In some ways, being an elementary school teacher is like watching the first fifteen minutes of a two-hour drama. We catch just enough of the beginning that we have to know how that movie turns out. After the first day of any school year, I became invested in the outcome of my students—not just for that year but long after they were in my class.
One of the blessings of living in the same city where I taught for thirty-one years is I have watched many of those dramas unfold, albeit from a distance. Life is the most incredible reality show ever invented, and occasionally the plot takes unexpected twists and turns. Sometimes the endings are predictable, filled with moments of celebration and happiness, while others have enormous sadness and tragedy.
My purpose in writing this piece was to highlight four individuals who are chasing their dreams. As with anyone who pursues their goals with fearlessness, I have nothing but respect and admiration. The connection they share is that they all cut hair for a living. Three of the four went to my elementary school, and I’ve watched them grow from kids to young adults. The fourth, Sharon, was never my student, but I couldn’t do this piece without writing about her. I’m guessing she has been cutting my hair for somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen years.
Sixth-grade for a lot of kids is an awkward time. It is an age when moods can change 100% from one hour to the next. Friends, while always significant, become an even more critical part of life for young adolescents. They become more aware of what others think of them, and in some cases, withdraw for fear that their peers will make fun of them.
Breanne did not fit the usual mold of many sixth graders. She was one of those unique kids who seemed to relish the spotlight. When there was going to be a school talent show, it was a safe bet that Breanne would be part of it. She had a stage presence and charisma that was rare for her age. I envisioned that she would someday have a job working with people. That was one prediction I got right.
The way I happened to run into Breanne after 20+ years is a story in itself. I had heard that one of my former students, Kiersten, was cutting hair in town at a salon called B Styled. I happened to be walking down the street one day and recognized the name of the shop. I popped in to schedule an appointment with Kiersten, but she was not working that day. Surprisingly, the person I was talking to happened to be another former student of mine—Breanne, who I soon learned was the owner of B Styled. What? Two of my ex-students, who I taught several years apart, worked at the same salon?
Breanne has been cutting hair for 18-years. She got interested in hair when she began working at a salon as a receptionist at age 19. One of her first impressions was the positive vibe in the shop. “Everyone was laughing and having fun. When a color would process, people just sat and chatted. I saw clients bringing their stylist coffee, fresh flowers from their gardens, Christmas presents, and hugs.”
Even when Breanne was younger, she had a dream of someday owning her own business as she grew up in an environment of multiple family businesses. “I loved the idea of dreaming, creating, and bringing a business to life. A new business is very much like an infant, nurturing it, and watching it grow.”
When Breanne became a mom, her priorities changed. Being married with two children, she wanted to put any extra time and money into her family. Not being an owner has allowed her to have more control over her schedule and finances.
As far as the future, Breanne sees herself cutting hair for now but not for another eighteen years. One of her other passions is photography, and she has now started a photography business on the side. Being a people person, it isn’t surprising that her favorite thing to photograph is people. It’s possible that somewhere down the line, she may do more with landscapes. That isn’t realistic now as she already has a full plate as a wife, mother, stylist, photographer, and an all-around great person.
She appreciates all the support she has received from her hair clients as she expands into the world of photography. “The people who come to me for hair want to support me in photography. Being a stylist has helped me be a people person and interact with all different personality types. It has also helped me to be quick and forward-thinking if I need to be.”
Breanne encourages anyone that is thinking about becoming a stylist to pursue it. It can be very challenging to get established, but she encourages others not to give up. “It helps if you like people and are patient.”
Check out her Facebook photography page if you want to see some terrific photos: https://www.facebook.com/Bre-Egbert-Photography-167425508337424
Unlike sixth-grade girls, who could be extremely challenging at times, second-grade girls were a picnic. The difference in the maturity level of boys and girls at this age is astounding. Sorry guys, but what they say about boys maturing slower than girls is true. Girls were usually cooperative, cheerful, liked school, and did whatever I asked of them. Boys were like balls in a pinball machine, constantly in motion and bouncing from one place to another. They were still likable, but for many, sitting for any length of time was a challenge.
Kiersten was one of those eager to please second-grade girls. I’m sure her friends now would be surprised to learn that she was quiet and shy in those days. She did not like to be called on or ever be the center of attention. Despite her reticent nature, Kiersten had many friends and was one of the brightest students in the class. Now, she is full of personality and charm with a fabulous sense of humor. Not only do I get a great cut, but it’s also fun to visit with her.
Kiersten has been cutting hair for almost six years and enjoys what she is doing very much. She had known for a long time that she wanted to be a stylist. “I used to go to the salon and loved the atmosphere. When I was in high school, my stylist at the time encouraged me to go to beauty school and inspired me.”
She was also interested in beauty and YouTube and combined those two interests. “One of my favorite YouTubers attended cosmetology school, which was awesome to watch. Going into high school, I had the mindset that as soon as I graduated, I would go to beauty school.” Kiersten followed through on her plans, graduating from Fredrick and Charles Beauty School in 2015.
Kiersten enjoys many parts of her job. “I think what I love the most is the freedom it gives me. I like being able to create my own schedule. I also love building connections with my clients and making people feel beautiful.”
One thing that many of us wrestle with is finding a balance between our personal and professional lives. Kiersten is no different. “One of the few downsides to my job is finding a work and life balance and setting boundaries.” She typically works 40 or more hours per week. “After the Covid shutdown, I was so thrilled to be back at work, but I was working late every night and on my days off as well.” While it was nice to be busy, she realized it would be impossible to keep up that pace. “I try to have a long weekend at least once a month, and I got a work phone to separate business calls from my personal phone.”
Keeping on top of the current trends in the beauty industry is another aspect of the job that she enjoys. “I am part of several hairdressing forums, which helps me stay in the loop for all the current trends. My biggest passion is hair-coloring, and I learn many new techniques in online classes and from Instagram. I typically attend hair shows every year, which is really inspiring and gets me excited to be part of this industry.”
Kiersten is happy right where she is in her career. “I do see myself doing this job for a long time. I love what I do. When I decide to start a family someday, I think the flexibility of this job will be perfect. I am very happy where I am now with the clientele and connections I have built. I can’t wait to see where else this career takes me.” Things could change down the line, but she seems content for now. “I love being a booth renter. I get to run my business the way I want without all the responsibilities of running a salon. Someday, I can picture myself owning a small one or two chair salon.”
Kiersten’s best piece of advice for anyone starting in the industry is to stick it out. “it’s hard to build a clientele at first and can be discouraging at times, but it’s so worth it once you get to a good place.”
Christian—4-Ever Faded Barber Shop
While Christian passed through my elementary school, I never got a chance to teach him. He was the same age as my son, and they were in some of the same classes together. They played basketball together on the school team—the Pine Hill Pandas—not exactly a name that put fear into their opponents. Christian’s family was one that I will never forget. I got a chance to teach his younger sister, Cleo, who was the kind of kid any teacher would love to have in his classroom. She always looked out for the kids who were lonely or needed a friend. I also taught his nephews Payton and Ronnell. One of my favorite memories of Christian’s family was how supportive they were of one another. If one of the kids had a basketball game, most of the rest of the family would be in attendance. He had the cool factor, even back in sixth grade.
Christian, now 28, started cutting hair partly out of necessity coming out of high school. “Growing up as a mixed-race person in Eureka, I found there were no barbers around to cut hair that looked like mine. I started cutting my own hair.” Like any new skill, it took a bit to master. “After a lot of failed attempts, I figured it out and proceeded to cut my friends’ hair as well.”
Christian has done a lot of different things already in his young life. After graduating from high school in Eureka, California, he moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. “My older brother helped get me a job as a cook in a restaurant, and I found out it was something I enjoyed doing.” Like many young people, Christian continued looking for the right job that paid well and made him happy. “I bounced around for about two years between working in retail and factory jobs. I landed back in the kitchen and decided that I wanted to work my way up.”
The next few years, Christian followed that dream, and after about four years, he earned a sous-chef position in a well-known restaurant in Fayetteville. A year later, he became a head chef. After a time, he moved back to be with his family in California.
One of Christian’s dreams has always been to start his own business. “It has always been my goal to have my own business. My first thought was a restaurant, but then I realized a barbershop could be a stepping stone to lots of new businesses.” After a stint cutting hair at another shop, Christian took the plunge earlier this month and opened his own barbershop called 4-Ever Faded. Wanting to show my support for his new business, I got my haircut today in his shop. Here I am looking so fresh after my cut!
Every smart owner has a unique approach to making his/her business work, and Christian’s mantra says a lot about his style. “I don’t just sell haircuts; I sell confidence. To me, that means a lot more than just a haircut.” This is not the end of his story. “I see myself cutting hair for a while, but I also want to be an entrepreneur. This is just the beginning, and there’s plenty more to come.” Business is going so well for him that Christian is looking to put in a new chair and hire another barber.
Most of the time, people know what kind of haircut they want, but Christian enjoys the challenge and creativity that comes with the job. “Very seldom do clients give complete control to me, but when they do, I definitely enjoy that. If I think a customer would look better with a different haircut, I might suggest something, but I never force it. I get to be creative, and I enjoy seeing a customer’s reaction when I turn them around, and they see their new haircut.” For anyone considering cutting hair for a living, Christian’s advice is, “Do it. Anything is what you make of it.”
My original intention in writing this article was to highlight former students who got into the hair industry, but even though I didn’t teach Sharon, she has cut my hair longer than anyone. With seventeen years in the industry, I have stuck with her through several shops. From Master Cuts to the Beautiful Group to Salon 20 and the soon-to-be-opened Supercuts, she has been a fixture in the Bayshore Mall. I’m guessing I walked into her shop one day about fifteen years ago, and the rest is history. For most of that time, she has been the manager. As more and more stores in the mall closed, Sharon has kept going. Besides giving a good haircut, she is super-efficient. I appreciate that Sharon gets me in and out quickly. She has an infectious laugh, and I always enjoy talking with her.
Sharon’s journey to becoming a stylist and manager is fascinating. After she worked for six years in the medical field, she decided to switch careers. One of her longtime friends, Matt Sharkey, encouraged her to get into cosmetology. The next four years were a whirlwind. “In my 20s, I was a single mom, working full-time and taking classes. I was driven by the challenge of expanding into another business. I juggled everything that life threw at me in those four years, but the drive and sacrifice were well worth it.”
Graduating from Fredrick and Charles Beauty School in 2003, Sharon fearlessly dove into the deep end of the pool, and seventeen years later, she is still cutting hair for a living as a stylist and manager. Sharon has worked for many franchises affiliated with Regis, the largest salon chain in the world. She started working for Master Cuts in 2004. “It was scary starting out with no prior experience.” As with anything Sharon took on, she did it with passion. “I asked a lot of questions and was driven to be successful. In just a year and a half, I had already moved into the management side of the business. I enjoyed the added responsibility while ensuring the success of my company.”
Sharon’s career at Master Cuts was extremely successful. She earned several awards from the corporation for running one of their top salons. The photo below was taken of Sharon when she was with Master Cuts and was awarded a trip to Berlin, Germany, to receive the Presidential Award for her store’s success.
The favorite part of Sharon’s job is undoubtedly the customers, which she refers to as her “guests.” There is no question how important her guests are to her. “I like getting to know them and to learn about their families and interests. I always remember details from their previous visits that we have talked about.” As a longtime customer of Sharon’s, I can certainly attest to that. She makes me feel important and tries to make sure that I always leave happy.
Sharon admits that one of the more challenging aspects of the job is how she gets emotionally attached to her guests. “I put my whole heart into my customers’ lives and treat them as part of my immediate family.” She acknowledges how hard it is when one of her valued customers passes or even moves out of the area.
Lots of times, when a stylist works for a company, things change that she has no control over. Sharon worked for Master Cuts for over fourteen years until Regis dropped their affiliation with them. The store in the Bayshore Mall became part of The Beautiful Group. Sharon remembers one of the most challenging times with them was when the company abruptly shut its doors without warning. Stylists who had been cutting hair with Sharon for a long time were suddenly out of work. Sharon landed on her feet again when a regional manager for The Beautiful Group founded Salon 20. She was able to rehire many of the stylists who had worked for her before.
Right when it seemed the ship was back on course, Covid came along. The shop closed for a time, and after a year, Salon 20 closed. Despite all the setbacks, Sharon keeps going. “You choose a career to work through all the changes. I love watching others grow and get excited about their career choice.”
The hurdles are always there. The biggest one is often trying to keep a shop staffed with people coming and going. After cutting hair for 17 years, she admits that her feet often hurt at the end of the day. It can be hard when you’re on your feet a lot. Knee and back pain sometimes bother her.
But Sharon is a survivor, and she’s moved on to her next challenge. Her latest project is working with her friend and business associate, Scott Merriam, in opening up Supercuts at her old site in The Bayshore Mall. Scott, a local owner, is working with Sharon to build a strong franchise of local stylists. Supercuts is under the Regis umbrella of salons. Look for Supercuts to be opening at the end of April or the beginning of May.
I know that I will continue to follow my students’ progress. The best reward for a teacher is watching these young adults making their mark in the world and achieving their dreams. My advice to all young people continues to be the same: find out what you want to do in life and believe in yourself. Chase your dreams with fearlessness. Not only will you be happier, but you will inspire someone else to do the same. What could be better than that?