Today I will be bringing you yet another Thriving Stylist Spotlight interview style, where I will introduce you to a good friend of mine Callie McWhirter. First let me tell you my story with Callie. I met Callie a few years ago through my Thrivers Society program, she joined as a brand-new stylist who was actually still is cosmetology school at the time. She had joined Thrivers Society because she knew she was going to need some guidance on how to build a strong clientele from the start. I feel fortunate to have been with her through her entire professional journey, it was easy to see from the beginning that she was incredibly intelligent, very ambitious, and had some awesome success. So, when she signed up to join me live in person at one of my hairstylist building retreats, I was beyond excited to meet her, and from the moment I met her I knew she was something special. The more I learned about how successful she was in such a short period of time, along with her goals for the future, and how she built a clientele for herself very naturally and almost effortlessly, I knew she had a story that we had to share. I’m really excited to have her here with us to share her story. She is a small-town stylist, she got into the industry later in life as far as our industry standards are concerned and she’s absolutely crushing it.
We will be getting to know Callie through interview format, but I want to start by having Callie give us an overview of herself, her business and her salon.
Callie: I am from a teeny tiny town in Southeast Texas, and I own a mini salon. It’s a small two chair salon, it’s a stand-alone salon, and I am also a bridal stylist. I have been behind the chair for just under two years.
Britt: Like I said in Callie’s introduction, is what really impresses me so much about her is the tremendous success she’s had in such a short period of time. We’re you the kind of girl who knew she wanted to go to cosmetology school right out of high school?
Callie: This is actually a really interesting story, I did, kind of. As a little girl I did hair all the time, I had two younger sisters and plenty of Barbies to practice on. I was always the girl in high school that did everyone’s hair for prom. I started cosmetology school when I was a senior in high school. My school didn’t offer a cosmetology program, so I actually had to go a couple of towns over to an adult education program at night. I was going to high school during the day, and cosmetology school at night, I did this for about 6 months. This is where it got rocky for me, because I didn’t know if I wanted to do hair or not. I went on to graduate from high school, went to college, and decided that was not for me either, and went back to hair school when I was about 20. Fast forward 13 years later, two marriages, a divorce, three kids, and I just finished cosmetology school now.
Britt: Callie, I love that you said that because I think there’s this stigma of oh, if you didn’t go into cosmetology school when you were 18 forget it. It’s way too late, don’t even bother starting because you’ve missed your chance. You are the perfect example of following your heart and trusting your journey, along with jumping into the industry at the perfect time and how it’s so paid off for you in spades.
Callie: I agree completely. I know in my heart that if I would have done hair at 18 or 19 years old, I wouldn’t be doing it today. I’ve tried everything under the sun and I kept going back to hair every time and I now know I’m exactly where I need to be and what I’m going to do for the rest of my life.
Britt: Tell us about the first salon you worked at.
Callie: I actually still work at the first one I worked at. I was a couple months away from graduating and I knew I didn’t really have time to search around and that I needed to find a salon. I had a friend whose mom did hair in my hometown forever, she was my first hairdresser and I went to her forever, and I remember her telling me when I was younger that if end up doing hair not to do hair in Buna, which is my hometown. She had always recommended to do hair outside of town, because that is where the money was at, and that I wasn’t going to make any money in Buna. So, as I was finishing school, I already had it in my mind that working in my hometown would not be an option. I ended up finding a salon a few towns over that was only 25 minutes away from me, and I knew that’s where I was going to be. As fate would have it, I ran into this girl I knew that owned a cute little two chair salon in Buna that was 5 minutes from my kid’s school and 10 minutes from my house, and she told me she had an open chair. I decided to randomly stop there one day and I fell in love, and I ended up purchasing the salon from her. She still works with me part time, but now it’s my salon. I changed the name, I changed the decor, I changed everything and that’s how Embellish Beauty Parlour was born, and I’m still there.
Britt: That is such an incredible story. I don’t know if you can answer this, but do you have a sense of how you calmed that little voice inside your head, or that woman who told you not to bother building a salon in your hometown, because it wasn’t going to work? How did you get over that nagging thought of, I can never make it here?
Callie: Luckily, my husband is amazing and I don’t have to support myself with my income. I am one of the lucky few that gets to do what they love and I don’t have to have the income that I do. That helped, as well as I just knew that I needed to be close to my kids. I picked this industry for the flexibility of scheduling around my kid’s activities and their school schedules, and I just wanted to have life too. This was a main deciding factor, along with that I could own the salon. I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart, and so knowing that I would own the space that I was going to be at was helpful in making the decision for me.
Britt: I love that. I think if anybody is in the same position, even if you don’t have the safety net, I think Callie is the perfect example of following your heart and remembering why you chose this industry. Even if you hadn’t had the safety net Callie, this would have all worked out beautifully for you and you’re just that one example that you don’t need to listen to the person saying you’ll never make it in this small town, or you’ve got to get out of here if you’re really going to make it happen. You were driven to make it happen and you just did it.
Callie: Yes. Absolutely.
Britt: I love that. Tell us about your first year in the salon. How you marketed yourself, how you put out into the world that you were even doing hair.
Callie: The first year was actually really great. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for Thrivers Society and finding you. I actually found Thrivers Society when I was in the last few months of cosmetology school and I knew that I was going to have to level up in order to make it in my town of 3,000 people with five other existing salons. So, when I came across Thrivers Society I knew I had to have you, and I did. My first year was a learning experience, and I’m still learning. We don’t have internships in Texas, I didn’t have an associate program, I didn’t assist anywhere. It was me and this other girl that I’ve been doing hair with for several years and she only worked part time, so I kind of had to figure out my own marketing. Nobody in my town really marketed the way I did and still do. Social media was huge for me, along with word of mouth. In my town everybody knows everybody, and once people found out I was doing hair they we’re really excited about it.
Britt: What is interesting to me is that you’re in this small town and with 3,000 people and 5 salons your town is literally saturated with salons, and here you are the new girl and everyone can’t wait to see you, even though you are clearly the most inexperienced. What do you think about you drew them in? Do you have a sense of that?
Callie: I think this is maybe because I had been talking about it for so long. I posted a lot of my work though hair school on Facebook and Instagram so I think this helped to get people excited about the thought that I was finally doing hair and would be opening my own salon. I also have a 14-year-old daughter and she talked me up, my mom works in my hometown so she talked me up. Almost all my family is where I’m from so word of mouth ended up being really huge for me.
Britt: I think building business for you comes very naturally. I think you’re beautifully blessed with the gift, but I think what you have that a lot of stylists especially new stylist don’t is the confidence to just put yourself out there. So many people would have been put in your position and been like well I’m the new girl I’ll never make it. Everybody’s already got their person forget it, but you weren’t afraid to talk and say, I’ve been wanting to do this for 10 years and I’m finally doing it. I’m going to post a million pictures on social media even if it’s what nobody else is doing, I don’t care, because it’s what I want to do, and this is my career. I think you really took the bull by the horns and made it happen.
Britt: You mentioned earlier that you don’t just work behind the chair full time, but that you also have a thriving bridal business. Did you always know that bridal was going to be a part of your business, did it come very naturally to you?
Callie: Yes. Bridal has always come naturally for me. I love doing up-do’s it’s seriously my passion, so I always knew it was going to be a big part of my business. I actually went in to finish my license for the sole purpose of only doing weddings. I fell in love with the cutting and coloring side of the business while I was finishing school, and I always knew that bridal was going to be a really big part of my business.
Britt: Do you think there is a part of you that will ever stop working behind the chair and just do brides full time?
Callie: Honestly no. Right now, I have a pretty good split. I work three days in the salon, and on weekends I am on location. My goal long term would be to possibly go down to maybe once a week behind the chair and then do brides the rest of the time, but I don’t think I’ll ever leave the salon environment. I would love to own a bigger mini salon with 3-4 chairs, because I love the salon atmosphere, but I love my brides too.
Britt: Did you start working behind the chair just with that shortened part time schedule, or when you first started taking clients were you more full time?
Callie: When I first started taking clients, I was full time, six days a week and pretty much anybody that needed to get in, I was there. I was there long hours into the evening and on the weekends. I did try and start out with a schedule, and stick to that schedule, but I was also trying to build, so I was there 6 days a week. It wasn’t until the beginning of 2018 that I really set this 3-4 day a week schedule, and I’m really trying to stick to it so that I can have time for my family, my brides, and my clients.
Britt: If you don’t mind me putting you on the spot. How did it affect your income when you stopped working the 6 days a week, with all the crazy I am here for you when you need me availability and moved to the firm schedule that you made for yourself?
Callie: It actually did not impact me at all. When I looked at my schedule in January for 2018, I had 44 weddings and counting in my books. So, I might have lessened my behind the chair income, but I upped my bridal income, so it actually worked.
Britt: That’s incredible. So, you have maintained or grown your income, and you’ve really gained a beautiful work life balance back which is such a blessing.
How have you grown your bridal business? Can you attribute it to one or two things?
Callie: Yes. When I first started in the salon, I reached out to some friends that I had done their hair for their weddings, and I had gotten pictures back and started sharing those on social media to let people know I was doing weddings and to start booking me. In the fall of 2017 I met the most awesome makeup artist from the Houston area which is about two hours away from me. We met doing a styled shoot where she was doing the makeup and I was doing the hair, but I had actually been fan Girling over this girl for a while. I loved her branding, her Instagram, her website, and at the time I was trying to brand my bridal business so I was following accounts on Instagram. This girl’s account really stood out to me, and I could not believe I was working with her. Her name is Addie Allen from Houston Texas and we make an awesome team, and I have to attribute a lot of my bridal business to her. We’re both independent contractors, but then we work together, and it’s a great partnership.
Britt: How did you get that very first styled shoot opportunity? When you were first starting to get your name out there and really market yourself as a bridal stylist, how did you get these kinds of opportunities?
Callie: I was networking like crazy on social media. Photographers, venues, makeup artists, florists, you name it, I was commenting on their work on Instagram, or I was sending them direct messages with my contact information. The very first opportunity I got was in my hometown of Buna to do a shoot at a wedding venue. Since then I’ve done numerous and found it’s a really great way to build up business quickly.
Britt: Callie I love that. That was a little golden nugget for everybody reading this. Even if you’re not a bridal stylist the fact that she put herself out there, networked on social media, and wasn’t afraid of people not responding or them saying no, has paid off tremendously for her. You have to always remember for the 99 no’s you just need that one yes.
Do you find it hard to balance marketing your bridal business, and your behind the chair business on social media? Do you have two different profiles or one shared profile?
Callie: I do. This is probably my biggest struggle to date right now. I hangout more on Instagram then I do on Facebook. I currently have two separate Instagrams one for my bridal business, and one for my behind the chair business and the same goes for Facebook. Every now and then I will cross the two, but I do notice that I do more on my bridal page then my behind the chair page and I am really trying to find a balance between the two.
Britt: I love that you said that, because people often ask if they should create two separate profiles for their business or if they should merge them. I always say that if you split them, one will be favored, and you are just a perfect example of that. When we split our energy, one piece of the pie is just going to get more attention than the other, and that’s not bad it just is what it is. So, I appreciate you saying you know I give a little more love to my bridal business, and I’m okay with that, but it’s just the way it’s kind of shaken out to be.
Callie: I agree. I feel like my Instagram wouldn’t be what it is if the two were married. So, for me I had to separate them and I’m okay with that. I’m just trying to find the balance of the two.
Britt: One hundred percent. You made the right business decision for yourself and you’re confident in it and it’s working for you which is the beauty of it all.
Do you have any other killer tips or strategies you think might help us when we’re growing our business?
Callie: My first tip would be to network, network, network. You really have to put yourself out there on social media. My next thing would be that word of mouth is still gold. I know that social media marketing is everything and you can’t disregard that, but you can’t disregard referrals either. I wouldn’t be where I am without referrals. You also have to make your space in the salon a place that people want to come to, and make sure it’s cute and functional, that your service is impeccable and your clients are going to refer their friends and family to you. My last thing is going to be that just because you are from a small town doesn’t mean you can’t be something huge. It may take a little longer, or you may have to work a little harder, but it can be done. Being from a small town with multiple hair salons you have to know it’s community over competition. There’s enough work to go around for everyone, but you also have to level up and make sure you are doing everything for your career.
Britt: In the spirit of leveling up, what is next for you? I always talk about looking what’s next and having big goals and dreams, so what is on the horizon for you?
Callie: So much. Right now, this year I am really working on my education. I feel like there’s always something new and you always have to be on top of education. I’m working on that for both behind the chair and my bridal business clients. Owning a bigger 3-4 chair salon and really being able to focus on my bridal business, but then also have some really amazing people in my tribe for my mini salon is on my list too. My big one is that I want to work fashion week in New York, not really sure how to achieve that one yet, but I’ll make it happen one day.
Britt: It absolutely will happen and I will cheer you on when it does! Please let us all know where we can follow and find you on social media.
To get inspired and motivated for your own journey please check out Callie at the following:
TO HEAR MORE ON THIS TOPIC TUNE INTO THE THRIVING STYLIST PODCAST EPISODE 16. CLICK HERE TO LISTEN NOW.
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