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Exploring Life & Business with Lizzie Leigh Horan of Shine Salon

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lizzie Leigh Horan.

Hi Lizzie Leigh, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I earned a BA in photography from The School of Visual Arts in NYC in 2004. In art school, I was friends with a lot of broke dudes in bands, and they would consistently ask me to cut their hair for them. The haircuts would take a few hours, but they would be fun. We would have a few beers, chat about what was going on, talk about new records, chat up news about our friend group. I loved it, but I could never quite create the same thing twice! By the time the financial collapse of 2008 hit, I had walked most available avenues of jobs within the photo industry. During that time, I had the painful realization that I wanted to pursuit photography as an artist. Just before the collapse, I was working for a photo agency in Chelsea. I loathed this job. I had sought out female mentors within the field and had been consistently let down. My boss (middle aged female) was awful. She would demean me and call me stupid in front of the whole office. Truly, I was miserable there but I was making more money than I ever had before, I was paying my loans, I was finally setting myself up to be more financially secure at 27. For these reasons, as well as not wanting to disappoint my parents (I was the first person in my family on both sides- to graduate from college), I likely wouldn’t have quit. When the collapse hit, I was let go with one week of severance. It was an awful feeling at the time but truly ended up being a great blessing! It gave me the push I needed to make the switch. I enrolled at the Aveda Institute on Spring St in Soho for the following cycle.

After completing school and getting licensed, I apprenticed at an adorable, super artsy, queer shop in the East Village called Whistle Salon. I trained under stylists with diverse backgrounds, skills and techniques. I spent most of my days off taking hair models and working for free to learn and perfect techniques, mostly under my main mentor. I worked there for seven years before moving to LA in 2017. Once we landed in LA, I got my foot in the door for an interview at The Powder Room in Silver Lake. The owner used to tend bar in the East Village and we had a friend in common who put us in touch. Jaimie (owner) and I got on immediately. After having me do a trial she sat me down and pretended to let me go, and right at the end said “Psyche! We love you!”. She had been looking for a stylist with a clientele, and I promised her I would have a clientele within two years. I will always love her for giving me that opportunity. I stayed there for 3.5 years. I toyed with the idea of opening my own salon, but there were emotional blocks and limiting beliefs I held that were inhibiting me. I didn’t realize that until I participated in a mind opening psychedelic ceremony, where I got to briefly experience my mind free of conditioning. This provided an opportunity to recognize my thinking separate of self and how it was directing my life. I had the realization that the only reason I couldn’t open a salon was simply because I thought I couldn’t.

While the words that describe my experience are not profound, the realization was! I started loosely looking for spaces just to see what was out there. I just wanted my own beautiful space where there would be no retail pressure and there would always be good music playing. With all the extra time on my hands during salon shutdowns, I kept searching online for spaces and came across the spot I’m at now. My partner, James and I went to go see it and it was an immediate yes for me, which had never happened at other spaces. It checked all the boxes – street front space with windows, big enough for two chairs, within a 2 mile radius of Silver Lake and decent parking. James designed the space while I consulted, and he built it out by himself in July and August of 2020. He had always wanted to design a retail / commercial space, so it was lovely that this wasn’t a huge “ask”- it would also be a financial vehicle for our partnership (we are married). While he built out the space with his own hands, I did all the back-end organizing and research. I knew I wanted to create a space that was ethical and responsible in terms of what products were being used and sold. The pandemic created space in our lives for us to create my dream job.

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Learning to do hair means giving a lot of free services. It takes time, consistent effort and a sense of pride. You don’t want someone walking out of the salon with hair that’s meh. Your work should speak for itself when it’s out in the world. It’s really hard in the beginning. As an assistant you make very little money, generally clients don’t regard you with the same respect they offer their stylists, and it’s hard on your body. The last thing you want to do on your days off is give people free services, but that is what it takes. If you can’t push through that, your training will suffer. When I decided to open my own space, I knew in my heart that I had to switch to using all clean and cruelty-free products. If that is the kind of world, I want to live in than I best take responsibility for how I am showing up and what I am supporting. I switched color lines (the product hairstylists use to color hair), backbar (what we use at the shampoo bowl) and styling products when I opened Shine.

There has been a learning curve to discovering all the nuances to the line. I had been using the same color line for 10+ years and was super precise with it. It’s been tough on the ego to learn a new line on clients. I’ve done a handful of (free) re-dos in the process. Luckily, my clients know me and trust me. I do whatever it takes to make something right. Generally, the mistakes are easily corrected but I’m grateful for the grace my clients give me because I’m super critical of my work and really dislike to take more of their time. I am currently working on a proposal to take women in shelters who are looking for jobs as hair models for free services. This would allow me to explore the nuances of the color line while giving these women some pampering and hopefully a boost of confidence. All the bureaucracy and tax stuff has been really challenging too! California loves paperwork, I require three different licenses to do business in LA! But the biggest challenge was overcoming my own fears about opening a salon. I had to get out of my own way and believe in myself.

As you know, we’re big fans of Shine Salon. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
Shine is an environmentally conscious private hair studio offering a wide variety of cut and color services for adults of all textures and gender expressions. We do not price by gender, but by the length of hair and time the service takes. We are known for taking time with clients for in-depth consultations and being honest with our skillset. I take special pride in the range of services I offer for all hair textures. Natural highlights? We got you. Neon pink panel? No problem. Feminine short hair? Check. Masculine long hair? Totes. We will never try to pressure you into buying anything or make you feel bad about what you are asking for. And we only use clean, cruelty-free products!

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
I searched for a mentor while in the photo industry and never had any luck. I found a most excellent mentor (I had a few, but one main one) in the salon I apprenticed at. Once Angela recognized how committed I was to advancing, only then she matched what I was willing to give. She allowed me to take hair models while she was taking clients. I needed to be able to work independently, so she could go about her day with minimal interruptions, as a day full of clients is already a lot of work without the added tax of supervising me. This is made all the difference with my training. My advice would be, if you are dedicated to learning a craft, find places near where you live that does the craft well and get in there. Introduce yourself, tell them you want to work there and mention reasons why you are drawn to that particular place. In terms of hair, if you want to do both cut and color, don’t train somewhere that makes you specialize. Look with your consumer eye for shops where you might like to get your hair done. If you have the resources, it might be good for you to book a service at a place to get a feel for the environment. This will give you an inside view on things like female employees being forced to wear heels and make up, if they have a dress code for employment if there is an atmosphere of gossip/ drama, etc.

Being a stylist takes a lot of physical, mental and emotional energy, and taking on an apprentice is a lot of work. It’s an investment, really. When someone is teaching you something, be open. Put your defenses away and truly listen, generally people aren’t interested in spending the time listening to you defend something they were not attacking you for. We all make mistakes, but take responsibility for yours- a good mentor will respect you for it. Honesty is key for trust, which is foundational for any meaningful relationship. I want my clients to feel safe coming to see me, so as long as Covid is an issue I will be working alone, but I will be looking for an apprentice at some point soon. For me, the right fit of personality, style and willingness to learn are the things I will be looking for. I want them to assist me three days a week and take models one day a week. After a certain level of training has happened, I will promote this person to a commission stylist and when they have their own clientele, promote them to a renter.

Pricing:

  • Very thick long haircut $125-150
  • Long haircut $90-125
  • Short haircut $65-90
  • Full Highlights $350-400
  • Single Color Painted at root $125

Contact Info:

  • Email: shinesalonla@gmail.com
  • Website: www.ShineSalonLA.com
  • Instagram: @ShineSalon_LA / @LizzieLeighHair


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