Paula Malloy

Director of Marketing and New Product Development, jcpenney salons

Licensed: In 1932, after attending the New England Hair Academy

Affiliations: NCA, PBA, ISBN. She currently serves as a board member on ISBN

AT THE AGE OF 29, Paula Malloy determined she was ready for the next step in her career and boldly sold her salon. For Malloy, the next step was Sebastian, where she worked first in sales, then as the brand’s education manager, eventually adding the responsibility of heading the company’s research and development department. In 2003 a “need to be closer to the energy of the salon and the working stylist” led Malloy to her current role at jcpenney salons. There she leads the company’s salon division, which has 17,000 stylists, and she’s emerged as a leader within the industry as the fast female president of the International Salon Spa Business Network.

Who were your mentors along the way? “I have so many people I consider mentors and with whom I ask their advice, people such as Jeff and C.B. Sullivan in Manchester, New Hampshire, whom I worked for after I sold my salon, Gen Cusenza at Sebastian and Creative Age Publications’ Deborah Carver who’s been a dear friend for 15 years. I think it’s good to have many mentors, and good to mentor many different people.”

How has being a woman made your career path harder or easier? “This is an industry fueled by women both in revenue and in manpower, but when I started 20+ years ago, it was still very male dominated in areas such as salon ownership and leadership within manufacturers and distributors. I don’t feel that I was held back as a woman, but I did feel I had to work that much harder and be that much better to achieve what I wanted. But I think those barriers fueled my growth.”

What would you consider your biggest professional break? “Sometimes when you get cancer, it’s a good thing. When I was working in education for Sebastian I was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Disease and needed to take a year off. The company was good to me, and assured me there would be a place for me when I was ready. But when I came back, the only open position involved travel and I couldn’t travel at the time. When Gen Cusenza heard, she put me in charge of research and development. I told her I knew nothing about R&D, but she told me, ‘I’m the owner, and if I said you can do it, you can do it.’ Not that she cut me any slack, it was baptism by fire, but it was great to work so closely with John and Gen Cusenza and it changed the course of my career.”

What’s the best advice anyone ever gave you? “Scott Cox, my boss at Sebastian, told me. ‘Hire people who are smarter than you. You have to surround yourself with people who can do your job, or you’ll never be promoted.”

What business achievement are you most proud of? I’m proud I was stupid enough to open my own salon at age 25, I’m proud of some of the product lines I helped developed when working at Sebastian, such as Potion 9 and Colorshine, and I’m proud of the work my JCPenney team has done to upgrade and modernize the brand.”

What do you hope to achieve in the next five years? “Originally, my mother told me cosmetology wasn’t a good enough career for me and I want to help change that perception I plan to continue my work with the team at jcpenney’s to grow the salons and grow the hairdressers—I want to continue to see our associates enjoy financial success and be emotionally rewarded.”