Influential Entrepreneurs in the Professional Hair Industry - PAST & PRESENT

Influential Entrepreneurs in the Professional Hair Industry - PAST & PRESENT
In celebration of International Womens Day, we thought we'd take a look back through history at some of the women that have made the Professional Hair Industry what it is today and are an inspiration as artists and entrepreneurs. Though the majority of celebrity hair stylists, colourists and businessmen are men - these women have made crucial contributions to hair fashion and business. And there are more, even though they may not shout about their achievements. What seems to tie them together and where success truly lies, is the importance of education and teaching skills to other women - whether they be clients, customers, employees or fellow hair stylists.

Martha Matilda Harper

Martha Matilda Harper was born in 1857, Ontario, Canada. Known as a very successful businesswoman, entrepreneur and inventor she built her own international franchise of hair salons that focused on hair health and services and products aimed at women with low income. Harper's franchising and methods represent the beginnings of the professional hair salon and how hair services became a viable business. Her belief was that education and good quality was the route to success. She focused on good customer service and ensured that clients enjoyed their experience, offering head massages as well as child care throughout the day at her salons and into late evening. She was also responsible for early marketing, her floor-length hair appearing in advertisements for her products and recognisable to women of the time. Working as a servant for 25 years, she saved the money to start working full-time for herself producing a hair tonic that she had invented. Eventually the company had produced more than 500 franchises and an entire line of hair care products all made from natural ingredients. Harper was also an inventor. She invented the reclining shampoo chair which is still seen today in salons today.

Madam C. J. Walker

Madam C. J. Walker born in 1867 in Louisiana. She was an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and a political and social activist. Famous for being the first female self-made millionaire in America and one of the most successful female entrepreneurs and business owners of all time. Her business model was based on developing and marketing a line of beauty and hair products formulated for African American Hair as other products at the time were ineffective and even harmful to the more sensitive scalp. She also made a lot of financial donations to organisations, becoming a patron of the arts. Madam C. J. Walker marketed herself as an independent hairdresser and retailer of cosmetic creams. The “Madam” in her name was adopted from women pioneers of the French beauty industry and she started her business selling her products door to door, teaching other black women how to groom and style their hair. From there, she opened her own beauty parlour and established a College to train "hair culturists" before relocating her business to Indianapolis, where she established the headquarters for a Manufacturing Company. She later built a factory, hair salon, and beauty school to train her sales agents, and added a laboratory to help with research. Many of her company's employees, including those in key management and staff positions were also women. Much like Harper, Madam Walker focused on education to make her business successful. She trained nearly 20,000 women to become "beauty culturists" as well as businesswomen in their own right using "The Walker System", her method of grooming that was designed to promote hair growth and to condition the scalp through the use of her products. She also understood the power of advertising and brand awareness. Heavy advertising, primarily in African American newspapers and magazines, in addition to Walker's frequent travels to promote her products, helped make Walker and her products well known in the United States.

Jen Atkin

Atkin, originally from Utah, is the most in-demand celebrity stylist today, and has also launched her own range of hair care products developed from feedback she received on Instagram. She is as well known as her clients and has a very strong presence across all social media outlets. She is a great example of a modern businesswoman as well as a talented hair artist. She has demonstrated how Social Media is a now essential business tool in developing your skills - from cataloguing ideas and brainstorming to discovering or even starting the next big trend. It's also how you can cultivate new clients and entire audiences that can help you in your success. She was an early user of Instagram and used it to document her work and progress. Once celebrities started mentioning her in their own Instagram universe, her popularity and fame grew. Originally from a strict Mormon community, Atkin left at 19 years old to pursue her dream in modern fashion and hair and moved to LA. She spent years working in hair and assisting great people in the industry like Guido Palau (Prada and Dolce & Gabbana), John Galliano (Dior) and Marc Jacobs. She's considered one of the geniuses behind the current 'effortless' look but she believes it to be more of a statement on the modern woman and the pressures of having to appear attractive but not admitting to using products to achieve this look. As with all of these inspirational women, education seems to be a central pillar to their success. One of Atkin's goals is to teach any and all women that want to learn how they can reproduce the looks worn by their favourite celebrities. To simplify the process, break down barriers and remove the elitist attitudes taken by celebrity hair stylists that have come before.