Jill’s Story

Jill Mitchell

Salon & Spa Director
Nurtur Salon + Spa, Columbus, OH

Our graduates come from all walks of life and their careers span a vast array of fields within the beauty industry. What they all have in common, is that their story started at the Aveda Institute. We sat down with some alumni to hear their story in their own words.

We’re excited to share their stories to inspire you to start your great story with us!

If you’re an alumni and want to tell your story, email greatstories@nurturaveda.com

Tell me your story, in your own words?

I was in high school, it was maybe my sophomore year, and I understood it was time for me to start making plans for my future after high school. What I knew was that even though I was very good at school, I had great grades and I was always an honor student, I didn’t particularly enjoy so much of my time being taken up by school. So I knew I needed to find a career path that I still felt good about but didn’t take two or four years. I started to think about my options when it came to timing because I’m not a patient person. I don’t like to wait for things to happen. I like to make things happen quickly.

Every time I was in the salon and there was someone catering to me and paying attention to me and telling me I was pretty and making me feel beautiful, especially when you’re an insecure 15 year old – that was always a really special time for me and I just remember how I felt when I left the salon.

I knew that going to cosmetology school could fit that criteria for me. Something that didn’t take long to get through and something where I could start working fairly quickly. Also, I had a job when I was in high school; I was very self-sufficient and would save up to get my hair done at the local salon. I would do that twice a year and being a teenager and not being taken super-seriously ever, every time I was in the salon and there was someone catering to me and paying attention to me and telling me I was pretty and making me feel beautiful, especially when you’re an insecure 15 year old – that was always a really special time for me and I just remember how I felt when I left the salon.

 

Before you started going to the salon, were you already interested in doing hair? Or was it going there in the first place that got you into it?

No, that’s the crazy part of it. I was very low maintenance, didn’t care much about my hair. I definitely wasn’t into touching other people’s hair. I didn’t wear makeup at all. I wasn’t into it as far as the art or the excitement of doing hair. That didn’t actually happen until I started to have that experience at that salon. So yeah, as a young person, I wasn’t really into beauty at all.

 

What pulled you in was the way they made you feel and you wanted to make other people feel that as well?

Yes, I wanted to work in an environment where I could give attention to a 15 year old who was like me. Maybe I could make them feel a little bit better about their life in the really hard, weird time when you’re a teenager in high school or middle school.

I wanted to work in an environment where I could give attention to a 15 year old who was like me. Maybe I could make them feel a little bit better about their life in the really hard, weird time when you’re a teenager

 

What did you initially want to be?

From the pressure of my family and my career counselors at school, I really thought I was going all the way. I thought I was going to law school or medical school. I really thought it was one of those two. To people’s complete shock and surprise, I really knew that just wasn’t the right path for me because I just didn’t have the patience for that long of schooling.

 

What was the next step? How did you eventually decide to attend cosmetology school?

It was actually a session with a career counselor at my school. My career counseling started early. I was a three-year graduate, so I took on more work, starting my freshman year in order to get out of high school earlier. That’s how much I had no patience for school. I took on more credits. A lot of my peers took one or two study halls. Instead, I filled those with classes that I could gain credits for so that I could graduate after my junior year instead of my senior year. So my career counseling started earlier because I had a shorter-term in high school. In one of those sessions, I talked about my concern with going to school for four years. A four-year degree seemed like an eternity to me. And the debt I knew I would accrue – I was really money sensitive because I grew up poor. My family was not doing well financially. I knew I didn’t want to start my life off with a lot of debt.

In one of those sessions, I talked about my concern with going to school for four years. A four-year degree seemed like an eternity to me.

I found out in this career counseling session that I received a scholarship because of my ACT scores. I got a $10,000 scholarship that I could use anywhere. Even with that, I thought, it’s only $10,000, that’s a lot of money, but in the grand scheme of things, it’s really not when going to a 4-year university. I wasn’t that impressed with the $10,000, so I told my career counselor I was really thinking of going more into a trade, specifically cosmetology school. And she, who is a woman I’m sure gets her hair done regularly, said to me “I really think that would be a mistake and such a waste of your intelligence.” I was deeply offended. I think because of my rebellious nature, what I heard her say was “you can’t be successful with that career choice and you can’t make money off of that career choice.”

She said to me “I really think that would be a mistake and such a waste of your intelligence”… I was out to prove that the stereotype that she believed and that I’m sure many, many others believed was absolutely not true.

I saw that moment as a challenge. It was a solidifying moment in that I knew what I was going to do. I was out to prove that the stereotype that she believed and that I’m sure many, many others believed was absolutely not true. I was on a mission from that point on to go to hair school, find the best one I could find and just take off. That was really the pivotal moment in that meeting right there. She told me I shouldn’t so I was like, “now I’m going to.”

 

I think that’s a good story for people to hear. There are a lot of people being asked to choose between what they love and what everyone expects of them and they need to know that a trade is a real option for a successful and fulfilling career.

Right, exactly! I’m from a very small, rural Ohio town and hair salons there were not anything impressive. They basically looked like barbershops. I mean, you don’t know what you don’t know. Now, looking back, I don’t fully have as much irritation toward that woman. All she knew was the salon world in a small town. She didn’t know what else was out there. That’s what her perception was and she thought “that’s not what I want for your life.” But I knew that there was more than that.

 

What were your dreams at that point?

I just wanted to work behind the chair, do hair, and challenge myself in a way where – I knew I had a lot of work to do personally when it came to building relationships with strangers. I was a very introverted person and fearful because I was insecure about talking to people I didn’t really know. I knew that this career would help me with that. That was one of the main things I was excited about, to push myself into a really uncomfortable position. I understood that I would be talking to people every day that I would have never met in my life and really expanding my ability to have a conversation and not be so awkward.

I knew I had a lot of work to do personally when it came to building relationships with strangers… That was one the main things I was excited about, to push myself into a really uncomfortable position.

Just having clients every day coming in, hoping that I could make someone feel seen and heard, even if it’s just for an hour or two… doing my part in that way. I just thought I would work behind the chair, make a lot of money, have a lot of clients, and that’s really the vision I had at that time.

 

What are some of the skills outside of the technical skills that you had to learn throughout your education and your career? Now that you’re in management as well, any other soft skills you had to learn?

Oh, absolutely. I’ve done a lot of growing in that area. Emotional intelligence is something that I had to learn… I was forced to learn. Luckily I had mentors to coach me and lead me. My personality type is very much honest and blunt. If I’m pushed to a point of irritation or if someone does something that I see that’s against common sense… it was hard for me at one point to control my reaction. So, having more mature and less emotional reactions was something that I learned. It’s been one of the most beneficial things I’ve learned. When you have a client, you’re basically in a business transaction the whole time. You really can’t be emotional in a negative way if there’s conflict. You have to learn a lot of conflict management, which is something that was super hard for me. I would say conflict management, emotional intelligence, and emotional control are things that I had to learn to be successful in this industry. I didn’t have those skills before.

 

Are those skills you had to learn on your own or were there tools that you were given by mentors?

What happened was that I did the wrong things. I made the mistakes, but I had coaches to give me feedback. I had to be receptive, not defensive, and understand that I needed to grow. If I didn’t have people around me that cared about me from a leadership perspective, I might still be that person. It definitely took others that cared about me to say “hey, try this next time, and this is why it could be a more beneficial approach.”

I did the wrong things. I made the mistakes, but I had coaches to give me feedback.

 

Who were some of your mentors and how did they help you move forward in your career.

When I started with Nurtur, I was kind of taken under the salon director’s wing. I would also say my peers, without them even knowing. My family… I was out to prove something to them too because I think they were definitely disappointed in my career choice. They really wanted me to do something “greater” in their perspective, like law school or pre-med or something like that.

My mom will say that what made me a difficult child or teenager is what made me a successful adult.

 

Have they come around? Do they understand that you’ve made a career out of it?

Oh my gosh, yeah! They didn’t take long at all. I think once they started to see me evolve into this mature person… I just changed. Once they saw that, they were like “Wow, you definitely made the right choice.” My mom will say that what made me a difficult child or teenager is what made me a successful adult. I can do what I want because I’m passionate about it. Not in a bratty way, but I always know what I want and I’ll do whatever I have to do to get there. I’m not expecting anyone to give anything to me. I’m expecting to do the work to achieve what I want. My mom makes that comment all the time.

 

I’m assuming you’ve done your mom’s hair at some point in time. What was it like after all of the conflict, and all of the growth, that first time when you had your mom in the chair?

She was great. She was really supportive. She still says I gave her the best haircut she has ever had. It was awesome. She would drive two hours to come to the Aveda Institute when I was in school to get her hair done by me.

 

What do you do now?

I’m the Salon & Spa Director for Nurtur Salons in Columbus, OH.

 

What does a typical day in your life look like for that job?

Oh boy! {laughs} As the director, I have my hands in every single part of the business. From the artistic side to the financial side. Every day is just whatever needs to be addressed. I address challenges, but I also do a lot of planning. So, in the moment challenges, supporting people, coaching people, helping other people grow. My main goal every day is to help people grow, the way I continue to grow.

When you work in a salon and spa, you become a family.

I can’t continue to grow if there isn’t anyone to help take on some of the work I do. Day-to-day, I’m focused on growing other people so that I can grow myself. I also handle HR issues and help people through their personal challenges. When you work in a salon and spa, you become a family. People confide in you. So, not only do I handle professional challenges, I help with personal challenges as well. I also do a lot of planning for the future – project planning and goal setting for both the individuals and for the business as a whole.

 

Do you spend much time behind the chair still or do you mostly stick to the management duties?

I do not spend any time behind the chair anymore.

 

Do you miss it at all?

I sometimes do. What I miss is the ability to have 100% control over my income by working in the commission environment, because I’m a very financially motivated person. Once you transition into leadership, a lot of times that comes with a salary or an hourly rate, so you have less control of what your income looks like. Honestly, I do miss that part because every single day it was a challenge… “How can I grow my sales today?” Now I just turn that into “How can I grow everybody else’s sales today?” I can still channel that energy of what I really liked about working behind the chair into 60 people instead of just myself. I really don’t miss taking on the client and the actual doing of hair because I really, really love what I do currently and I know that this is what I’m supposed to be doing.

How did you transition from being behind the chair to management?

It wasn’t even intentional. I went through something tragic and I just needed some time away from being behind the chair. So I moved to a front desk position. You have to give so much of yourself when you are behind the chair, one-on-one with a guest for two hours. At that time, because I was struggling emotionally and with mental health, I knew I couldn’t give my guests 100%. So I took a step back and went to the front desk full-time. That is where I really started to develop other business skills like inventory control, cash management, etc. Without even knowing it was happening, I started to become a leader and people would come to me whenever there were problems. I was always fixing things and when guests were upset I was always helping them out. I wasn’t afraid to deal with that and to just make it better for them. I always had intentions of going back behind the chair, I just started to really, really accelerate in the area of leadership so I’ve stayed there.

I was struggling emotionally and with mental health, I knew I couldn’t give my guests 100%. So I took a step back and went to the front desk full-time and there is where I really started to develop other business skills

What would you say is the highlight of your career so far?

There’s a magazine called Salon Today that highlights the top 200 salons in North America every year. This year they had an opportunity for salons to write an essay on leadership. This was the first time they’ve done this. It was pretty open, you just kind of wrote about your salon and spa’s leadership structure or leadership philosophy.

Long story short… I wrote the essay myself from a first-person perspective and sent it in. A portion of the essay was in the January 2020 publication of Salon Today magazine. One of my hobbies on the side is that I do a lot of writing, so to have those two things put together where my career and my love for writing was published, was really exciting. I’d say that’s been the highlight of my career.

So, what are your current dreams in the beauty industry, going forward?

My goal every year is to have more and more ownership in the company for which I work. I started here when I was 19, I’m 31 now. I’m transitioning more and more into an entrepreneurial mindset. I’ve grown people. I’ve done a lot of HR stuff. I feel like I’ve done well in all of the other aspects of the business and now I want to start focusing on finance and growth from an accounting perspective. That’s my goal moving forward now. Also, I would love to be a consultant for other salons that may be struggling with culture or growth or leadership, any area that they might need help in; my long-term goal would also be in consulting work.

Always take in advice, always consider it, don’t just toss it out, sit with it for a while but always do what your gut tells you to do and what your heart tells you to do.

That’s great! Lastly, if you could give 17 or 18-year-old Jill any advice, knowing everything you know now, what would it be?

I would say stick to your gut and even though you’re young, you still know what you need and what you want more than anybody else. Always take in advice, always consider it, don’t just toss it out. Sit with it for a while but always do what your gut tells you to do and what your heart tells you to do. Try not to be so influenced out of that direction of what your heart and your mind are telling you to do.

People might see you now as being stubborn, but those things are eventually what will make you great as an adult and as a leader

My advice wouldn’t be to change anything that I did. My advice would be to keep doing what you’re doing. You’re doing the right thing. It’s hard to say no when an adult is telling you that you’re wasting your intelligence. I mean, that is a line right there! Just keep being you. People might see you as being stubborn, but those things are eventually what will make you great as an adult and as a leader and as a woman.

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