Ocala resident Michael Badalmenti’s ultimate goal is to be a Top 20 Stylist. As a student at The Salon Professional Academy in The Villages, he’s well on his way to realizing his dream.
“This is the Harvard of beauty schools,” Michael says of the prestigious academy.
Owned by Janet West, who also owns and operates four top-quality spas and salons in The Villages, including Argo Hair Company and Dimensions Hair Studio, The Salon Professional Academy is not your typical cosmetology school. Endorsed by Redken, the upbeat, industrial atmosphere in the Academy is enough to set it apart from others, but for students the difference is in the instruction.
Unlike many other cosmetology schools, the Academy prides itself on teaching students the full spectrum of skills needed to be a successful cosmetologist, aesthetician, or nail technician. Called The Power Wheel, each student is taught the five elements of a successful client/stylist relationship—the greeting, the consultation, the workshop, the close, and the follow-up.
“Two huge elements of being a successful stylist are communication skills and the consultation,” Janet says. “We are training our students to work in the top 20 percent of spas and salons in this country.”
And they have the proper tools to make it happen. The 10,000 square foot Salon Professional Academy features five classrooms, 50 styling stations, eight pedicure and manicure stations, a color bar, and a sound-proof aesthetic room.
“When students leave the school, they can walk into any facility knowing they will be an asset to the company and that they have the skills and knowledge to succeed in this industry,” Janet says.
Throughout the years, there have been many misconceptions about the field of cosmetology.
“People don’t realize that in order to be given a cosmetology license, students have to learn and become proficient in a multitude of courses that range from anatomy, customer service, and bacteriaology to cutting, styling, and coloring. Director of Operations Kevin Thompson also points out the income potential of a successful stylist.
“Many people think being a stylist doesn’t pay well,” he says. “Cosmetology is a wonderful industry and the income potential is great. Stylists can make six figures.”
Janet adds that her staff also educates the students about other professions within the field of cosmetology including spa/salon ownership, the possibility of working for a manufacturer, teaching opportunities, and distribution work—all of which can be fulfilling, rewarding careers.
However, becoming a successful cosmetologist takes dedication and commitment. The 92 students who attend The Salon Professional Academy spend 34 hours at the school each week for nine months. There is also a part-time, evening schedule available to accommodate students. Consider the first eight weeks of the course basic training. Students learn the fundamentals and perform cuts and styles on mannequins. The following seven months, students will meet with and take care of live guests, performing a variety of cuts, styles, and colors. By the time a student leaves the Academy, they will have performed more than 300 styles and 150 cuts.
“The state doesn’t require a student to use live models to become licensed,” admissions specialist Diane Aust says. “But we are a hands-on school and we understand the importance of real-world experience.”
Twenty-year-old Brittney Castles has been a student at the Academy since July.
“I tried college for a little while,” she says. “But then I realized that I’ve always wanted to become a beautician. I toured a few different schools, but when I walked into this one, I stopped looking. I knew I would come here.
“I enjoy the interaction I have with the guests,” Brittney continues. “It’s a real salon experience where you don’t just learn from the educators, but also from your fellow students.”
The Academy employs eight educators, each bringing their own area of expertise to the school. Educator Robin Long, who Brittney calls their “go-to perm lady,” has been a Redken stylist for 14 years and a Redken educator for three.
“What makes a good educator is caring from your heart and wanting to make a difference for the students,” Robin says. “I try to make each day a great one for my students. I tell them to look at school as they would a trip to Disney—they should experience everything they can before they leave.”
Robin adds that she, along with her fellow educators, requires better-than-average work from students, who currently range in age from 17 to 50.
“All of the educators have really great attitudes, too,” Michael says. “The students really feed off of them and learn a lot.”
And the educators are with their students every step of the way when they meet a client.. Before service even begins, the educator meets with both the student and the guest, checks on the student throughout the service being provided. Finally, the educator goes through all of the proper closing information with both the student and guest to ensure not only that all the proper steps were taken by the student, but also customer satisfaction was achieved.
“All of our educators stay up-to-date with the newest techniques and styles,” Diane says. “They attend approximately 10 workshops per year to educate themselves on the latest innovations within the field of cosmetology.”
“We’re never done learning,” Janet adds. “There’s always something new.”
Of course, after the training is done, The Salon Professional Academy takes it a step further, providing students with a career placement consultation to assist them in becoming employed. Besides the professional affiliations, the Academy also has contacts for placement in 35 states.
“Spas and salons in the Central Florida area are always invited to visit the Academy and to see our students in action.” Janet says.
“The Salon Professional Academy is a valuable asset to our community,” Janet adds. “Before this, students had to travel quite a distance to attend classes.”
And the students at The Salon Professional Academy are being trained to be the best in the business.
“There’s not one person who doesn’t want to be here,” Janet says. “All of our students are very eager to learn. Each day is fresh and new for them and that makes it exciting for us.”
The Salon Professional Academy
11915 CR103, The Villages, FL 32162
(352) 753-5511 Admissions
(352) 259-6717 Appointments
Open to the public:
Monday, 9am-5pm • Tuesday, 9am-8:30pm
Wednesday, 12-9pm • Thursday, 9am-8:30pm
Friday, 9am-5pm •Saturday, 9am-4pm