Build Lifelong Bonds by Mentoring

By Kim Thomas

When I was in cosmetology school, our instructor paired the junior students up with the senior students and the seniors were referred to as our "Big Sisters" or "Big Brothers."

In reality, they were our mentors. Thankfully, I learned so much from my Big Sister/Mentor while in beauty school.

Having attended beauty school in the 80s, I along with my peers had divided the beauty world into either black hair or white hair for purposes of training. Upon graduation, I thought that was all I needed to know to go out and embrace this wonderful field called cosmetology.

I soon realized I needed a whole lot more tools in my tool box to become well-rounded in my new profession, not only to include ALL hair types, but customer service, retail sales and business management.

I set a goal to become a platform artist and embarked upon a career that allowed me to travel, participate in hair shows and serve my chosen beauty industry as an educator. Through this path, I was fortunate to meet and work alongside giants in the beauty industry. Many of them knowingly, and some unknowingly, became my mentors.

One particular mentor comes to mind. He caught my attention because he created magic every time he styled hair.

He helped me understand in order to create any style or look, you must first paint a visual picture in your mind. Then, you execute the look on the model. That is what true beauty professionals do and he shared his secret with me.

I cannot tell you how awesome it was to have someone explain step-by-step, how to achieve any look regardless of the hair type. After working with him, I realized hair was not about black or white. He taught me that hair was about texture (fine, medium or coarse) and formation (straight, wavy, curly or over curly).

It wasn't until I was able to wrap my mind around this beautiful discovery that I was able to overcome some of the fears I had about cutting, coloring and styling different hair types.

My fear about working on different hair types was gone. That sparked my thirst for knowledge on how to market my skills for a multi-cultural market so I could expand my services and as a result… increase my bottom line.

Here's what I learned about becoming a successful multi-cultural stylist:

• Identify the fears you have when it comes to styling different hair types and overcome them.

• Stay current with the latest trends. Education is the KEY!

• Focus on the initial consultation. Be a good listener and learn what your guest wants, needs and limitations are, in order to achieve the desired look (e.g., financial, workplace, etc.).

• Know your products and customize products and services by hair texture, formation and desired end result. Remember: One size doesn't fit all.

• Start with the desired end result in mind and execute.

• Emphasize home maintenance. Make sure you retail the products guests will need to re-create the look at home or while traveling.

• Re-book the guest at the end of the experience. Make it a relationship.

• Thank the guest for allowing you to share your passion.

The beautiful thing about the beauty industry is the passion beauty professionals have for sharing information and helping one another to become the best they can be. A good mentor is honest and not afraid to tell you the truth. A good mentor will challenge you to strive for excellence within the field. A good mentor will hold you accountable. And a great mentor will be there for you at all times.

Mentoring can help create a lifelong bond. There are no words to express the feeling that comes from helping someone else discover their limitless creativity and true strengths. When thinking about mentoring, the focus should not always be on the challenges another will face. Mentors are oftentimes the first ones to help us celebrate the victories. Find someone to mentor. It feels great to give back.

Kim Thomas is the owner of Christopher Amira Salon & Spa in Cleveland, Ohio. She has been a working professional in the beauty industry for over 30 years. Thomas recently served as chairman of the Ohio State Board of Cosmetology and served as a member of the nine-person Board for two years. To reach Kim email her at