My name is Kelly Araujo. I was born and raised in Toronto Canada. I actually got into the hair industry by accident while I was studying Marketing in college. Shocking, I know! While I was in school, I suddenly found myself in between jobs. That’s when a friend of mine told me about a popular salon in the city and that they were hiring. It was called. “Hair on the Avenue.” She also happened to be friends with the owner. I had no previous experience or training and thought it was a ludicrous idea that anyone should even consider me for that job. It was much to my disappointment that she gave him my phone number. He called me almost every day after that and I ignored his phone calls for weeks. I don't know why he didn't just give up. One day he phoned me from a different number and caught me off guard. Out of pure mortification, I agreed to come in for an interview and reluctantly took the job. It would be my first time, working in a salon environment. Virtually every aspect of this job gave me anxiety. For the first four months I hated every part of it and had no intention of continuing on past when my college term was done. I soldiered on because I am not quick to quit but it was very hard. The turning point here for me was, about four- or five-months in. I was asked to take part in training sessions with a senior stylist. In these sessions, we learned how to create the perfect blow-out. The salon had been amongst the first in the city to open a blow dry bar. It was then that I realized that I didn’t totally suck at doing hair!!! Quite the opposite, I was kind of a natural. These training sessions gave me a little boost of confidence and made me feel like, maybe I could belong after all!
From a humble beginning:
I am a personal hair stylist to many celebrities including Nelly Furtado, Breakfast Television Toronto host Dina Pugliese, and most notably, Olympic Gold Medalist Tessa Virtue. I have had many opportunities to travel all across the world including a press tour at The Jimmy Fallon Show, The Jay Leno show, The Wendy Williams Show, and Kelly And Michael with Nelly Furtado. Most recently, I styled Tessa for her debut appearance alongside Scott Moir on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
What ignited the spark in you to start your career or to make significant changes in an existing career?
I continued my education in Marketing but eventually made it onto the floor at the salon once I finished my blow dry training. Even though my schooling was my first priority, I still managed to make a lot of progress with my hair training by attending as many in-salon training sessions as possible. Luckily for me, I worked in an environment where education was always and has always been a priority. Soon after I was able to take clients as part of the Blow Dry bar team. My work on the blow dry bar, made me feel like I had accomplished something I had no idea I could even do!! That was wild to me!
Then it dawned on me, I had been working in an environment where, I was allowed to be in school for a totally unrelated discipline, and even so, was given every opportunity to train just like all of the other juniors even though I really had no intention of being a hairdresser and was very open about that. Pretty amazing I thought.
About two years into my Marketing program, I decided I needed to take a break. I had been taking as many courses, as my schedule would allow for so long, that I ended up burning out. I began to get more interested in the hair world and decided I would never truly know what I wanted if I didn’t give hairdressing a fair chance. I proceeded to take a semester off of school and asked to work at the salon full time. I committed myself fully to my hairdresser training and never looked back. I never did finish that marketing degree, but I don’t have any regrets.
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your career and how did you overcome them?
One of the biggest hurdles, I would say were my own thoughts of the beauty industry as a whole. The thought of looking at a woman and trying to “fix’ her or “make her over,” seemed absurd to me. I didn't want to be a part of that. I loved creating, and I loved working with hair, but I didn't always love the way, hairdressers in my industry spoke about the females in their chairs.
So, what was I to do? I decided I would change the way I spoke to my clients. I am careful with the language I use in describing the quality of their hair and appearance because I never want anyone to feel like they are being judged in my chair.
I wanted to create a safe space for women to talk about their insecurities. I wanted them to feel beautiful, at every stage of the process. To this day that is how I approach every appointment. I refuse to subscribe to this culture of female shaming, that the beauty industry has become so comfortable with. It’s a decision I have felt good about every day since. Nothing makes me happier than being able to empower women every day of my life. It’s something I am very passionate about and take so much pride in.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits? How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
My decision, to quit my Marketing program did not sit well with my father. It was viewed as a failure. No matter what I said about it, to him I was now labelled a college dropout. I made peace with that reality and continued on my path. My mother on the other hand, although not pleased about my decision, had always said to me that I could do whatever I wanted as long as I was happy and strived to be the best at it!! This served as my motivation to do the very best I could in my new career. I chose to move forward with her advice in mind rather than focusing on my Father’s negative reaction even though I wanted to make them both proud.
In hindsight, I would change nothing. I truly believe that I am where I am, because of all of the events that lead to this place. The good and the bad. I am grateful for all of the lessons.
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your career success?
My work ethic. WORK ETHIC is the only thing that will get you anywhere, no matter what industry you work in. I spent years working an obscene number of hours. I took every bit of experience I could from as many people I could. I said yes to every opportunity (many unpaid). This industry is impossible to break into unless you are willing to put in the time and effort. Nothing can be handed to you, you have to work for every bit of it and honestly, I wouldn't have it any other way.
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
I wish I believed that I could do it! I spent so many years being afraid and doubting myself. I wish I had spent more of that time taking more risks.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
To everyone in the hair industry irrespective of age or level, I would say, learn as much as you can from everyone you can. Respect those that take the time to teach you because they wouldn't be teaching you if they didn't care about your success. Be open to criticism, no matter what stage in your career you’re at. You can always grow and evolve.
Another one is, keep your ego in check. Stay focused on why you love it and stay humble.