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“Hairdressers don’t make mistakes. They make discoveries,” Robert Cromeans, Global Artistic Director of Paul Mitchell, proclaimed on the Sola Sessions stage in Chicago on September 24th. And at the 2018 Chicago Sola Sessions, boy were discoveries made. Two days, 10 vendors, 16 presenters, 400 beauty professionals, and over 1000 balloons, the Chicago Sola Sessions provided endless opportunities for our attendees to discover inspiration, education, and community - yielding the biggest and most successful Sola Sessions to date!

The event kicked off on Sunday, Sept. 23rd with an exclusive hands-on training from The Business of Balayage, followed by a cutting class with Hattori Hanzo Shears’ John Mosely, aka Popular Nobody, hosted in the same barber shop that Al Capone used in the 1920s. Guests were also invited to attend a vendor expo with event partners, featuring over 10 vendors, including Paul Mitchell, Professional Salon Concepts, Mizani, SolaGenius, Hattori Hanzo Shears, Muse Beauty Pro, Bioelements, Hairbrained, SalonCentric, Hairdo, iEnvy Professional, Salon Tech and OPI.

On Monday, Sept. 24th, Sola pros gathered back at the beautiful Venue SIX10 for a packed day of inspiration, education, and community. Check out these 10 reasons why this was a Sola Sessions for the books!

1. Inspiration

Kim Bennett, Sola’s Culture Ambassador & Director of Industry Relations (and the event emcee) set the tone for the day with some truth. “Sometimes you have to get uncomfortable to grow.” Kim shared how stepping outside of her comfort zone in her business - specifically adopting new technology to switch from a traditional answering machine to using SolaGenius to manage her books, transformed her personal life and helped her grow her business exponentially.

2. Motivation

Nina Kovner, founder and Chief Awesomeness Empowerer of Passion Squared, reminded us to believe in ourselves, even when others around you don’t. She shared her inspirational story of leaving her dream career, dream salary, and dream life because she felt a pull in her heart to do something else. She shared vulnerable moments and finally helped us all defy gravity with a touching sing-a-long from the musical Wicked.

3. Marketing and Technology

Jennie Wolff, Sola’s VP of Marketing and Education, taught us that, “No one is more uniquely qualified to tell your story than you.” As business owners it’s crucial you understand that your story is what people are buying. According to marketing guru Seth Godin, “People do not buy goods and services. They buy relations, stories and magic.” Learning effective storytelling is the quickest way to connect with your customers and create a relationship that lasts.

4. Business Building Tips

Robert Cromeans declared, “Tell people when they need to come see you.” Focusing on frequency of visits from creating loyal repeat customers will increase your annual revenue more than building a larger clientele. You do this by creating a one-of-a-kind client experience for your customers. Add a scalp massage at the shampoo bowl or offer a complimentary deep conditioning treatment if you notice dry scalp. They won’t have a choice but to come back for more!

Terri Cowan, industry expert and founder of Professional Salon Concepts, had us ask ourselves, “What is the minimum you’ll accept from you?” By setting your standards high and creating habits, rituals and services your clients can bank on, you’ll keep the fire within lit and get your customers to say, “That was great! I want to do that again!” Terri emphasized that skillful hands are important for any beauty professional, but a skillful mind, eyes, and intentions are the factors that determine success.

5. Textured Hair Education

Evie Johnson and Jamal Edmonds from Mizani brought an upbeat, energetic show and shared how textured hair can be a wonderfully profitable business in the salon. They helped the audience take the fear out of braiding by showcasing easy braiding techniques.

6. Barbering

John Mosely of Hattori Hanzo Shears and barber extraordinaire performed a live, dry cut, emphasizing, “Dry don’t lie.” John dropped some tool knowledge on us, changing up the traditional barber game of cutting with clippers by using shears over comb. By cutting on dry hair, you’ll never miss a mistake.

7. Dynamic Cut and Color

The artistic team from John Paul Mitchell Systems included Robert Cromeans, Mary Cuomo and Donna Mizell. Known as “The greatest showman,” Robert and his team did not disappoint. In one hour the trio performed 10 styles, seven cuts and two colors. However, the most profound and valuable part of their performance was creating salon reality looks that stylists in the audience could take home and do the next day in their own salons.

8. Leading Ladies

With five Leading Ladies and industry expert Gordon Miller as moderator, the Leading Ladies panel was chock full of valuable insight and advice, ranging from niche marketing strategies to the importance of mental health. It was hard to choose just one takeaway, so we picked one highlight from each!

Leading Ladies founder Tracey Hughes gave some helpful business advice saying, “Look at your business like a brand.” She’s developed initiatives for her companies so that her businesses can continue to run without her needing to be there.

Jenny Strebe, aka Confessions of a Hairstylist, discussed creating a healthy work-life balance. She said when it comes to a relationship, find someone who supports you and understands your needs. Also listen to your intuition and know when you need to make more time for yourself or your family.

Najah Aziz touched on niche marketing and how she’s been able to grow a successful brand centered around short, textured hair. She advises posting on social media every day and focusing your posts on what you love to do. Don’t post pictures of long-haired blondes if you’re trying to build a clientele with short, dark hair!

Sonya Dove talked about the value of self care and that it not only creates a more successful career, but a happier, healthier life. “Give back to yourself. We are all deserving of happiness.”

Kris Sorbie, Redken Education Artistic Director, spoke to the importance of specializing your client experience asking, “What can you offer to clients to separate yourself from other stylists?”

Gordon Miller inspired us by sharing how reframing the way he thought changed his entire life. Quoting Wayne Dyer he said, “If you change the way you look at things the things you look at change.”

9. Side Sessions

Not a stylist? No problem! Whether you’re a makeup artist, esthetician, or stylist interested in additional services, we’ve got you covered! The Side Sessions stage included dynamic makeup tutorials from Muse Beauty and skincare techniques from Bioelements. Attendees were also treated to a lunchtime braiding and updos segment from Jenny Strebe (@theconfessionsofahairstylist)!

10. Swag, Swag, Swag!

We know everyone loves FREE! From giveaways to swag bags there was no shortage of freebies for our Sola pros. Every attendee received a Sola blue swag bag stuffed with goodies from Hattori Hanzo Shears, OPI, SolaGenius, Paul Mitchell, Bioelements, HairDo, Mizani, Muse Beauty and Passion Squared.

We even witnessed this #heartmelt moment when one of our Faces of Sola, Chris Matthew, won a giveaway and wanted to offer it to someone else!

The 2018 Chicago Sola Sessions was by far our biggest event ever, but the countdown is already on for the next one. Stay tuned in the coming months for our next Sola Sessions announcement!

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