Jill Kohler

President/Founder, Kohler Academy, Scottsdale, Arizona

Degree: A bachelor’s degree in social sciences from Colorado State University

Affiliations: NASFAAC, AACS, and PBA Serves on the Beaton committee for PBA and government relations fundraising committee for AACS.

IN 1993, JILL KOHLER jumped into the beauty industry as a marketing coordinator at Nexxus, but it was her next job as executive director of TSA that she credits with leading her to open her own cosmetology school. “My debt of gratitude is to the hundreds of intelligent salon and spa owners who pushed me, helped me and cajoled me to do things I never thought was possible. Even today, I hear so many of those owners’ voices as I am guiding and coaching students.”

Who were your mentors along the way? “In 1994, I wrote a letter to Ann Mincey at Redken because I admired her and just wanted her wisdom and career. Funny how things work out—I never mailed my letter but later we evolved into friends as we shared years of educational events and industry-relations. When my Mom died, I invited five dear girlfriends on a cattle drive and we moved 2,300 head! Ann was with me all week. Next on my list would be my Dad, Jim, and my very cool husband. Burt.”

How has being a woman made your career path harder or easier? “For me the beauty industry was an opportunity at every turn. The professional growth came in the decision-making. Those decisions brought me personal growth. Some were good choices, other quite awful. But I owned them. I often tell my students that the grass is not greener on the other side, it is greener where you water it.”

What would you consider your biggest professional break? “I have always had a good memory for names, faces, moments and memories. Honestly, it has saved me a million times—on stage, with CEOs, with contract negotiations—a myriad of difficult issues. It still helps me, though at 44, it might be slipping just a bit.”

What’s the best business advice anyone ever gave you? “Best advice was from my Mom. It was about this business venture, Kohler Academy. She told me it would take more money than I thought, more heartache than I would be ready for, more time away from my family than I would ever imagine and more frustration at the maddening choices of other human beings and that it would all be well worth it. She was so right.”

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? “We are currently expanding our 14,000 square feet, so we are glowing. That just feels good.”

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