ep07 – Nick Stenson

As a leading beauty innovator for more than 20 years, Nick Stenson has dedicated his career to creating and advocating for exceptional, inclusive beauty experiences, services and products.

With multiple nominations and wins in the prestigious North American Hairstyling Awards and a beauty brand of their own, this week’s Headcases is a true hair hero! In this week’s episode we learn more about Nick’s journey into the industry and how he invests in himself.

  • Nick talks about his background growing up around hairdressers
  • Chris and Nick discuss finding what you love and being happy
  • ‘What you do in this industry is up to you’ Nick discusses investing in yourself  
  • Learning about Nick’s start in education
  • The importance of having a good team 
  • Nick and Chris discuss the biggest thing he has learned about being a leader 
  • What does it mean to be an introvert?
  • Chris asks what the one thing is that Nick dislikes about the industry 

Complete Transcript

Chris Baran 0:10
You know, when I was working my way up, I always wish that I had the chance to be able to have a little chat with the people that I looked up to the ones that I saw on stage and really wish that I could be like this. Well, my name is Chris Barron. And I have been around probably about 40 plus years now, a couple of hair awards behind me. And I figured I’ve got the opportunity that I can bring to you, the hair heroes that we look up to an admirer and let you have a listen in while we have a conversation and find out their mistakes. Find out what they did right and wrong. Welcome to Chris burns head cases.

This week’s episode of head cases is with a special friend of mine, I want to talk to you about artistic director status. This person was the JC Penney artistic director of the year where he was overseeing 800 salons with Matrix where he led a powerhouse team and with Ulta Beauty where his teams were big winners of NAHA. Now most impressively, he just launched the Nick Stenson Limited Edition collection. My good friend, Mr. Nick Stenson, so let’s get into this week’s Headcase. Nick, welcome, first of all the Headcases. And just so you know, I always feel that somebody like you and I to go through what we went through. That’s why I call this this thing Headcases because you got to be in that to do what we do. But but you know, buddy, we I mean, I’ve known you for years, we’ve done shoots together, and so on. And I’m going to use a word, because I was trying to think about what would be a word that I could use to fit in here and the words plethora, and I don’t know what that word really means. I think it means a lot. But here’s what, what comes to my brain. I mean, I know what I do. I know what other people do. But I mean, good lord, the things that you have to do. I’m Art Director, you’re in a leadership position. You do photo shoots, you run campaigns. And then there’s the little known, very easy task of creating and launching a product line which you’ve just got through how the hell do you manage all of this?

Nick Stenson 2:34
You know, people ask me that probably every single day of my life. And no, because I had the same answer for everyone. I’m so blessed that I found an industry that I love through and through that I probably work almost every hour, I’m awake in some

Chris Baran 2:52
form or method of that.

Nick Stenson 2:54
But I love it. And I don’t have to actually think that I work I actually love everything that I get to do I feel a privilege to be able to wear so many different hats to encounter and work with so many different talented people from so many different backgrounds. And I feel like that’s what’s helped me grow as an individual, as a leader as an artist is by all the great people like yourself that I had the opportunity to meet and work with that just keep enriching me and filling my cup back up. So that gives me the strength and the kind of fuel to want to continue to do more.

Chris Baran 3:28
Yeah, so I’m just reading into that you’re a superhuman? Yeah, no, no, no, no. I promise. I break too. So listen, I want to take everybody back. Because I think that everybody always thinks that, you know, you just start off running and all of a sudden you were you. You came out of the womb and you’re a superstar. Like why hairdressing? What, like, was there something else that came in bold? Like, was there something else you started with? How why hairdressing? Why did you get started in that?

Nick Stenson 4:00
Well, I like to tell everybody, I’m born into beauty. I’m born My dog has an opinion on that too. But born, welcome on here. Thank you. I’m born and raised into beauty. My mother was a hairdresser for 37 years, had her own salon. So I grew up where every single day of my life, you know, when I was really small, we had a salon in the basement. You know, she did friends and family and that kind of thing. And then as we grew up, and we were in school full time, she then opened her own salon, outside of the house and after school every single day. That’s where I went and did homework. And that’s where I spent every day of my life basically and got to know the salon industry. I loved it, fell in love with it. But honestly Chris, I never wanted to be a hairdresser from a young age. My goal was to be a doctor like that’s what I really wanted to be I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon. So yeah, which I’m glad I didn’t do that now but yeah, I digress. I I was in sports medicine, physical therapy. I had scholarships to go into medical programs. I was worked going in the emergency room, on the weekends on the ambulance, do an emergency assistance in the ER and also working in my mom’s salon. And what I quickly realized is that I just really enjoyed the energy and excitement of the salon more than I did what I was doing to help people. And when I really did a lot of soul searching as to, why did I leave, wanting to be in the medical field to go into hair. And it was because why I got into the medical field is I wanted to help people, I wanted to make a difference on people’s lives. And what I realized really quickly was my mother was doing that every single day in the salon. And she didn’t even realize it. And I didn’t realize it and how I realized it was that my mother had a big picture window on the front of her salon. So you could see people coming in and you can see people going out. And I remember a Saturday, where I was watching people come in with their head down and just kind of like the weight of the world on them. But when they left, they were shoulders back head up high. And they felt good about themselves. And I thought wow, they came in feeling one way and left feeling another. And that was the power of a hairdresser. Like there was a power of coming then salon experience, right, because that’s the other thing, you can’t explain the salon experience till you’re actually in it. And that happens in the fun and laughter and the tears and everything that goes on in a salon. Right. But that was changing people’s lives. And that was the moment where I said, Wait a minute, I could do it differently, and do what my mom is doing and still help people and be in this environment where people love and respect each other and have so much fun and every single day doesn’t really feel like it’s work because you get to see your friends over and over again. Because let’s face it, our clients become our friends, if not family after a while. And that’s that’s kind of how it all got started. You

Chris Baran 6:43
know, Nick, I’m just having this epiphany right now, because lord knows how many of these I’ve done right up to this point. And this, the the similarity between the artists that I interview is, is so similar that, you know, and I’m not saying it’s a prerequisite to have family in the business before you go in. And that’s not it. But the way that I hear that people have either some knew somebody had somebody in the business, and that was the catalyst they have all the people I’ve interviewed, I very rarely have had one person that said, You know what, I just came out and wanted to be a hairdresser. And right out of school, it was everybody else was started with something else wanted to go somewhere else and then made a shift. And it was just because they were purely happy at what they were doing. So it just astounds me when I hear stories, that when people are listening, and for people that are watching and listening, I want you to get that. We’re not saying that you have to have those other prerequisites. But the key that I’m hearing throughout, is that finding something that you love and makes you happy, and you enjoy doing and I’m gonna ask you another quick question here. And I this was not this is just coming to my brain right now. And I’m not going to ask you to give numbers etc. But I think that what happens is there’s such a preconceived idea that hairdressers don’t make any money. Now, I’m not asking for your tax returns, you know, but give me a like, from what you anticipated that you are going to earn to what is fact, as you worked a lot, I’m not just saying now look at I’m writing now, we know you’re at a stage now that I’m sure you’re making more than $25 an hour. But you know, it’s just how did it start off for the money wise? And then how did it progress just so people can see that? You have to go through a couple of humps to get there?

Nick Stenson 8:53
Yeah. Well, I would answer that a few ways. First of all, in the beginning, oh my gosh, I was broke, broke, broke, broke. And I remember when I decided to become a hairdresser. My mom said, Well, you can’t work here. You can’t work in the family business. You have to go in the real world and get a job working for somebody else. So smart woman. Yeah. So I went in wanting to work in the salon and spa so bad. And he said to me, I don’t have any chairs open. And I can’t give you walk in business right now. Because you know, I have some new stylists that just started so it wouldn’t be fair to them. And I said just let me shampoo, you know, and he says I don’t have the extra money to pay you and that’s right. I work on tips. I just wanted to get into this. He had a big Salon and Spa. So I wanted to understand what that inner workings were. What I quickly did is I became a nail tech I became an esthetician I became a makeup artist. I specialize in waxing. And that was all the ancillary services I did that ultimately built my full book of hair business because all those other services into long lasting clients that came in for their hair So it worked out really, really good. Well, but let me tell you the first few years was rough. And there was not a lot of money coming in. I remember I just I remember when I went in, bought a new car because the transmission in my car busted. And the guy said to me your payments gonna be $175 a month and I said him, you got to do better. I can’t afford it. Like, I can’t afford $175 a month. And he’s like, Well, I can give you this base model without a moonroof and all this, and it would be like 138 a month, I’ll never forget this. And I was like, Fine, I’ll do it. And now I look back at that. And I think about those things. Because it’s, it’s important to always know where you’ve been, where you’re going, right? And gratitude along the way. So I remember those times. And what I also remember, was I always loved about this industry was that there’s not a cap as to how much money you could make nobody. Okay, well, here’s, here’s your job description. And it pays like you said, $25 an hour and you’re going to make an annual rate of button on Here’s your Yeah, all that good stuff. To me, I felt like I got into an industry where I dictated how much money I wanted to make. And I always looked through that lens. Like, if I’m not making enough money, well, then I’m doing something wrong. Change it up. Hence why I was like, Well, I can’t make money in hair right now in the beginning. So let me make money in spa services. And then when all that started to take off, it was like, Well, what is add on services look like? What is growth look like? You know, then it was like, Well, how can I do more with the hours that I’m working? Okay, now I’m gonna bring assistants in. Right? So there’s always ways to think about how to manipulate my earnings. Even to this day, I don’t have just one job or one line coming in. Right. I think that for me, diversification has been really important.

Chris Baran 11:44
Yeah, and you know, that is power the power model, you know, when you know, just going from being invisible up to power, it’s part of the one of the steps in there is how do you diversify? I want to take it back because I, I love where this was going. And the reason why I want to do this is so that people who see people like you on this plane and sometimes might even be intimidated to go and have a conversation with you understand that you are the same as they are. They for instance, like I’ll give you a little backstory because you shared yours on I remember when I first started and I worked out in my in my mom’s salon as well and I wanted to get away from being Mary’s boy. And, and then and so I moved to the big city of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that’s it’s in Canada for people that wondering where that is. And and I remember that getting a job and at the house of Eve is what it was called. And I was making my my take home money was $189 a month. My rent was 95. And my we had read it my wife and I had two really, really close friends Brian, and Valerie Kemper. And we they we went through pregnancies together. And every weekend we would get together. And our just and what people listen to this, that that was the time when we were starting off that our weekend was Brian and I would get a 12 pack of beer. And that was split between the four of us. And that was just that and laughter and we it was the best of times. I had a great, great time inside there. And then we had to work our way up. And the next part where I I think I want people to really get it. I think the universe gives you what you need. And I think when your mom said, you can’t work here, go somewhere else. And you went there universe said, Nope. You got to learn this other stuff first. And would I want I want to ask you this question. Do you think that the universe said you can’t do hair that you want to do right now you got to go do this other stuff? How did that benefit you?

Nick Stenson 13:48
Well, I think how it benefited me was I learned a completely different side of the business. I challenged myself and put myself in a very uncomfortable position all the time. And that’s what it’s putting yourself in an uncomfortable position to learn a new skill set. Is this really killing you this loud sound in the back?

Chris Baran 14:07
No, I can’t even hear it. Be honest. I can’t even hear. No.

Nick Stenson 14:11
Okay. I’m like freaking out thinking you can hear this drill behind me.

Chris Baran 14:14
Oh, no. Well, first of all, I’m deaf. But

Nick Stenson 14:18
I didn’t want to cut it. But I was like, I don’t want to do the whole thing. And like listen,

Chris Baran 14:21
I think Listen, anybody that’s listening in this is more interested in you and then aren’t there isn’t any sound that’s coming out there. So let’s not worry about that. Okay. All right. Okay.

Nick Stenson 14:29
Yeah. To pick back up on the question was really around, you know, what it challenged me to do is to be uncomfortable to challenge myself to do something that wasn’t inherently natural to me, right. But it opened my eyes to so many different parts of this industry that I didn’t even know really existed. I didn’t understand makeup, I didn’t understand nails. I didn’t understand. Waxing and spa services like that, facials all of that because in my mind That was so focused on hair, what that ended up being it broadening my respect for the industry, and the size of the industry and the ability to do more. And I always say, you know, people put their own ceilings above them. And I’m a firm believer of, you know, that’s why I like my house to have really high cathedral ceilings. Because I always want to say like, I don’t want a low ceiling, because I think we as humans, we think we can only get to one spot, and then we get there and we stay comfortable with it. Because we don’t think we’re worthy of what the next spot could be. Yeah, all right, challenge everyone to think is think through the lens of this industry doesn’t have a ceiling. Want to go in this industry is up to you what you want to do with it, what you want to make of it. It’s up to you. Listen, today, forward, I get to lead, you know, 1400s stores and salons. And when I’m in there, and I talked to stylists, and some of them say to me, Well, you know what? I’m I’m not making any money. I say to them, Well, why? Well, you know, I wish we did this, I wish you guys would do this. I wish we did that. And they said, Okay, so what part of this are you accountable for? But we can improve? Always right? To make sure that we’re giving you the best place to work and grow your career. But what are you doing to invest money? What are you doing to grow yourself? And I think that’s what it comes down to, I think we get too complacent and too comfortable with our handout waiting for what somebody’s going to tell us to do next, or after up to us, instead of creating the space to do it.

Chris Baran 16:35
Yeah, you know, you hit on something really key there. As you may or may not know, I’m involved in the beauty school business to be a part of a franchise group. And I hear from the people that go into admissions, and it’s always generally the, the, this will be sound very, very similar to a lot of people listening and watching is that when they went in, sometimes your parents go in with them. And the first question that they often ask is, how much can you earn, which is, it’s a statement, it’s really hard to understand. And so I just, here’s the one that I use, you will make exactly what you deserve. I’m gonna, I’m gonna say that one more time, you’re gonna earn exactly what you deserve. So you put you put your time in, you get educated, you do your practice, you do those things, you’ll earn, pardon my language, but you’re going to earn a pisspot full of money. But if you just sit back and your warmth and your took us on the dryer, well, the while you’re waiting for another client to come in, or the salon to give you something. There’s a word that’s still out there. It’s called hustle, you know, and if you can, if you can do that, and, and I know everybody’s if you’re watching know, you’ll hear my gravelly voices if you’re listening and you say, well, he’s a baby boomer, that’s what they did. But it still applies today. It’s this, that’s where if you want to make more and as much or more money than doctors or lawyers, muscle,

Nick Stenson 18:01
if you’re, it’s so true. And I don’t care what generation you are. But listen to this, to think about I use our country, think about what our country was built on, right? It’s hard work. It’s building up your sleeves, it’s doing a lot of trades and things that nobody thought they were gonna ever do. But they figured it out because they wanted to provide for the family and create a better future. That still holds true. I don’t care how old you are that and even if something is handed to you, what do you do with it to make it even better? Or to say thanks to the person or organization that supported you? Like, I’m a firm believer of like, you have to continue to give it in order to him.

Chris Baran 18:39
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. You know, I, there was a young gentleman that I had a good friend when I was up in Canada, and he wanted his son who was a football player, he wanted him to get into hair, etc. And he said, Chris, he calls him that because my name was he were on personal basis. And so he said, Chris, I want you to bring this, bring my son in, and I’ll pay you whatever is needed, and he’s gonna spend a week or so with you and train and so he, he came on board, I mean, naturally, this his, the Son, I loved him, he was good is good kid. And he Harvey Harvey said to me look at just what you would charge charge me. And at the end, I looked at his son and I he said, Well, how much do we owe you? I said, You don’t owe me anything. But what I want you to do is you’ve got to pass this on to somebody when they’re starting off, that’s what you have to pay. And I think that if we’d have more of that in our industry that we had people hairdressers that were supporting hairdressers, and that’s a sambia term. He’s the one that I think came up with that first, but I think that we got to maintain that is that what can we do as hairdressers among hairdressers that we can help and support one another if that means mentoring or even if you’re a coach and yes may you might get paid or not but you We need to, we need to look after our own. We need, we need to make sure that our industry stands up. My my good friend, Chris moody is he always says, you know, the reason why I do what I do is because I want to be at a social function next to a doctor lawyer, and I want them to view our industry at exactly the same level as theirs.

Nick Stenson 20:23
That’s something I hope we’ll see in our lifetime. Yeah,

Chris Baran 20:27
I agree. So listen, we’ve talked a little bit about that kind of stuff. But how was what what there? Was this working at the chair? Right? So you were there? You you learned all those skills? Working out the chair? How did you get what was the transition? Where was the jump? I’m just going to call it stage for lack of a better word. We know it’s about education and all that stuff. How did that happen? Where do you get your break? What happened to you?

Nick Stenson 20:56
Well, a few things. You know, I was working at that salon, they opened a second location, I became the manager fast forward, right, I became the manager of both locations, and then realized, you know, I want to do this for myself. I don’t want to really do this for anybody else anymore. So I decided I was going to open my own salon, I left the salon that I was working for. And my mom said to me, well come work here while you’re building your new salon, you know, at least so you don’t lose your clients. So I said, Okay, fine. So I went there. And I remember going in with a bottle of wine and thinking to myself, oh, boy, my clients are used to this beautiful Salon and Spa and no disrespect to my mother. But her salon was a little dated, you know, not the same experience. So I started to remodel the salon, before her and quickly like there was a flux of new clients coming in. And my mom’s like, what’s going on? And I’m like, well, people think a new salon opened up in the neighborhood. So that’s why we’re getting these, you know, new new guests. And I decided not to go for my own salon and stay with my mom at that time in the sales consultant came in from that the title was victory Beauty Supply. I remember her. And I said to me, you know, I really think you should get into education. No, she didn’t say that. She said, there’s an there auditioning for educators for matrix. And I said, Oh, that’s fantastic. I said, You know what, let me think about anybody I know. And you know, I’ll send you some names. It’s just no, I’m telling you, I want you to audition for this role. And I said, I know about education. I said, first of all, I just came here to my mom’s salon and remodeling. I’m trying to figure this all out, you know, all this good stuff. So she said to me, no, I watch you every time I come in. And I just think you have this gift of connecting with people. And I think that’s what educators do. And I would love for you to take a shot at it. And I said, Okay, leave me the details. And I’ll and I’ll think about it. Fast forward. A few weeks later, I was doing my aunt’s hair in the chair. And she said to me, Oh, your mom was telling me about this matrix. Like, are you when is the audition? I said, Oh, well, it’s technically today, later today, but I’m not going. And she said to me why? And I said, because I’m not good enough for that. Like, I’m not an educator. I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s just that let me just ask you this question. If you went, and you didn’t get the job, how worse off would you be tomorrow than you are today? And I was like, no, none. And she’s like, so Then why won’t you go fear of rejection? Your ego, like, what is it? You know? And I was like, wow, you’re coming in hot, you know? Wow, no, seriously, like, why wouldn’t you do this? This could be a huge opportunity for you. It’s like, all right, shut up. I’m gonna go so like, I remember I literally canceled my appointments the rest of the day. I prepared a mannequin went downtown went to the audition. And I remember and Christie, remember Lisa diperoleh?

Chris Baran 23:44
Of course I do.

Nick Stenson 23:46
I owe my career to delete it in Florida. So I remember,

Chris Baran 23:49
a lot of people do

Nick Stenson 23:51
a lot of people, right. She’s an amazing human being. But I remember going to that audition. I was so nervous. I was rambling. She was asking me questions. I couldn’t answer them. And I remember her saying come over here there was like a table you know, set up a panel of people and she’s like, come over here. And I said want to sit down here. And she pulled out a pen and paper and she goes here take the Pentagon Papers, okay? She sent many STDs colors, primary colors, secondary tertiary complimentary. All these customers asked me the question, she goes, don’t answer me, right, that third reading and all that so right on. And she says, Okay, talk to me about haircutting like degrees and what they do and things like that, like, what are you going to get with a 90 degree? What are you going to get with all these elevations? Okay, so random, she was gonna give me the piece of paper, so to speak, the paper, she looked at and she goes, got one thing wrong. And I was like, Okay, what? And she says, you missed one of the complimentary colors or something like that. And I was like, okay, and she’s like, but everything else is right. And that’s it. What’s your point? You’re so nervous that you’re getting in your own way. But you have knights. She’s like, I see it in you like you have the answers, but you’re just so consumed with nerves. She’s like, just take a breath and let’s just have a conversation. and the rest of the time we have a conversation. I want to say thank you so much. This has been lovely. And I left in a week later, I got a phone call. And the guy said to me, Hey, I want to, you know, talk to you and say, hey, you know, I just want to thank you for your time. Thank you for everything. I said, I know, there was a lot of people there. I wish them the best I’m going to be rooting him on. He’s like, can I talk? And I was like, Sure. Like, he’s like, we really see something in you. You’re like, a diamond in the rough of like, a lot of roughness around the edges. But we’re gonna, we’re gonna sharpen that up. And you know, we want you to join the team. And I was like you do? You do?

Chris Baran 25:37
Oh, wow.

Nick Stenson 25:38
His name was Mark Lombardi. Remember Mark Lambert. Yes, I do. So I said, really? And he’s like, Yeah. And that’s how I got started in education. And then it just kind of took off. And I kept growing and growing and growing. And I’ll tell you fast forward. That’s when the matrix decided to do the artistic director, team. And abroad auditioning for that. And I’m not kidding you. I remember all the work I put into that audition. That was few years later. And I got the call. And I thought I thought I did perfect, like not perfect, but really good. You know, the call to say that they decided to go in a different direction. And we’re not going to put me on the team. And I was devastated. Devastated. Chris, when you when you talk about devastated because I was a few years before where I was not confident. I felt like I put all the work in and earn the right and I was like, I’m ready. This is definitely the next thing for me. And the universe, right on my ass and told me that no, it wasn’t your turn, right. And I remember wanting to quit matrix at the time, because I was so mad. I was like, give me a reason. Give me a reason. I remember and I won’t name names. But the person at the time said, We when I asked, I asked for a meeting I said, you know, can you just tell me all the things I need to work on? And it was a very kind of runaround answer. And I said, I’m not following you. Like, I don’t feel like there’s anything concrete here as to what I really need to do to be on the team. So what wasn’t she says, Well, at this time, we’re just looking for a different type of hairdresser. And I was like, whoa, okay. I was like, Thanks for your time, goodbye. Like I was like, then I’m not gonna get anywhere here with that kind of comment. And I remember talking to my leader at the time, and she was like, Listen, don’t lose faith here. It’s a moment in time. Let me work with you. Let’s work on some things don’t give up. And I literally was going to give up. This is another thing where your ego gets in the way, right? And I was gonna give up and I was gonna quit. And I remember there were other manufacturers soliciting me at the time. And I was like, This is my exit like, this is my time to go. And I remember talking to my parents, and my parents said to me, well go prove them wrong. Go prove them wrong. Like, why are you going to quit? So when it gets tough, you just quit. Like, is that what you’re gonna do in life? We’re not built that way. And I was like, Well, no, but I feel like I’m, you know, wronged in this situation. It’s like, well, welcome to life. Like, I remember it was like there. Yeah, you know, like, welcome to life. It’s not always going to be right. And there’s gonna be people that, you know, don’t like you, for whatever reason, and that’s their problem, not yours. You you continuously try to always be a good person never intentionally cause harm on anybody emotionally, physically and do the right thing. That’s literally what we live by. Yeah. And I was like, okay, they’re like, so go prove them wrong. And I did I well, I, I did stay with the company. Obviously, everybody knows that now. And then the next audition, I auditioned, and I got put on the team. So it worked out really well. And it was a really great experience. But I say all this to say like, there’s a lot of twists and turns along the way. And there’s no one that you’re gonna talk to because I you know, listen, I talked to hairdressers everyday like you, Chris. And people say to me, like, Well, how do I become you? Or how did you? How come it was so easy for you? And it’s probably I don’t get infuriated about much. But I do when somebody says how can I was so easy for you? Yeah, yeah. And I like you only knew that you close to bankruptcy at times. rejection, switching cities starting over like it was all part of the story, you know, so it’s not easy and if anybody tells you it’s easy, I would question that.

Chris Baran 29:17
You know, it’s it’s interesting I what, here’s what’s sitting in my brain right now is you’re talking about that. I think that when people look from the outside in they look at at your eye color is your your videotape. You know if you can imagine just the the string of video you can tell how old I am because now it’s all digital, but if it was film, you know, all they’re doing is somebody it’s like somebody’s cut out all of the the crap that happened, it pulled those aside, just stitch them back together. And then all they see in life is this, this progression forward and they don’t see the stuff that was on the cutting floor. They got you to where you are. And you know that some people that and I’m with you, I’ve had times when I wanted to say, you know, future you guys, I quit. And and I think that’s when you persevere and you get through it. And then like you said, if your ego can hit you hard, then you can feel wronged. And sometimes you just want to quit and say, Well, you know, I’ll just use this finger, I’m using my pointer finger. Meaning that, you know, if I’m going to prove myself to be number one, I’ve got to work at it. And I think that people don’t see that. And I think that’s, I’m really want to thank you for showing showering and showing us that there is some of this stuff that you got to get through in order to get to the other side. And that makes you I mean, would you agree that this made you stronger out of it?

Nick Stenson 30:53
100% I mean, the lessons that I’ve learned through it all is what has been the best experience. You know, I always today, when I talk to somebody, especially younger, I always say, you know, I have a love hate relationship with social media, right? And I say like, I love it, because I love how it connects us and gets us connected to what’s happening each other’s lives in there. It’s a form of learning and all those things. But what I also hate about it is that some people really believe that that’s, that’s it, that’s their life, what you visually see is their life. And it’s not even a fraction of the reality of their life. And that’s that’s everything. That’s his journey. That’s That’s called life and they’re full of twists and turns. It’s not sexy to put up on social media that you know what, I had to close my salon because my business partner steal my money or something like that. That’s not sexy. So what’s out there, right? But the put the pretty pictures up there were the vacations there’s this and that. Yeah, so

Chris Baran 31:51
clip clip out came the bad stuff, splice it back together, that’s all you see.

Nick Stenson 31:56
That’s exactly what you’re saying.

Chris Baran 31:59
Yeah, well, is there. So now you’re okay, you’re on stage. We went through some of the crap. People see you on stage. And it was amazing. I mean, listen, I’ve watched you on stage and you’re a master. And I know you went through tough times. I know it there. And it took a long time to get there. But I, I still you are a master at what you do. You are composed you look the part you. You speak. Well, you I mean, I don’t think I’ve heard you say, Oh, one more time once since we’ve been on here. And I do that all the time. And it still bothers me. However, people see you in that regard. Is there? Has there been an event? Or a show? Or something that really freaked you out? When you had to go to do that show? Is there something that comes to your brain when you went? Oh, my God, this one? This one just went sideways on me for whatever reason?

Nick Stenson 32:50
Yeah, I’ll tell you. I don’t know if there’s one particular that went sideways.

Chris Baran 32:56
Well, we’ve all well, I don’t know about you, but I’ve had, I’ve got to say I’d always say which one? Yes. Was my brain,

Nick Stenson 33:04
I’m searching in my brain, because there’s been a lot that I’ve walked off and gone. Oh, that was bad. You know, there’s been a lot like that, right? Um, what I will tell you is, especially now that I have a junior team that we’re mentoring that’s growing. And so they’ll always ask me when we’re behind stage getting ready to go out, do you get nervous anymore? And I say, every single time I set my stage, I get nervous. If you don’t, that means that you’re not you don’t care. It means you have you’re not challenging yourself. You’re not getting up there to do something different. You’re not full of passion, in my mind. So yes, I get nervous every single time. But I’m going to be honest with you, I’m going to tell you a story that I actually haven’t shared with anybody. It was premiere, Orlando.

Chris Baran 33:54
last big show. It’s huge show,

Nick Stenson 33:56
big show. And I hope my fellow pro team members don’t mind me saying this, but it’s real. We did a show on the mainstage at premiere in the big auditorium. And we went out there and we did a show and it was good. And it ended and we all looked at each other. And I remember standing in the dressing room and everybody was kind of quiet. And I said how’s everybody feel? And they’re like, like shit? And I said, Yeah, me too. Like, we definitely came here a little cocky and didn’t prep the right way. And we put on a show that we thought we could do in our sleep. And it failed fast. And it was a boring show. Did somebody learn something? Did we do all the things you’re supposed to do to teach somebody something? Yes, was fueled by passion and excitement in process and was there like all the big moments that have to happen? Did they all click? Absolutely not. Yeah. And I remember we all walked away, feeling really deflated. And I said, I think our ego kind of got in our way that we thought we could do this without all the work that goes into doing this in advance. Yeah. And it has been probably the best thing that’s happened in the last year for us as a team, because everything that we did following that we really loved. Because yeah, poured our heart and soul back into it. So you have to check yourself, I tell that very vulnerable story to say, no matter where you are in your career, and this was just last year, you have to check yourself and check your ego. And if you say, Oh, I don’t have an ego, everyone has an ego, everybody. Yeah, like I got this, right. And the reality is, somebody’s got it better than you, somebody is going to do it better than you. It’s about how you deliver it. It’s about what you offer to an audience. It’s what how you connect with people, it’s how they walk away, and you make them feel right. So checking yourselves your team, individually, if they’re working in a salon, checking your salon team, you’re working on a team like we do, Chris, it’s checking the teammates around you, it’s extremely important to do and hit a reset button every once in a while. And when you have that you feel your cut back up, and you come back even stronger. And I feel like that’s what happened the back half of last year was everything that we were doing together. I was like, I couldn’t wait to go to the next thing that I’m like, Oh my gosh, this is amazing. This is beautiful. This is better than I ever expected. And it was because everybody was all in invested in work, did the hard work.

Chris Baran 36:22
I hope that everybody is listening to what is really being said here. Now that’s not even right. What if you’re looking deep into anybody that’s listening and watching right now? Just think about what was really happening there is, at first everybody goes good. But it takes a leader to say that, you know, look what, how does anybody really feel about this. And then and then to pull that team back up again. And I’m not saying for any reason that you guys, it wasn’t a bomb. But you know, I, you know, don’t don’t hate me, for people that are listening. But I like the fight game. I like MMA. I used to do some coaching, I was a terrible boxer. But I used to do a little bit of coaching when I was there, and I love the fight game. But the first thing you have to learn in the fight game is you’re never going to win every fight. At some point, some point, somebody’s gonna come along, and you’re just gonna you’re gonna have a bad day. And, and so everybody has a bad day, but you can’t just say, You know what that was? That was okay. And ignore it. The biggest thing is like, you know, like you did you have, I think we got fool of ourselves. We thought we could do it, we didn’t put in the time. And so as soon as you get that, you just do it. So if you wouldn’t, but my point is as a leader, if you wouldn’t have brought that up. Everybody might have said that. Okay, I can just skate from here on in. So congrats to you and that. So that’s my takeaway. That’s what I kind of read into that. And that’s what I truly do see you I mean, I’ve been at shoots I’ve done shoots where you are leading the the shoot, and I certainly see that leadership quality come through all the time. And speaking of that, and speaking of shoots, we’ve done the same shows me with one brand new with another. And I remember and if I’m not mistaken, I think it was this last premiere. I think it was I knew I think you guys do it a lot. But I remember our model rooms were right beside one another. So when I’m when I was walking back to our model room, I’m always kind of rubbernecking, looking and looking around the room and I say, Wow, that’s an incredible setup. I noticed. You always have everything set up inside those rooms. So it’s looks like a photoshoots going on. And then I have little, little birds that tell me things only because we share. Is that you after your shows? Do you do a photo shoot? Do you do your shoots after the shows? Can you tell us a little bit tell us a little bit about the why and tell us a little bit about that must be held to organize when you’re doing organizing a show is hard enough. Organizing a shoot is hard enough. But you and not superhuman? Love this my cape waving. I’m gonna organize this at the same time. And you know, I’m blowing smoke here. Yeah, but that how do you organize something like that? That’s just a phenomenal feat.

Nick Stenson 39:22
Yeah. Thank you. I will tell you it stemmed from a an observation I had, I was like, wait a minute, we were doing these great shows. They’re really beautiful. And if anybody’s in the audience, they enjoy them. And they can eautiful models. But what about the hundreds of 1000s of other people that maybe would like to know a little bit about it or see these models that aren’t here where that audience and with the demand of social media and I call it a machine that you constantly need to feed. I was like we’re it’s a missed opportunity. We need to figure out how do we get more legs out of this one. experience. And quite frankly, Chris, you know this, you got to figure out how do you stretch that budget to right. So how do you course

Chris Baran 40:05
really make it work for you the ultimate b word? Yeah,

Nick Stenson 40:09
exactly. So that’s where that stemmed from was how do we create enough content that we can get groundswell outside of the event afterwards. And then it comes down to, you have to have a damn good team in order to make annex work, right and the orchestration of it, because when I tell you, it’s spreadsheet after spreadsheet of okay, so you’re gonna go on stage here, then you’re going to leave here, then you’re going to go to the other connection center, then you’re going to leave there, then you gotta get on set, because your models will be waiting for you. Because somebody’s going to bring them there. And that they’re going to get done. But then maybe Shawn might need it for his show. So now, like that model has to change, move and go to go to the next thing. So it is definitely very orchestrated out. And if there’s one piece that falls, it’s definitely a domino effect. But we’ve gotten such a good rhythm with it now. And the team knows, okay, so here’s Okay, I’m off stage, I gotta go take a picture here. We got to meet these people here, then we got to go back to the stage, we got to shoot them, then they can go to the next thing. And it turned into a well oiled machine now. But it wasn’t always it was very clunky, in the beginning to be honest,

Chris Baran 41:15
with at the very beginning about what killed me if I’m wrong, but I sometimes you even do your Nahash shoots at the same time. Yeah.

Nick Stenson 41:24
I know. So basically, you’re telling everybody here that I’m completely crazy,

Chris Baran 41:27
which you honor I mean, I tickets madhouse, but I mean, I cuz I’ve, I’ve tried them. I’ve been through there. And I noticed like but you know, here’s the you pull it off. That’s, that’s a crazy part.

Nick Stenson 41:40
Yes, my team most times wants to just literally kill me. Yeah, they just deplete you of every creative juice you have left in your beat.

Chris Baran 41:50
But you would have to, I’m sure what you have to do is they have to put their creativity in beforehand. So you can’t come in and go, What am I going to do, you have to spend time beforehand, doing all of that, so that your creative juice is there. And all you do I call it plunk and play, you know you’ve got it’s all ready to go you put it on the head or you get the hair dressed or you do whatever you do. And now it’s mechanics and discipline, it’s not about necessarily the creativity. It’s true.

Nick Stenson 42:17
I don’t even cast my models on site anymore. We all do pre casting so that every artist knows the hair, what they’re working with the person that likes the dot likes, the boundaries, all of that so they can come in with such a solid plan URLs, it’s just not possible. It’s exactly you can’t do anything like that on a whim. You just can’t Yeah,

Chris Baran 42:39
yeah, I’m gonna throw it back a little bit to the olden days, you know, is when you did model castings. And, you know, there would be if anybody has never been a part of this in the past, but when you did a multi manufacturer show, all the manufacturing artists would get together in one room, you’d have all of the models that the distributor or whomever had put together in one big room. And and then you would take turns picking the models. And and you might have come in wanting to do one thing, and you had to completely change your show based on the models that you’ve got. And tell us a little bit about what was Did you ever have to go through that? And what was that like for you? And what, what happened? During that process?

Nick Stenson 43:24
I’ll say most of my career, we did it that way, right is to model castings that way, and it was tough, especially when you were working with multiple artists that had multiple segments. And we used to have to pull the number out of the hat to say, who was going to pick first. And then okay, I got to pick one, and then somebody else got to pick another and then by the time it got through the last hours you go round to pick the second model. And, you know, that’s, that’s tough to do. Because nowhere did you send any submission into an agency that said, I need a highly textured model that six feet tall that can do this walk that like nowhere was that it was just Yeah, blonde or brunette, you know, right out of yada yada, yada. And you got what you got. And it was just a, you know, a plethora of different models. So that was extremely challenging. And that was one thing I wanted to change, when I, you know, had the ability to change it in the brands that I you know, worked for and led was okay, we’re going to do this a little different, because I think there’s a way we could do it to set us up for success in a unique way. And then I think a lot of people adapted and evolved with it. And thankfully, we’ve evolved as an industry. But it was it has become now to building those relationships. Right? Yeah, a lot of different models. There are models that no one show season begins and they reach out and they say, Hey, you know what, I would love to work with you again. Can I have that opportunity? And if Yeah, great relationship. You’re welcome again. So it’s about building those relationships, too.

Chris Baran 44:47
Yeah. And because you’re you are curating the models that you use for the future as well. I want to just you have been, I’ve watched I’ve watched you grow and I’ve watched you Go and being headhunted from one place to the other. And you’ve been an artistic director or creative director in numerous places. What’s the what’s the biggest thing that you’ve learned from a leadership position? In being that role,

Nick Stenson 45:22
I would say the biggest thing I learned would be that it’s less about the talent in their hands, and is more about the people that they are. And you’re building teams, you have to have the right people with the right intention, that brings something unique to the team that’s differentiated from each other, that complements each other doesn’t take away from somebody doesn’t overshadow somebody, it’s a deposit into the bank of something that the team needs to be stronger. That has been probably my biggest success over the years, is putting the right people together, I always tell everybody, I’m really not good at much. The only thing I’m good at is identifying good people, quality people, talented people and putting them in the right role, whatever that role may be. And I I’d say that’s what I pride myself on now at this point in my career.

Chris Baran 46:11
Yeah, I disagree with a lot of what you said about that’s the only you only talent you have, but I know you are just being humble there. Thank you for that. But it’s really because it is quite a task to lead a team, it’s very different from working at the chair, or working for a manufacturer as an educator doing your thing, then it is having to lead the team and understanding the the working mechanics, the mental attitudes, the skill, different skill sets that they have. And then there’s everybody’s need that they have. And we all know that need for recognition need for, for being recognized by the team or group or individuals are really big. And they always say it’s not just an artist, it’s in salons. It’s everywhere. And to be able to be the kind of leader as you are, what’s the biggest thing that you do to try to take the focus off of you and onto the artists so that they get the recognition that they do, what is it that you do what’s your secret behind that?

Nick Stenson 47:16
I think it’s identifying what their true talent is, and where they shine, and then creating a platform or a moment for them to shot. Yeah. And that is something that I think is so important. I’ve had so many people throughout my career, give me the opportunity to shine. So now I feel that it’s my obligation to my team, to the industry that when able give them that moment, give them that opportunity. Yeah, that’s it takes them. And then thing I think people fall short on with leadership is they feel like, Oh, I can’t do too much for that person, I can’t show I can’t spotlight them too much because it takes away from me. And what I would challenge that person or that thinking is that when you become a leader, it’s not about you at all anymore. And it’s actually about what you’re able to do for everyone else in how you bring that all together to be one unit. And there’s also enough room at the top for everyone. There’s room for everyone to shine. Remember that along the way. And if someone’s doing something really great, and you admire it, don’t envy it, admire it, respect it, and do your own really good, whatever that is, yeah, it stay in your lane and focus on you and celebrate the person next to you.

Chris Baran 48:33
Yeah, it’s really about abundance as opposed to scarcity, isn’t it? For sure, you know, and I’m going to ask you just to your answer this, if you don’t want I’m going to tell you what I am first, I’m going to lead the charge on this one. I don’t know if you’re there, if you’re that same kind of person, but I am a bit of an introvert and I’m a bit of a what’s the word I’m looking for? I I find that I’m the kind of person that is oh, God, the word is escaping me. But it’s I don’t like having this light put on me all the time. You know, I have a hard time with that. My son who’s directing the show and he’s listening in on this will certainly tell you that. Like I hate watching videos on myself. I hate doing all those things because all I do is pick myself apart. Where do you stand in there as it how do you what’s Where are you at? Would you say that? You’re an introvert Are you an extrovert? Are you? How do you deal with being onstage being looked at all the time?

Nick Stenson 49:40
Yeah, I would say I’m an extrovert with introvert qualities.

Chris Baran 49:44
And here’s what

Nick Stenson 49:45
I mean by that. years ago I was complete extrovert I wanted to be everywhere doing everything with everyone and I wanted to be liked by everyone. Yeah, today. I want to be there. I want to do it. To prove to my brain I can still do it. And that I haven’t lost it. Yeah, but I no longer have the the flame and fire to say I have to prove anything. It’s more about proving to myself that I haven’t lost it and I still have it. That’s the one part. The second part is, I genuinely love what happens when you get on a stage. I love that feeling that that rush that happens, that passion that comes through you. It’s something that I don’t get to do every day now with my my day job with alto, I don’t get to do that much. Right. I’m in the business every day. So yeah, I get that opportunity. It fuels me and it feels fills my cup. And it also makes me want to help others more that I would say where the introvert part comes in is. When I say years ago, I was an extrovert and wanted to do it all and be everywhere. That was how I was in my career. And in my personal life. Oh, in my personal life. I love quiet. I loud. I like it’d be

Chris Baran 50:59
high five. Yeah. I like

Nick Stenson 51:01
the intimacy of a dinner in my home where I’m cooking. And I invite people I love around my table. I like getting out in the ocean on my boat and going as far as I can go and just blessing music. I like that type of stuff. No, I like my time in the morning as the sun’s coming up to sit outside and drink coffee in the quiet. Like I like those things that I would have made fun of myself years ago. Yeah, yeah. So it’s different. You evolve. And it’s a different chapter and a different phase. And in you know, what is the best part about it? I’m okay with it. I like I like where I’m at. I like going I like that I’m aware of what I like and don’t like, and what I will do and won’t do now, where years ago, it wasn’t that way. Yeah. Wow.

Chris Baran 51:48
Deep. Love it. Now. beyond all this, you just went in and you just started this year. And you came out with your product line. Right? So first of all, give us the name. So we know what the name of the line is. I want to know I want to know the name first. And then I’ve got another question for you.

Nick Stenson 52:08
Yep, so the brand is called an expensive beauty. Yeah.

Chris Baran 52:11
And the the and is it now i i was i was reading up and I wrote it down. And I I don’t know where I put the put the note. But is it it’s what was it? It’s not a private collection? It’s what’s the tag you had least that I saw on there?

Nick Stenson 52:29
Catches security naturally locks. There’s a few tag lines. Yeah, let’s say it’s a luxury, clean, sustainable haircare brand that I been working on for six years. Little bit, no, seven years, seven years now. So this launched less than 30 days

Chris Baran 52:45
ago. So tell us about what tell us about I want to know about the product itself. And then I want to know about a little bit of the process that you had to go through.

Nick Stenson 52:55
Yeah, again, again, I was saying to my family, the week that we were getting ready to launch I said, you know what’s gonna happen when this launches? Everyone’s gonna say, that was easy. Of course, he launched that’s so easy for him select his name on a model and you know, so but that’s where, you know, as you get older, you appreciate that you don’t really care what other people think that you know, right? And I would say, you know, the last seven years, it has been really eye opening, interesting, frustrating and fulfilling all at once. Yeah, I’m extremely blessed. I got to work with some of the best chemists to create the formulas. I have had this dream for many, many years to create a luxury haircare collection. I have a tremendous amount of when you think of people who are role models to you people who you look at and you want to aspire to be more like I look at Tom Ford and what he’s been able to do, and beauty space in in the fashion space. And I just I think his brand is exquisite. And I always say if I ever came out with a haircare brand, I would want it to feel Tom Ford as right, I wanted to have the level of sophistication and quality that the Tom Ford brand has. So that was kind of the beginning in the back of my mind of where this all started. The other thing is I realized that in luxury, there isn’t. There isn’t much as far as clean formulations. So I was really particular on making sure that what it looked like was really beautiful and luxurious. The experience that you had was luxurious when you use it, the end result was amazing and performed well. And at the same time, we didn’t have to hurt any animals. We didn’t have to ruin the environment. And we put in ingredients that people know and love and already respect and trust. And that’s the premise of the brand. So it’s it’s a small curation of 12 products. There’s a moisture collection in a volume collection everything is Peta certified, meets all five pillars of conscious beauty initiative for all to beauty. It is for all hair types. It’s color safe, chemically treated safe all products. And it was built with the idea that hair needs to move. So none of them are super sticky or heavy, or there’s not a tremendous amount of hold to any of the products. But the products will help you get to an end result that you want, if you have curly hair will help you refine it. If you have straight hair and you want to add volume to it, it will do that. If you’re looking to preserve your color, it will do that. So it has I would like to say there’s a lot packed for a strong punch in 12 bottles. Wow, where can people get it? Right now it’s available@ulta.com as well as an extensive beauty.com In the second week of January, we’ll be in over 500 Ulta Beauty stores nationwide. And then I can’t give it away yet. But there will also be a a distributor that we’re partnering with for the pro side. So there will be an opportunity for professionals out there to be able to carry it in their own salons as well.

Chris Baran 55:58
Beautiful, beautiful. Congratulations, my friend. Like I said, I don’t know where you pull the energy. I just want to know your your diet or whatever it is. We all have this energy lots of Well, yeah, well, mine is green tea because I wish I could be drinking coffee. Okay, can I want permission here? Permission, I’m just going to ask you some rapid fire questions. Okay. And then I’ve got a couple of wrap up questions at the end. But so this you got to think I’m gonna ask you this thing. You can decline if you have to, just because you’re my friend. I don’t let other people do it. But the I just want top of your brain what comes to your brain? I’m going to ask you 10 questions that can be single or really quick word answers don’t have to go on about it just okay, most difficult show. Or event

Nick Stenson 56:57
to put on or that I had a struggle with

Chris Baran 56:59
that every ad that ever was that mean that you’ve done or in the past or whatever could be in the class could have been whatever

Nick Stenson 57:08
I would say complex show was not her presentation, Nan 20s 1617 We brought in this wardrobe from overseas that was all made of wood, it was extremely difficult to work with. It was there was a lot of intricacy with the hair with the wardrobe. There was a lot of mechanics that needed to come together as well as the whole, you know, Pomp and Circumstance behind it. All of that was extremely complex to put together but I was proud at the end result.

Chris Baran 57:34
Nice. Okay, good. In the event that if you had to go out on another words, you know, you went so damn good that I could have went out I could have quit on that one. What was it?

Unknown Speaker 57:52
I don’t know if I have that answer. I will tell you I’m the last photoshoot we did as a team we were commissioned to do the marketing campaign for abs Chicago 2023. Right. Okay, seen any of the collection? That was another complex one. But while I’m really happy with how that turned out, so if that was my last shoot, I would be okay with.

Chris Baran 58:16
That’s awesome. Let’s see things you hate the most in life?

Nick Stenson 58:22

Chris Baran 58:23
entitlement. Good. What you love the most?

Nick Stenson 58:28
Love the

Chris Baran 58:31
thing. That’s the one thing you hate most about our industry?

Nick Stenson 58:36
The lack of respect it gets

Chris Baran 58:39
the person you admire the most

Nick Stenson 58:44
my parents

Chris Baran 58:45
personally you wished you could meet Vyasa sir. Oh, wow. Mine too. Other length any other languages that you speak?

Nick Stenson 58:58
No, I wish Yeah. Okay, fluid.

Chris Baran 59:02
Good language that you want that you always wanted to speak Italian. Allow me to love it so you could go and own a wine your vineyard there Right. I mean, Okay, last one. Things are the thing you’re one thing are terrified of. Snakes. Spiders for me. Listen, I want to just leave you with this is

one thing that is that in our industry as an overall I mean, would you agree there’s things that people hang on to all the time. What was the one thing that if you could tell people that are listening or watching right now that if they could let go of what’s just the one thing doesn’t need an extra explanation or anything? What’s the one thing that they should let go of or stop doing?

Nick Stenson 59:55
Your little voice? Hmm, it will. It will run I mean, your life.

Chris Baran 1:00:00
Yes. Then go back control over it. Yeah, I agree. And I will tell you this too, just to this is a little plug my if if anybody is interested wants to get a hold of finding out how to get control of that little voice. The Blair singer has a book that’s out there. It’s on the market right now called Little Voice mastery. I’ve taken the courses I’ve been through it it is because I have, I have a plethora, that’s three times we’ve used that word in this conversation, a plethora of little voices. They’re never gonna go away, but you can learn to control them. And if you go to just any Amazon book or whatever, Blair singer, Little Voice mastery. Nick, I can’t thank you enough. This has just been a joy. I always enjoyed chatting having a as I always call it shits and giggles Yeah. But I always admire you so much. The things that you do the way you are with people, how generous you are with your time with your energy and your creativity. I just want to say thank you. It’s a pleasure having you on board.

Nick Stenson 1:01:09
Thank you so much Chris I have to just say the feeling is quite mutual. I just appreciate you wanting me to be on here with you today on your platform and talking with you I always love the opportunity to catch up we don’t get to do it enough and just, thanks for always being such a support of mine and just a trusted friend that I can always turn to through the years and and know that your your intentions were always pure and good and you always wanted good for me and I always felt that through the years and I just really appreciate that.

Chris Baran 1:01:37
Yeah, let’s because it true. One more time, but just want to say thank you for being a part of our Headcase launch and it was just, one more time, a pleasure. Thank you so much. Take care.

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