Hard economic times are nothing new for Sherry Prather, owner of the Booneville Academy of Cosmetology.
“I opened my business in the middle of a recession in the 80s and I didn’t even know it,” she said.
Business was steady at her hair salon, she said, but she had more clients barter for payment.
For example, she said she had an optometrist as a client who got regular haircuts and pedicures. As payment, he filled her contact prescription for free and did free eye exams her family.
It’s not a new concept for the industry. Prather said she talked with a woman whose family operated a beauty shop during the Great Depression. The woman, who has since died, told Prather than it was normal for clients to pay for haircuts with food.
HED: ‘Full to capacity’
* Beauty schools say they are busy because hair cuts and coloring services are considered ‘necessities’ by consumers.
By Carlie Kollath
Owners of area cosmetology schools say they are “busier than ever” preparing students to make the world a more beautiful place, one person at a time.
They say they aren’t seeing the economy hit their industry as much as it has hurt others.
“Our school is full to capacity and we have a waiting list,” said Sherry Prather, owner of the Booneville Academy of Cosmetology.
Mississippi requires licenses for cosmetology professionals such as hair stylists and manicurists. The cosmetology license requires 1,500 hours of training through an approved program before a person can work in the field.
Prather currently has 28 students that range in age from 17 to early 50s. Some went to college for a year and found it didn’t work for them. Others were laid off and are looking for a new career.
And, Prather said the beauty industry is a viable option during a recession.
“It’s a good time because people might not be able to buy a new car or a new house, but they can go get a haircut,” Prather said. “I’ve done this since 1989 and it doesn’t feel like I’m ever going to work. It’s rewarding not just in the monetary way, but in making people feel good about themselves.”
The “feel good” mentality is primarily responsible for the continued health of the industry, said Heather Black, director of KC’s School of Hair Design in Pontotoc.
“Women are not going to let themselves do down,” Black said. “They’ll find a way to pay for it.”
Haircuts and hair coloring are now necessities, she said.
“Hair color is the biggest money maker in the industry because once you start you can’t stop,” Black said.
However, she has seen a slowdown in the enrollment for specialty training programs for skin and nails because, she said, facials and manicures are considered luxury items. Students are enrolling in the overall cosmetology program at 20-year-old school, instead of the specialty programs for nail technicians and estheticians that are cheaper and shorter than the 11-month cosmetology program.
It’s a smart move in this economy, Black said. While the cosmetology program is longer, it teaches the specialty programs along with hair techniques.
“You don’t want to limit yourself and when you go into a specialty, you limit yourself,” she said.
And many doors open for people with cosmetology licenses, she said. Along with a career as a hair stylist or a manicurist, they can work with chemists developing beauty products or they can be a makeup artist or a sales rep.
Prather said it also offers people flexibility.
“You can take your license and go work at a salon on a cruise ship,” she said. “You never have to do the same thing every day.”
Contact Carlie Kollath at (662) 678-1598 or firstname.lastname@example.org.