My Life As A Hairstylist

Salon owner, hairstylist, educator, product maker, photographer

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Press Release- Michael Levine Salons Announces Merger of Caramel Salon- Vancouver with Space Salon


Michael Levine and Liz Abreu met in 1995 while apprenticing at a well-known Vancouver salon. The couple got engaged and opened their first salon, called Statik, in Gastown in 1998. Adopting a business philosophy of creating culture by developing talent through apprenticeship rather than hiring talent from other local salons, they eventually moved to a 2000 sq.foot space on the South Granville Rise.

Quickly outgrowing this location, they opened Caramel Salon directly across the street from Statik in 2005. The new salon brand was an immediate hit with clients and media, placing in the top 3 in the “Best Of” issues of the Georgia Straight and having several listings in Fashion Magazine’s “Best of Canada” issues. Everyone loved the location, warm interior design and industry leading standard of service, which had been developed for years by the couple and their team. A second location of Caramel opened in South Surrey in 2012.

After 11 years, on July 30 this iconic salon is closing its doors in Vancouver.
Due to the economic stress of brick and mortal retail business on the west side of Vancouver, Caramel simply can no longer be profitable in this location. Size limitations of the physical space and the fact that the lease rate and city taxes have caused fixed rent expenses to triple since opening, those expenses can not be passed on to the clients of the salon through increased service pricing.
“There are many wonderful choices for hair salons in Vancouver, and pricing must remain competitive with other top-end salons in the city,” says Levine.

The stylists at Caramel have all been offered a position with the company’s much larger other Vancouver salon location, Space Salon, located just 5 minutes away on Broadway at Cambie. Space is an award-winning salon opened by the couple in 2010 located in the Eminence building, across the street from London Drugs, Lululemon Lab and Whole Foods. Clients can expect the same high standard of service in a newer, larger, brighter location. While Caramel’s closing is a bitter pill to swallow for the couple, the entire company is excited about new opportunities created by combining the strength of the two salons into one. And this isn’t the first time the duo has closed a location or a brand.

“We have opened nine salons since we started,” Levine states. “We see our salons and brands as part of the fashion industry; where things come and go. We’ve opened and closed salons called Statik, Tao and are now closing Caramel. While it’s been our longest running salon brand,  it has run it’s course.
Now with Space, we don’t think we’ve even scratched the surface of what is possible. The salon and brand is amazing.

This merging of the two powerhouse salons also allows the couple to focus more energy into the growth of their award-winning hairdressing school, the Vancouver Hairdressing Academy as well as their hair product company, aptly named “Product.”

After training countless of Vancouver’s most successful hairstylists, winning 6 Canadian Hairstylist of the Year Awards and being 4-time finalists at the North American Hairstylist of the Year Awards, Michael and Liz are incredibly proud of everything they have accomplished in a challenging city, and view this move as a positive for their company and their team.

Levine summarizes, “All Liz and I have ever tried to do was to teach and inspire people to have an incredible life through hairdressing. I have achieved nearly all of my childhood dreams as a hairdresser and I want to share that experience. We like to think that we have improved the lives of so many people as well as having helped raise the bar in Vancouver’s dynamic hairdressing community.”

The majority of the Senior and Master stylist team from Caramel can be found at Space starting August 1st.

Space is located at 528 West Broadway
Call 6046811444 for inquires and reservations


Get With The Program: 12 Steps To Instantly Make More Money In Hairdressing

show offWe all want to make more money. In fact we all need to make more money. The cost of living has gone way up in the last few years and as hairdressers, we tend to not always be at the higher end of the earnings average.

I have trained and developed hundreds of stylists over the years and I have watched new talent stylists with no clientele absolutely skyrocket past stylists with years of experience working in the same location, and with a solid clientele. The ones that get there fast are the ones that control their careers by doing all the little things right. They are the ones who understand why they are at work and are not interested in taking a decade to do what can be done in just 2 short years.

If you are earning the money you want, you don’t need this list. But if you are not there yet or feel like you need a push, this is the entire blueprint to success as a hairdresser.

We are in a unique position in that we can give ourselves a raise whenever we choose to. Here’s the 2 ways you can give yourself a raise today:

Step 1. Fill your chair and every available hour you have.

Step 2. If your chair is already full, raise your prices.

The first one is the harder one to do, but it becomes really easy if you do a couple of things. Well, 10 things. And all of them can be done today and will make a huge impact immediately and start you on the road to higher earnings and to Step 2.

1. Get motivated, inspired, and current!
Get up early and peruse Instagram and celebrity/ fashion blogs, get (and stay) heavily inspired and caffeinated and do your hair and makeup beautifully. And dress. All black is easiest and cheapest.

2. Show up at work a little early and evaluate your day.
Think about each client you have booked and how excited you are that they have chosen to spend their time and money with you. Tell yourself and make it your mission that you are going to give them the best hair and salon experience they have ever had.

3. If you have openings today or this week, phone every client booked over the next week or two and tell them you have a cancellation.
Your goal is to fill today! Billable hours lost today are lost to you forever. Fill today and worry about tomorrow later.

4. Do not look at your past formulas.
Never do this unless it’s Mrs Wilson who comes in for her 3 week 8/03 and 20 vol grey coverage. And you should have her memorized anyway. Stop looking at past formulas because they can immediately derail your creativity and vision.

5. Look at each client with a fresh perspective as you go to greet them.
No baggage or pre-conceived ideas of who you think they are. Things likely have changed in the 3 months since you last saw her.
Tell them as you approach that you saw they were coming in and have been thinking about what to do with their hair. If she looks amazing walking in, tell her and, “You look really beautiful right now, I’m inspired by your hair and would like to build on what you currently have, if that’s OK!”

If she needs work, “Ooh, you need some fixin’. Let’s get you changed into a gown and make your colour a little cooler/ deeper/ richer/ shinier/. The lightness isn’t bad but the tone is not working for you.” Obviously tailor it to her situation.
But even more important than you talking is that you are LISTENING. Your client loves that you are inspired by them and many will trust you to just create your vision, but many also have a clear vision as to what they want so make sure you understand what that is.

6. Tell her that what you are going to do is going to make her hair look amazing
and that you are excited about it. Act excited, be a true professional, and be dialed in to her hair and her experience today.
Step 6 will dictate the rest of the visit, because you now will work harder to elevate your performance and her experience because you have committed to an amazing result. Just watch how every thing you do becomes better than normal.

7. Take a “Before” image.
If the work you are about to do is going to create change, taking the “before” sets you up for your best performance as an artist.

8. Tell her briefly about the products you are using in her hair
as you are using them
and why they work. And you better be using the same line in your own hair. You must be passionate about the products and services your salon provides.

9. While you are performing each step of your service, plant the seed for her next visit.
As you apply her root colour, mention that it should last her 4 or 5 weeks. As you are cutting her bangs, tell her to come in in 2 weeks for a complimentary bang trim. As you are giving her that big haircut, tell her she should be able to last about 10 weeks.

10. Take an “After” image.
By forcing yourself to take a photo of your finished work, you will style better, not rush, and make sure you love what you have created. Not everything needs to go on your social media but by shooting your work, you will work harder and improve as a stylist.
And if you aren’t using social media to promote yourself, you are crazy.

11. When you walk her to the desk, TELL reception that she will need to book
her next appointment for 5 weeks for a colour or whatever it is you discussed.

12. Place 2 or 3 products you used on the desk
and tell her you left the products you used and discussed there in case she’d like to take anything home. Better yet, if she asked you about something during the service, hopefully you went to the retail area and grabbed one and explained how to use it and how it’s going to change her life, and then put it directly into her purse. Retail sales are a direct reflection of your client loving her hair and trusting your recommendations.

13. Ask her to send in her friends.

In the 3 hour visit, she’s going to talk about people; family, co-workers, friends. Tell her you want to do all of their hair. Make it clear you want to take care of her entire circle. Say it whenever she talks about people and then remind her when you thank her and say goodbye.

But Michael! How does this give me a raise today?

I promise you your client will be receptive to whatever service is needed to take her there. She will buy at least one of the products you used on her and will leave you a larger gratuity. Then she will go out feeling amazing and people who leave the salon after a great experience with a present, empathetic and inspired stylist rave to their friends about it and you. This gives you the raise into the future and will get that chair full.

Every day, every client. Perform at your highest level. Have fun, talk nonsense, but be an expert in your client’s hair.

So your chair is already full and you are afraid to raise your prices. Read all of the above and do everything listed. And raise your prices, just a little. Maybe $5. You will see your performance become much better as you improve your level of service to exceed the price increase. I wholeheartedly believe in regular 6 month price increases if you are fully booked. If nobody can get in and you can’t do more hair in a day, a small increase every 6 months keeps you on your toes and consistently earning more money.

You don’t deserve to raise your prices until your chair is full. If not enough people see value in sitting with you at $40, they certainly won’t at $50. Elevate your performance and fill that chair with bodies that leave the salon feeling like you love working with them and you are inspired by them.

Right now, you are earning exactly what you deserve. Put your best hairdresser face on each day and put yourself in a position where you deserve to earn more.


The Importance Of Bringing in Guest Artists and Speakers

If you’re a salon owner, you know that it can be frustrating to see your message fall on deaf ears. It’s okay, it happens to all of us. Bring in a like-minded guest speaker and ignite that fire through a fresh voice conveying a similar message to yours.
And I touch on some other stuff as well.