By Michael Romain
MONDAY, MAYWOOD — For one day, the second floor room of the West Town Museum of Cultural History was transformed into part cosmetology school, part life class. Ivana Miles–a veteran stylist, trainer and educator–was standing in front of a small, yet diverse group of about eight wide-eyed women, sharing with them her 80/20 concept.
It’s as much an inspirational motif as it is a rough demographic observation. Success (however you define it) doesn’t just happen, which is why only so many people get to realize it at any given time (hence the twenty). And quite frankly, most people will never realize it in their lifetimes (hence the eighty). But those who do share some characteristics with each other that can be learned, practiced and implemented by anyone who’s willing to work to do so (hence the motif). In comes Miles, who wants to revolutionize the cosmetology industry one class at a time.
“I go out and develop programs in salons and communities to bring back the professionalism in this industry,” said Miles, whose big idea came from her sub-par experiences in salons across the country. She believes that issues such as bad time management, a lack of education, a lack of product knowledge, bad client relations and suboptimal financial management are rampant in her industry. But Miles also believes that there’s an 80/20 dynamic in each of us. It’s up to the individual to determine which side of that ‘success ratio’ she allows to predominate.
“Successful [cosmetology professionals] share three characteristics: one) they’re self-smart, two) they’re client smart and three) they’re money smart,” Miles said. Those attributes will set you up to [enhance] your professionalism; otherwise, you’re like a bucket with a whole in the bottom.”
Miles, a certified colorist and stylist, has been doing hair since 1992. She owned and operated a salon in Maywood for four years before moving it to Broadview. And as a regional trainer and educator with Hair Cuttery, she oversaw 135 salons and six education training centers. Miles’s work has taken her to industry shows all over the country, from New York to Los Angeles to Las Vegas. She’s also been featured in such media outlets as WCIU and WGN News.
Now, with her own suite of self-designed training curricula, she wants to bring the knowledge and insight she’s gained over the years back to suburbs like Maywood.
“Here in the suburbs, I think we need to get that passion and inspiration back […] that sense of drive and hope […] to get to the next level,” Miles said. While her passion is undeniable, she understands that it may not immediately transfer to other professionals, some of whom may react to change at arms’ length.
“The response, so far, hasn’t been great to be honest. Last week, we had one stylist and a support team of five or six […] I’m normally charging $500 for these programs. [It would be great] if people just came in to get a taste of them,” she said.
Although the tepid initial response may have been frustrating for her, Miles’s twenty-minded perspective doesn’t allow her to dwell on the obstacles for more than a moment. She understood that her own response to setback was as important a lesson as the material that she presented on the PowerPoint projector. Besides, it was her tenacity that forced this whole day into being in the first place.
The session Miles was facilitating at the West Town, entitled “The Power Behind the Chair: It’s Time for a Shift,” was a four-hour continuing education course designed for just about anyone in the industry who’s State certified.
“Every two years, [those who are State-certified] have to renew,” Miles explained. “I’m State-certified [to facilitate certain continuing education courses]. And my classes are open to everybody in the industry. Sales representatives, product distributors, nail technicians, cosmetology teachers, braiders, barbers, estheticians [you name it].”
However, not everybody in the group was in the beauty industry. Gail Walker, a retired nurse, was in attendance to support her friend, Dorothy Hall, a beautician for over 30 years and a longtime supporter of the West Town Museum.
“I’m in my bottom eighty when I fear and am afraid of the unknown,” said Walker, as part of a breakout group activity in which Miles asked each participant to talk about times when they each knew that they weren’t their best selves. “I’m in my top twenty when I’m in control, I know what I’m supposed to be doing [and] I’m confident.”
“I was in my bottom eighty when I was trying to publicize this thing,” said Hall. “I promoted this, because Operation Uplift [The West Town’s parent organization] is in fundraiser mode and I thought we could draw people here to help with the fundraising.” Hall’s collaboration with Miles was born out of a chance encounter at a family picnic.
“I’m sitting next to [Ivana’s] mom and [Ivana] says that she does hair,” said Hall. Miles, whose family dates back generations in Maywood (her uncle owned Wade’s Liquors for many years before it closed down) had suggested to Hall that her sessions would be an ideal way to bring people into the West Town, but Hall said that she had reservations.
“I was in my eighty percent mode,” she said. “I had all the reasons why we couldn’t do it.”
Eventually, however, Hall, with a persistent nudge from Miles, summoned her inner twenty-percent and the two began publicizing the sessions, which were scheduled for less than a month out. Hall set about canvassing the community with flyers promoting the two training sessions, the first of which occurred the Monday prior.
“When I began, I imagined people saying all sorts of [negative things], like ‘We don’t need this.’ I feared people wouldn’t be open,” Hall said. “A lot of people didn’t come out, but at least they accepted me,” she said, noting that, for the most part, people were accommodating and even open to the idea.
“I want to kind of change it up a bit,” said Miles, when asked how her independent recertification sessions were different than those produced and facilitated by big industry names. “I try to bring realness to it.” In addition to teaching technical, hands-on skills, such as hair-cutting, coloring and styling, she reserves the first half of her sessions for teaching what she called “soft-skills,” such as maintaining a positive attitude, communicating effectively with clients and maintaining a professional ethic–the stuff of success.
“Nothing kills a dream but an excuse,” said Sharon Lewis, during Miles’s PowerPoint presentation, an indication that the ladies in attendance seemed to be either absorbing their instructor’s lessons or came prepared with a bit of insight of their own–or both. The women let out oohs and aahs of revelatory agreement with Lewis’s comment.
During a refreshment break, Miles shared her own plans and dreams, among which include launching her own product and wig line (available for purchase at her training sessions and in her personal studio). All of these elements are an extension of what she calls the ‘Ivana Miles Brand,’ the crowning achievement of which she’s still waiting to materialize. “My goal is to have my own show,” Miles said. From the looks of it, she’s halfway there.VFP
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