Time for another Salon Spotlight interview! Why are we doing them? Because as hair industry experts, we know that the best, most useful advice comes from our stylist friends. They’re unafraid to get to the root (pun intended) of what it really means to find success in this business.
Today, we are chatting with our friend and collaborator, Katie Beth Umlor. She’s sharing her tips and tricks for running an accomplished styling business (inside and outside of a salon!) and giving us insight into where her love for hair came from. Her story is built on skill, determination, and passion for the industry.
And she knows that there is a mix of good days and bad days in the industry. Katie says, “when I’m having a bad day (and I don’t feel like working), I always remind myself that I will probably meet someone new today and they may change my life! I have been given so many opportunities on those bad days that it just keeps me looking forward to tomorrow.”
We’re excited to have the chance to pick Katie’s brain so that we can help other folks in the industry scale their work, hone their craft, and keep moving forward. Read below to find out what Katie had to say during her in-depth interview.
Q: Katie, where did your passion for doing hair come from?
I feel like I have been styling hair my whole life. When I was around 8 years old my mom took me to Washington DC [to see] the Washington Monument. In line, there was a lady braiding her daughter's hair. She would brace it, take it out, do a different braid, take it out, and it just kept going.
I couldn’t keep my eyes off her hands. When we got home that evening I ran to my bag and grabbed a doll and just began braiding….over and over again. From that moment I became obsessed.
Q: What kept the momentum going?
As I grew up, I had the dream of being an actress. I was always involved in community theater [and] found myself always helping others with their hair. After college, I talked a lot about cosmetology school…but never went!
It wasn’t until I was working in accounting that I looked at myself in the mirror and said “what am I doing?” I immediately called the local cosmetology schools and got started. After 10 years of being a licensed stylist, I don’t know what I waited so long for…..this is what I was meant to do!
Q: Tell us a bit about your work in a salon!
I only work at a salon part-time. I live in Los Angeles where I do a lot of work on sets (film, music video, photo shoots), at-home styling sessions, and fashion shows. The salon I work at in San Diego is called So Cal Salon. My friend owns the salon and I am a visiting artist every 6-8 weeks.
Q: What an interesting approach to styling. What would you say you specialize in?
I feel like I am a well-rounded stylist as every job I do is different. At the salon, I am concentrating on cuts and colors. These clients are family and friends that have been with me for the last 10 years. They have been my biggest support and I make sure I make time to go see them!
On-set I wear many hats. I am super busy first thing, getting the cast ready for the day. I have 15-20 minutes per person to get a solid style done. After that, it's watching the monitors to be sure the style looks great and stays put. [I also make] sure from day-to-day the style is the exact same if we happen to shoot the same scene days apart. There is a lot of attention to detail [required].
Q: Do you have any advice for other stylists?
When I am working in the salon I am sure to educate my clients on the products I am using (what shampoo I chose and why or what products are best for the style/look they want to achieve at home).
After finishing, I line up the products on the desk for the client to see and say, “these are all the products I used today. I highly recommend (pushing forward three to four products) these for you today. But if you can only take one or two home today, I wouldn’t leave without these (pushing forward the top two products).”
Nine times out of ten, the client will take at least two things home.
Q: Wow, that is SUCH great advice! What are your 3 tips for success as a stylist with her own business?
If you do not allow enough time with your clients they notice and feel the difference. So, if you think you only need three hours for a highlight and cut, add an extra 1/2 hour as a buffer so you take your time and give your client the attention they deserve. Our clients come to us to relax and boost their confidence…they don’t want to feel rushed.
Especially if your client is making a drastic change. Make sure this isn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision, you don’t want them to leave your chair regretting [it]. Ask questions and pay attention to their day-to-day:
Every answer should help to give your client the best end result! And if your client is happy, they will tell their friends! Word of mouth is the best form of advertising.
I know this is weird, but remembering your client's birthday and having a small gift for them makes them feel special. I try to have some small products that I give my clients from time to time. “Try this and let me know what you think!” Anything free will make them smile!
Q: And finally, what do you love most about doing hair?
I love when my clients leave my chair feeling super confident and beautiful. Seeing them smile and post on social media helps boost me up and reminds me that the smallest things can make a huge difference in a person's day.
I may be exhausted at the end of a long day, but being able to give some positive energy and attention to someone makes it all worth it!