From the moment you enter The Salon Professional Academy, you feel as though you’ve stepped out of The Villages and into a high-end, New York City salon. An array of products line the walls—from the hottest colors of polishes, blushes and shadows to the gels, sprays and shampoos that create the chicest hair styles. On the salon floor, busy students maneuver through the 50 styling stations and instructors lecture on the science of hair-coloring and styling.
“I was completely impressed with the facility,” says Molly Soltis, who joined The Salon Professional Academy team in February 2011 as director of marketing. “All of the students are held to such high standards, they’re prepared to be professionals when they leave.”
And although the atmosphere is one of high energy and excitement, students are preparing for their future. Like students being prepared for any career, they work for their education.
The Salon Professional Academy, a Redken 5th Avenue Premier School, is one of the top cosmetology schools in the country. A new cycle of classes begins every five weeks, when 20 to 25 eager new students begin their education in cosmetology. The curriculum takes place over nine months, and approximately 120 students are being educated at any given time. Ten experienced educators ensure that students get the personal attention they need to excel.
The 10,000-square-foot facility boasts 50 styling stations, eight pedicure and manicure stations, a color bar and a soundproofed skin care room. The Academy also features five state-of-the-art classrooms, where students take theory classes, and a library with computers for researching the hottest styling trends and techniques. With all of these amenities available, students are guaranteed a well-rounded education.
New students spend the first five weeks in the classroom learning the basics of hair cutting and styling. This allows students a chance to perfect their newly acquired skills on mannequins. Once ready, they work directly with clients who come in for services.
“Thousands of people walk through these doors every month, so students have lots of opportunities to work with new clients,” says Janet West, owner of The Salon Professional Academy. She stresses that while students earn an outstanding education in the field of cosmetology, they also learn another quality vital to their profession: business skills.
“Beauty is a business, and students need to know how to build a business and retain their clients by understanding how to interact with people and perfect their communication skills,” says Janet, who believes this aspect of The Salon Professional Academy’s curriculum is what sets it apart from other cosmetology schools.
From the moment they take to the floor, students are learning how to become better business professionals. They have the opportunity to interact with new people every day. They greet customers, listen and consult with them about their service, and ask for referrals, all aspects of the business they will have to master once on their own. They also gain experience using computer software to schedule and confirm appointments. And, as students become more practiced on the floor, prices for their services increase, illustrating the importance of performing quality work.
“Students need to know how to charge for their services and how to build a strong clientele in order to be successful in this business,” Janet explains. She stresses that beauty is a performance-based industry, which means that business skills, combined with strong technical skills, set the stage for a solid career upon graduation.
“Our main goal is to prepare students to be in the top 20 percent of the field of cosmetology,” says Kevin Thompson, director of operations. “We want students to walk out of here and feel confident working in a high-end salon.”
And while working in a salon might be the goal of many students, the educators at The Salon Professional Academy stress that there are many options available after graduation. Students go on to work in day spas, aboard cruise ships, in editorial positions, as teachers of cosmetology or as salon owners, among a number of other possibilities. And Janet encourages anyone considering a career in the beauty industry to apply.
“We have all types of students here,” she says. “There are males and females of all ages. Some are fresh out of high school, while others are looking for a career change.” And with The Salon Professional Academy being a Title IV school, perspective students can apply for financial aid on-site in the building’s financial-aid office.
Inside the walls of The Salon Professional Academy, the energy is electric. But make no mistake, first and foremost, this is a school and students are in a classroom working for their education.
“We expect students to want to be here,” says Janet. “We put a lot of effort into providing them with a top-quality education, and we expect them to be professional from day one.”
And it is clear from the way the students conduct themselves while on the floor that they are held to high standards. Everyone is in dress code and fully engaged, whether with a client wanting a manicure consultation or an instructor demonstrating the proper application of hair color.
With the possibility of starting a new career in only nine months, students feel confident that the rigorous coursework and hours of hands-on instruction are worth the effort. By the time they graduate, students will have completed 1,200 hours of instruction and 770 services and are ready to become licensed cosmetologists with confidence. The Salon Professional Academy has a very high success rate for its graduates.
“Students are placed throughout Central Florida and other states as well,” says Janet. “There are not many careers where you can feel confident to go into business in nine months.” But that is exactly what the graduates of The Salon Professional Academy can expect. Nine months of hard work and dedication takes them one step closer to fulfilling their dream.
The Salon Professional Academy
11915 CR 103, The Villages
Admissions: (352) 753-5511
Appointments: (352) 259-6717