A Look Behind The Scenes Of A 25-Year-Old Millenial Stylists Rise To Mega-Success


I've told you before that when I hired my first group of Millenial stylists I honestly said "what the heck is wrong with these people".  They wanted more feedback, less training, more time off and to have success right this second.  Then it hit me, there was nothing wrong with them, I was the one who needed to change my ways.  I'd been so used to hiring and working with Gen X's and Gen Y's that trying to manage those who didn't think in a traditional way blew my mind.  

Over the years I adapted my management style and it really served me well.  I starting coaching my team by finding out what their idea of wealth was (you can learn more about that here) and I started moving away from talking about traditional benefits like IRA's and health insurance and towards things like team parties and fun team contests with cash prizes.  

I learned to embrace Millenials and once I did, wow did it serve me well, but it wasn't always easy.  Trying to understand the Millenial mindset can be tough.  One thing that you should know about Millenials is that they are learning faster, growing more effectively and marketing better than any generation who has come before.   

I really wanted to showcase a successful Millenial stylist on the blog.  Somebody who was young, non-traditional, happy, successful and wealthy.  From the moment I met Shannon Van Fleet through my Thrivers Society program I knew she was special.  She's only 25, but by the time she found me she was already super successful, well spoken, professional and living a wealthy life of a hairstylist.  How many of us can say we had all that at 25?  Not many! 

Shannon agreed to let me interview her about her path to success.  She shares with us her growth as a stylist, how she built her clientele in a one-stop-light town and why she thinks Millenials are so misunderstood.  Now, you may get to sections of the interview where you can see her frustration coming through as she talks about being judged by those from other generations.  I encourage you to read on because her reasons for a lack of care when it comes to money stem from her life experience and what she went through is something I and many other Millenials witnessed as well.

Shannon thank you so much for taking the time to share you story with me today!  I want to go way back and start at the beginning.  When did you know that you wanted to be a hairstylist?

 I remember when I was about 4 years old playing in my room making "hair potions" out of grapes and a spray bottle, and laying out all of my combs and brushes on my table. (Before my first haircut, even!) My mom was not really a girly girl, but she definitely gave birth to one! It was in me from the beginning! In second grade I taught myself to braid with yarn that I glued to a paper doll for a school project. When I was 7 my parents facilitated a Christian foster home for teenagers, and two of the girls went through beauty school while they lived with us. After being their guinea pig, and getting to play with their kit, I was basically counting down the days until I could enroll! In 2008 I was able to go to cosmetology during the second half of my school day of my Sr. year. I was graduated and working by 18 years old!

Wow how incredible!! It seems like you were destined to be an amazing hairstylist.  Okay, so here you are at 18 already licensed and ready to go.  What did you do after graduation?

Well, one day I went into school like normal, went to ask my instructor if he had loaded in my extra hours yet, and turns out, I was done! Just like that! It was a big surprise! So I immediately posted a status on Facebook and asked where I should look into working, and I got an overwhelming response to work for this guy named Al.  I left school and drove straight to the salon, walked in (after I cyber stalked the salon, and the competition) and said "I want to work here!" We talked for hours, he reviewed my work, the next day he had me meet the team, I did a men's cut, and a women's cut and color, and he sent me straight to the floor that Tuesday.

Whoa!  You got thrown right into the deep end.  Was an assisting program part of the process?

No assisting at all! I worked for him for a little over a year and then moved to the next town over and had to switch salons. I booth rent now, and I am in my 6th year here! It is a small salon with 4 stylists and a massage therapist. We have worked so hard to build the team we have and it took YEARS to get it right. The biggest tip I can give on building a killer team, is to WAIT for the right one. Don’t settle! It will be worth the wait! Beauty schools, and personal connections is how we have built our entire team. Don’t be afraid of the young ones! You can teach them hair, you can’t teach them personality! 

That's such great advice.  I always say "hire for personality, train for skill".  I just couldn't agree with you more.  I have heard you say so often that you have a dream team at your salon and now we know why.  Okay so tell us a little bit more about where you live and how you built your clientele.

My town is small. Like, SMALL. Our population is just over 2,000. (No, that wasn’t a typo. 2,000.) Our nearest Walmart is a half hour drive, and we just got our first stoplight a few years ago! We aren’t even remotely close to any major cities, so we can’t pull clientele out of a nearby metropolitan area. We are the epitome of rural Illinois! My clientele building at first was slow and steady, like normal. After a year, I really got hold of my target market and embraced it. Not to make excuses, but I couldn’t really “pound the pavement” in my town. There was no pavement to pound! So I took to Facebook (Instagram wasn’t a thing yet!) I had an overwhelmingly positive response! Holy cow! I owe ALL of my success to social media. Now I am booked out for 12 weeks and have a hefty waiting list going! 

I love that!  This is the perfect example of how finding your target market and combining it with social media and marketing can be so impactful in building business.  So I think you know  I love you because you’re the epitome of a thriving Millenial. I’ve shared before that Millenials are constantly mis-labeled as lazy since they are so different than previous generations. Where do you think that comes from?

I was born in 1991, so I am right dab smack in the middle of Gen Y. This whole millennial pandemic has just come up recently. Probably because 10 years ago we were just coming of age, but now we are in full swing. The first of us were on the rise in 2010, and it has been a 6 year steady stream of us taking over.

I know exactly where the negativity comes from. People just flat out love to complain. One thing people have noticed about us is that we don’t like to do something just because our mother, and our mother’s mother, and our mother’s mother’s mother did it that way. Tradition is less important to us, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Tradition tells us to show up to work at 9, leave at 5, repeat for 5 days in a row. That’s great and all, but what about LIFE?!

Some call us “selfish” or “lazy” because we want more time off than previous generations, but we just want to experience life more! People say “listen to the older generations” and that is actually exactly what we are doing! Ask any older woman or man and the things they regret most were not taking time away from work to LIVE life! It’s unfortunate that we get a bad name for actually following through with it.

I personally was 17 when I watched my parents, and a lot of others loose so much in the recession. I had just started cosmetology school, and I was freaking out about becoming an adult and going out into the work force and trying to provide for myself and my son. What was all that work worth if you just loose it all? You can loose money, but you can’t loose the moments you took to spend time experiencing life. That’s when I decided I was going to invest in the things that couldn’t be taken away from me. So if we aren’t driven by tradition, what drives us at all? It’s not money either. We are money conscious, but we will never let it control our life. I am debt free. Most millennials are. A lot of us have a great blessing of being internally motivated. Mainly because we like to brag. Is a non-monetary motivation any less effective? I don’t think so. 

I don't think a non-monetary motivation is any less effective at all either.  I've always said that the wealthy life of a stylist can be money, time with family, annual vacations, having every other weekend off, it can be whatever you want it to be.   I believe that the goal is to have a full life and that to me is wealth so I'm right there with you on that.  Okay, so if your version of wealth isn't money, what is the most important thing in your life today?

My church, my husband, my son, and my parents. I am a lucky, lucky breed. I am missing the “people pleaser” gene. (lol!) I am STRICT with my working hours. It is because I LOVE my career enough to be strict. I don’t ever want to feel burnt out, or not look forward to going to work. I always give myself a lunch break (I get to see hubby almost every day over lunch!) and I NEVER work past 6pm. It was hard to be strict at first, because my clients were used to my other hours. But you know what, they got used to it, and my home life is SO much better now that I don’t work crazy hours. Did I loose a couple clients over it? Yea, maybe. But look at what I gained. 

What a treat for you and your hubby to have lunch together! And it's true, clients do adjust to the changes you make and if they don't respect your schedule or understand the change, we have to love ourselves enough to let them go.  Let's do this, tell me your definition of success.

Success to millennials is a bit different since we aren’t driven by money. When I took a step back and really thought to myself “I’ve made it, I’m successful” It wasn’t because I was looking at my bank account. (I’m in a town of 2,000 remember?) It was because I had to start adding people to a wait list. And more, and more, and more! I feel successful when people value me, and what I can offer. I like to joke and say that millennials would rather have 6 figures on their Instagram following than 6 figures in their bank account. We just want to be appreciated and respected more than anything! Isn’t that what every generation wants?

You just want to feel the love!  It seems like you have an abundance of love in your life so I can see why you feel wealthy, fulfilled and happy.  That's awesome. Where do you find inspiration?  Whose career do you most admire and why?

I most admire Stephanie Brinkerhoff’s career because she too was from a small town in Utah, and wasn’t going to let her rural living hinder her dreams! It goes to show that talent speaks louder than location.

Well, I feel like you aren't far behind because I need to say a big fat congratulations!  I’m beyond excited for you because you recently became a Redken Artist.  Why did you decide that was part of your path and how is it in line with your longterm goals?

THANK YOU! I am SO excited. I feel like God has conditioned me for this. I am not afraid of public speaking, I LOVE to educate, and I am a patient traveler :) It was one of those things that I just “knew” I had to do. I don’t know exactly where this path will take me, but I know it will be amazing! It is so crazy to think that just a few years ago becoming a Redken Artist was my long term goal, and now I’m already here!! I plan to have a strong Periscope presence with this whole journey, too!

I love it!  I said from the start that Redken would be lucky to have you and I still believe that with all of my heartl  So, where do you think the industry as a whole is headed?

 I think we are in SUCH a positive place right now. If there is one thing millennials know how to do well, it’s build each other up. I think that is one of our strongest assets! I see the entire industry making that shift, and it is so wonderful! Social media has truly challenged us to be better. Our clients are on top of things now, and we need to keep up! With that being said, I see the strong ones being able to thrive, and the ones that “opt out” loose out, and burn out. If you want to live, you have to evolve! It’s survival of the fittest, just like in every other aspect of life! When something new comes along, hop on as soon as you can, or get left behind!

I couldn't agree more!  The industry is changing way too fast and the choice now is to keep up or be left behind.  Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story Shannon and I look forward to following your career continue to grow! 

As I mentioned, Shannon and I met when she joined my Thrivers Society program in 2015.  If you'd like to learn more about the program which teaches social media marketing, clientele building, income growth techniques, web design for hairstylists and more click here.

You can learn more about Shannon on Instagram @stylistshannonvanfleet or at http://www.shannonvanfleet.com/.

Britt Seva