Shaw Hairdressers, Atlanta, Georgia
Founder of Jamison Shaw Hairdressing Systems, Inc.
Founder of Sunlights Balyage, Inc.
Nicknamed The Balay Lama, Candy Shaw literally grew up in the beauty industry with Jamison Shaw, the first American to win hairdressing’s World Championships, as her father and make-up artist Sara Shaw as her mother. In 1999, Shaw became the third generation to own the family salon, a 50-chair, 5,000 square-foot facility in the fashionable Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. In addition to her leadership role, Shaw works behind the chair full-time, seeing up to 35 clients per day with the aid between four and six assistants. In 2013, Shaw was re-elected to the Board of Directors of Intercoiffure America-Canada, a board on which she served from 2003-2006 as the organization’s Atelier chairperson. Shaw was the 2005 recipient of Intercoiffure’s ‘Adolf Biecker Award of Excellence’ and the 2006 ‘Personality of the Year’ award. One of the world’s most published stylists, Shaw routinely has 400 images published in nearly 100 magazines worldwide every year, with more than 30 magazine cover credits to her name. In 1996, Shaw founded Jamison Shaw Advanced Hairdressing Systems, Inc., an advanced training academy specializing in teaching French cutting and Balayage, and in 2014 she launched a new product line called Sunlights Balayage, Inc., featuring a state-of-the-art lightener developed for balayage.
How are you a risk-taker/rule breaker?
Shaw: I think I’m best described as both a risk/taker and a rule/breaker. As a Harvard historian once said, “Well-behaved women seldom make history.” I attended a high school with a hair code. I made it through by trading haircuts with guys for math homework in the locker room. I made a beeline for Europe the moment I graduated to study in Europe’s great salons.
I not only didn’t go to college, I never even went to beauty school. I apprenticed under my father, a world hairdressing champion, who himself has only an eighth-grade education. He taught me to cut hair the same way Michelangelo carved stone. He said if you want to make an elephant, just cut away everything that doesn’t look like an elephant. The rest, as they say, is history.
Since you started your own business, how have your motivations changed?
Shaw: They really haven’t. I’m a firm believer that ‘money makes you more of what you already are.’ If you’re a good person, money can make you a better person by enabling you to do more good things. For me, it’s never been about the Benjamin’s. As my husband can attest, I’ve not opened my paycheck in more than thirty years. That’s not what fuels me. What fuels me is teaching and helping others. Stretching minds is what motivates me, always has and hopefully always will. The focal point of my motivation has never been the dollar, but my passion to leave the beauty business in a better place than I found it.
What do you do on a daily basis to help you grow as an entrepreneur?
Shaw: Three things. To expand my mind, I try to read a little something inspirational every day. To maintain my body and stamina behind the chair, I try to exercise most days. And to recharge my spirit, I try to spend time with my family every day that I’m not on the road plus a little time in prayer. But probably the number-one thing I do to help me as an entrepreneur is write down my goals. As they say, “don’t just think it, ink it!”
Who or what inspires you?
Shaw: Change, and those who promote it, inspires me. Sassoon, for example, changed the world with a pair of scissors. Paul Mitchell, Horst Rechelbacher and Paula Kent Meehan did it with bottles of shampoo. Based on their inspiration, my hope is to change the world with a balayage brush, the same way Picasso and Dali changed the art world with a paint brush. Other hairdressing greats who have inspired me throughout my career are Alexandre de Paris, Bruno Pittini, and my father, Jamison Shaw, who at 78, still cuts eighty heads a month in only four days.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned from running your own business that you would share with other women?
Shaw: I would tell them, “It’s not crowded at the top!” It’s better to be respected than
loved. Girls can do anything boys can do except we can do it in high heels. The past is exactly that. And to chart your own course and stick to it, even if others may not agree, because popular decisions aren’t always right, and right decisions aren’t always popular.
As you grew your company/brand, what “Ah-HA” moments of clarity helped you shape its future course?
Shaw: I had two very recently. We launched Sunlights Professionnel Balayage Lightener thisspring at America’s Beauty Show in Chicago in a modest 10 x 10 booth in the far back corner of the exhibit hall near the bathroom. We felt a bit like stepchildren setting up. But when the show floor opened and Chicago’s Fire Marshall had to come to disperse the crowds we drew for our live demonstrations, I thought we might be onto something. Then, the first time I was ever recognized in a public place as “The Balay Lama.” I knew at that moment the future of my course was reaching further than just the classroom and my brand was being recognized.
In developing your company, what is the biggest roadblock you’ve faced, and how did you conquer it?
Shaw: I’ve always said I built my foundation on the bricks that others tried to throw at me. There’s always going to be roadblocks on the path to success, the key is circumnavigating them. If the path were clear and easy, everyone would take it. Successful people do what unsuccessful people won’t do. At Jamison Shaw we refer to what we know as “The Seven Words to Success,” they are: “Show Up, On Time, Ready to Work!” Often times, it’s just that simple. People frequently are their own worst roadblocks. I choose to stop for directions and ask the people I trust for guidance.Never underestimate the power of a mentor.
How would you describe your management style? What do you think makes you a good leader, and what areas would you want to improve?
Shaw: My management style can best be described as tough, but fair. I hug and I spank. I
have high expectations for hairdressers’ success. A good leader doesn’t point, they lead by example. I tell everyone, “Bring me the solution, not the problem.” I am willing to do, and have done, everything in my company. I’m not above any job. What I would like to change about myself is that sometimes I think I care more about their success than they do. I wish sometimes I would take my own advice and let it go when people let you down.
Throughout your professional history, what’s the best lesson you’ve learned after making a mistake?
Shaw: The best lesson I’ve learned after making a mistake was to look at life through the
windshield and not the rearview mirror. When you make a mistake—and we all do—learn from it, move on and don’t look back. It does little good to dwell in the past. My dad always taught me to be a good finder. I honestly try to find the good in everything. Even the most serious crises have good in them. When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
What is the number-one quality you look for when hiring employees, and how do you evaluate if they possess that trait?
Shaw: That’s easy. I hire happy people. You can teach a monkey to cut and balayage hair, but you can’t teach people to be friendly. If they’re both happy and aware they will come willingly on your journey and gladly drink the Kool-Aid of your salon’s culture.
Share something personal that very few people at work would know about you.
Shaw: As much time as I spend in front of the classroom, you probably wouldn’t suspect this, but I’m painfully shy in a crowd of people I don’t know until I feel accepted. Also, I’m as hard on myself as anyone, especially at night when I’m sneaking ice cream.
What’s the best thing an employee/colleague ever said about you?
Shaw: I’m blessed to have a drawer full of cards and letters with nice things people have said about me. After all I’m from the South, land of the thank-you note. I save them all. But the most meaningful to me are the ones that come from former employees who, after the passage of time, take the time to write back and say how much they appreciated all I did for them to help mold their success. Those are the most satisfying. I am always humbled by the words “you changed my life.” In the end, that’s all I ever wanted to do was to stretch someone’s creative soul.
If you were training another woman to take over your job, what’s the most important advice you would offer her?
Shaw: People do what you ‘inspect’ not what you ‘expect.’ You must be willing to adjust to the moment and never take it personally if someone disappoints you. And something I learned from my father, ‘life is short and soon to pass and only the things done with love will last.’ I would tell her to learn the difference between thinking with your heart and thinking with your head. You must learn to have the proper balance of both.
If you were to look at a scrapbook of your professional career, what would be your favorite page? Which page would you like to remove?
Shaw: I come from a long line of hairdressers. My father, uncle, cousins, etc. are all hairdressers. So naturally, my favorite page, of course, would be the family portrait. It has always been so intertwined with my professional career. Speaking of family, my least favorite page would be the photos of those who have moved on. Because they too, were “family,” and it often hurts when they leave.
If someone were to write a book about your life, what would be an appropriate title?
Shaw: Your Greatness is Not What You Have, It’s What You Give
If you weren’t in the beauty industry, what would you be doing?
Shaw: Broadcast journalism. I’m obsessed with documentaries.
What is your vision for the future of your company? What is your vision for the future of the industry?
Shaw: My vision for the future of my company is to help usher in the balayage revolution. Balayage will change the hair color industry in America as we know it. Just as foils took the place of pulling hair through a cap, balayage will take the place of foils. It’s the natural progression of things. Balayage is faster, more profitable, greener and considerably more fun. I founded my company to help achieve this end.
I can do wild, wacky and weird as well as the next platform artist. But that’s not what I perform everyday behind the chair or what makes my living. Most hairdressers are starved for no-nonsense education. If I could change just one thing, I would put more beauty back into the beauty business so hairdressers could get the respect they deserve. We can earn as much as doctors and lawyers, yet sometimes we sacrifice our self-respect for shock value. It’s completely unnecessary in my opinion. Be your utmost best always, align yourself with tasteful people and visionaries, and the best will come to you.