“It takes an entire salon to raise a hairdresser,” said Rich Cutting, co-owner of Marblehead’s Bliss Salon, in a Current interview about the salon’s New Talent Development Program that turns aspiring cosmetologists into skilled hairstylists.
The program was created “out of necessity,” Cutting says, because so many new cosmetologists simply don’t know how to cut hair.
In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic and its dramatic effect on the labor market have further impacted Bliss Salon’s ability to hire and develop young hairstylists.
Cutting and his wife, Kim, founded Bliss Salon 22 years ago and were soon confronted with a problem: it appeared that hair stylists were graduating from cosmetology school with little to no knowledge on how to style hair.
Kim and two other stylists on the staff spend up to eight hours every Tuesday for roughly 60 weeks training one motivated person to become skillful enough to work as a professional stylist. The program has evolved to include most of the staff as educators.
“All of our knowledge is combined into helping one individual,” said stylist/educator Gil Rubio-Maged, who graduated from the apprentice program in 2008. “That’s what keeps [Bliss] unique.”
While Bliss Salon would like to take on more than one trainee at a time, it costs roughly $20,000 to train just one person. Salons work on small profit margins, generally five to eight percent. Bliss, however, has been able to do better than average and is able to invest in its staff.
The New Talent Development Program has seen great success since the start in 2005, according to the Cuttings. Seventeen hairdressers have been trained and gone on to work for Bliss after completing the program. Trainees are obligated to work for Bliss for at least 36 months post graduation.
“My energy, as far as anything hair-related, is here,” Rubio-Maged told the Current.
Katrina Mason, who graduated from the program in January, agreed.
“I’m so thankful that this salon exists,” said Mason. “You think you’re ready but it’s a lot different when you’re dealing with chemicals and people’s head shapes… and this salon, fortunately for me, teaches you that.”
Hairstylists are required to attend a cosmetology course to get their license, but Mason said she didn’t learn much there.
“It was a little disappointing to be honest, it was very unorganized,” she added. “Thank goodness for salons like Bliss who are actually teaching.”
COVID’s lasting impact
COVID had a big impact on Bliss Salon’s ability to find aspiring cosmetologists to join the program.
“It’s really hard to find a young, motivated person to come in and have the desire and the confidence to want to go through our training program,” said Rubio-Maged.
While Rubio-Maged was able to experience more “hands-on” learning when attending hair school in the early 2000s, Mason was not so lucky. She attended school in 2020 during the pandemic and the majority of her classes were held over Zoom. It wasn’t until she started with Bliss that Mason was able to work on a live hair model.
With hairstyling courses either being held over Zoom or not at all, many cosmetology students have lost the motivation to continue with their careers in hair care, Mason said.
Honoring the craft
Despite the difficulties that came with the pandemic, the Cuttings pride themselves on the New Talent Development Program and the education they offer to those pursuing a career in hairstyling.
“We honor the craft of hairdressing here and we want to protect it,” said Rich.
As for the future of Bliss Salon and the hairstyling industry, the Cuttings hope to pass at least two to three more qualified people through the program.
“We’re the ones making a difference,” said Kim. “I want to leave my mark here in Marblehead, I’m a Marbleheader.”
For more information about the Bliss Salon New Talent Development Program, visit blisssalonmarblehead.com/.