On Christmas Day 1998, Jamison Shaw and his daughter Candy Shaw inked a deal on the family’s dining room table, officially transferring ownership of Atlanta’s Jamison Shaw Hairdressers from Jamison to Candy. After signing the last document, Jamison handed Candy his business card on which he’d hand-written the words, “Choo-Choo.”
“Papa, what does Choo-Choo mean?” Candy asked.
He responded, “Poo [her nickname], the beauty business is like a fast-moving train. You can get on at any station. The secret is staying on it, for in this business, he who trains best wins!”
Candy took that sage advice to heart,“Today, that card is one of my most prized possessions. It’s in my clothes closet, and I look at it every day when I get ready for work.”
Jamison Shaw grew up during the Depression in a farmhouse in rural Tennessee with a dirt floor and no indoor plumbing. “I learned to cut hair in the Air Force. I got paid a quarter, and I had two clippers—I’d use one until it was too hot to handle, then switched,” he remembers.
When Shaw got out of the service, he got a job with a beauty distributor. After attending his first beauty show, he enrolled in beauty school in Alabama the next day.
Jamison and his wife Sara Shaw, who became a makeup artist, made their home in the Atlanta area, opening up their mom and pop-style salon and starting their family. Over the years, Jamison perfected his craft and became one of the celebrated artists on the show circuit, as well as the first American to win hairdressing’s World Championships.
It was very important to Candy Shaw to buy the salon business from her dad, Jamison Shaw.
As a father, Shaw maintained a philosophy of keeping his kids—two sons and Candy—close and taking them with him wherever he traveled. Candy grew up listening to stories from industry greats, such as Paul Mitchell, Horst Rechelbacher and even Vidal Sassoon. “I would put her to bed, and she’d sneak down and listen some more,” Jamison laughs.
When Candy was eight, Jamison took her to work, having her fold towels and sweep floors. “When we got home that night she proceeded to tell me that it was time for her to take on greater responsibility, and that she was ready to cut hair,” Jamison says.
“I’m not sure I decided to pursue hairdressing, as much as hairdressing pursued me,” says Candy, who admits that she traded haircuts for math homework in high school.
After graduation, Candy made a beeline for Europe, visiting and apprenticing in some of Europe’s finest salons. When she was 19 and back in Atlanta, Jamison sent her to work with some of his best friends, John and Carol Siggers, who had a salon 10 miles away. “He told me, ‘Poo, when you see Carol sit down, you can sit down!’ Well, Carol never did sit down,” Candy says. “It was the first time I’d ever seen a woman do 35 clients in a day. She’s still an inspiration.”
Eventually Jamison had an assistant quit, so he called the Siggers and asked for Candy back. “I think he was impressed by how much my attitude had changed—I no longer took advantage of being the bosses’ daughter—I had proved my worth,” Candy says.
Jamison says that from a practical standpoint, Candy started slowly taking over the reins in her early 20s, although he gave her time to settle down, start a family and perfect her craft.
It wasn’t long before Candy started insisting that she buy Jamison out. “It was very important to me to purchase the salon at fair market value to ensure that there were never any hard feelings from my siblings about my taking over the salon,” Candy says.
Jamison agreed, “In business, I’ve always believed that if something were free then it’s perceived as having little to no value.”
When it came to determining a value to the business, Jamison says they left it up to the suits. “We wanted it all done completely above board, so we hired lawyers, accountants and appraisers and tasked them with developing the proper valuation and appropriate structure for the transaction,” he says.
"I knew that women would come see Candy once because she was Jamison Shaw's daughter, but not twice unless she made it on her own--and she did. She earned the right to buy the business, and her mom and I were happy to oblige."--Jamison Shaw
Candy was in her early 30s, so it worked best for her to pay off the debt gradually, with the use of both current assets and the longer-term assistance of cash flow. “In my case, I financed the acquisition over 10 years,” Candy says. “There’s no guarantee in taking over a successful salon that you, yourself, will succeed. I wasn’t willing to put my family at risk, only myself.”
A successful transition of salon leadership doesn’t take place in short order, and Candy advises others in a similar position to take calculated steps and do so over time. “There were days I left in tears from the old-school train of thought from some of the hairdressers that worked under Dad’s regime,” she says. “Eventually the ‘old guard’ just sort of fired themselves, and I built my own team.”
And Jamison didn’t walk away completely. Until recently, he’d still come in four days a month, doing about 80 heads a month. But, he stresses that it’s been up to Candy to lead. “I still actually have the last word when it comes to the salon,” laughs Jamison. “And that word is ‘Yes, Ma’am!’”
Both Jamison and Candy subscribe to a single-location is best philosophy, but Candy did make some significant changes, doubling the size of the staff the first year, and adding employee health benefits. “When I announced my decision to employ a full-time graphic artist 15 years ago, my Dad thought I was crazy,” she says. “But I’d rank it up there as one of the best decisions I ever made. I believe that ‘looking good’ and being cohesive in our brand not only attracted the right kind of staff member, but it gave me credibility.”
While Jamison and Candy would occasionally butt heads over how she was leading the business, he quickly realized that his name was no longer on the note. “He’s a very wise and learned man—and he still loves to sit at my desk and leave his coffee cup as a calling card,” Candy says.
For Jamison, the journey has been sweet. “To watch Candy blossom from being known as Jamison Shaw’s daughter to an international powerhouse who has stood on her own two feet for decades makes me proud,” he says. “Want to know the best part? People now refer to me as Candy Shaw’s father!”
Today, Candy is planting the seeds for her son Jamison Shaw Codner, affectionately known as Jamison Jr., to someday takeover. While it was never a given that he’d enter the business, Candy believes she cinched the deal when he was a teen and she took him to Mexico to help her shoot a swimsuit calendar with the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders. “Carrying the name of his legendary grandfather didn’t hurt either!” Candy says.
Candy Shaw is already planting the seeds of a succession plan with her son Jamison Shaw Codner, who currently serves as the director of Jamison Shaw Academy, and CFO and comptroller of Sunlights, Candy's new balayage company.
At age 14, Jamison hired older boys to drive him around so he could run the salon’s inventory, and by his senior year in high school, he knew he wanted to go into the family business. But for Jamison Jr., college was his first step. He attended Auburn University where he earned a degree in entrepreneurialism and family business. He then took over administration of the Jamison Shaw Academy, and recently he’s become CFO and comptroller of Sunlights, Candy’s balayage company.
Both Candy and Jamison Jr. say the only real difference between their professional and personal relationship is that he calls her Candy at work, and Mom at home. But, today, she’s very much still the boss. “Capt’n Candice, as my friends used to call her, rules with an iron hand and a warm heart. I’ve never known a more charismatic, get-’er-done kind of person. She sets her standards high, and she lives by them,” Jamison Jr. says.
Candy watches Jamison Jr. assuming more and more leadership every day. “I’m extremely proud of him,” she says. “We are working with financial advisors, lawyers, accountants, insurance agents, and mortgage brokers to put the foundations in place for a proper succession plan when the day comes for him to take over,” she says.
In the meantime, Jamison Jr. says he’s following his mom’s lead. “The example she sets as a leader has earned her the undying respect of the staff,” he says. “Like her, I work hard, am always available, I sincerely care and the respect naturally follows. I learned Jamison Shaw’s famous ‘7 Words to Success’ at an early age. ‘Show Up, On Time, Ready for Work!’”