“I love the flexibility of being my own boss,” insists Sabrina Beltrano, relaxing between clients at her professional home at Workshop, one of Downtown Vancouver’s most beloved and fashion forward salons. “I like that I can create my own hours, charge what I want to charge, and use the colour lines that I love. I never want to stop getting more clients. Getting new people in my chair keeps me motivated.”
Staying motivated is never a challenge for Sabrina. The Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair grad runs her own business as one of the independent hair professionals gathered under a single stylish roof at Workshop. A community of creative and entrepreneurial spirits, it’s the perfect spot for stylists who enjoy working and playing by their own rules.
“I didn’t want to be a regular stylist who’d do cuts and colours and then go home,” continues Sabrina. “Renting a chair means it’s my business and my responsibility. That means you have to make sure you’re keeping up on Instagram, Facebook and Craigslist.”
Was a career in hair Sabrina’s destiny? Growing up in Kamloops, BC with a stylist mother meant it was always a distinct possibility, even when other passions took priority.
“I’ve had pretty much the same hairstyle since I was five. Long and dark! I knew I wanted to follow in my Mom’s footsteps, but I was also a soccer-playing tomboy. I cared about my hair but I cared even more about sports.”
It didn’t take long after graduating high school to commit to a career in hair. And once that decision had been made the search for the perfect Hair School was swift and effective.
“I wanted to go to the best of the best. I googled ‘Best Hair School’ and Blanche Macdonald came up! I knew that when I would go for interviews employers would see the Blanche name and know that my training was really good.”
Those high expectations were realized on Day One.
“Starting Hair School was so exciting. When we all received our boxes of equipment I saw the Bumble and bumble products and knew how luxurious it all was. I wanted to cut right away!”
When the time arrived for that first cut on a real client in the Blanche Macdonald school salon, it wasn’t easy, but Sabrina delivered.
“I was so nervous. That haircut took three hours. I kept asking for the teacher and was worried that one side of the cut was radically different from the other. But once I finished the client loved it. I thought, ‘Ok, I think I can do this.’
“Not long after that people began calling the School and booking with me. I would cut one person’s hair and they’d tell their friends. After a month or two people started coming in just to be styled. I felt like I could talk to clients and tell them how to best wear and style their hair. We were taught to demonstrate our confidence. You could be the best cutter but unless you’re confident, no one will believe that you’ll do a good job. It’s a combination of your words, body posture and looking people in the eye. If you can tell clients how to look after their hair at home and what products to use they’ll want to come back and learn more.
“Lisa Callender and Renata Trebacz were great instructors. Renata would get straight down to business. She was so professional. She taught us that our blow dry would have to be a ten out of ten every time. If you can finish with a great style, she told us, clients will always come back to you. That stuck with me.”
Today Sabrina is a colour specialist, a veritable master of Balayage whose expertise is known and respected across Vancouver. But she’d never describe herself as a natural colour scientist. Her abilities arrived through countless hours of study and practice.
“I was literally the worst in the class!” she laughs “I was always asking questions. As the class progressed I started getting it and I began practicing more. I would watch videos of different techniques. I wanted to go above and beyond. I practiced on mannequins in my own time. I enjoyed being creative with the colours, with different placements and techniques. Clients these days like a more natural look. That’s hard to replicate.”
Eager to begin cutting and colouring immediately after graduation, Sabrina took a tip from Program Director Phil Loiselle and launched herself into what would become the first step into her self-propelled professional career.
“Phil told me that there was a space at Eterna Salon and Day Spa in Lougheed Mall. It was a salon that used Joico colour, which is what we used at school, so I felt very confident with that. I started right away as a stylist and began building my clientele. Within four months I was fully booked. I was always hustling around the mall. If I saw someone walking by me I’d hand them a card and say, ‘Hey, we’re having 20% off at the salon.’ I’d offer a deal. It was all about confidence.
“I loved it. I was busy all the time but after three years I was ready to take the next step. Franco Federico runs Workshop. I met his parents at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver and they told me their son owned a salon downtown. I applied, he gave me a job as a commission stylist and I soon became busy enough to rent a chair.”
She’s been a core member of the Workshop Team ever since, bringing colour and charisma to one of the city’s most bustling salons. Despite her impressive skill set, Sabrina insists that it’s the personality she brings to work every day that keeps her clientele excited about returning to her chair.
“I’m sure that people sometimes sit down and don’t even care about their haircut. That sounds crazy, but they’re more interested in talking and hearing what you’ll say to them. Your personality and energy can be more significant than the haircut itself. You still have to do a good cut, of course, but they come back for more than that. They come to see you. They tell you about their lives. You build friendships. An important part of being a stylist is being open with people. If you do that people will open up to you.”
The future is beyond bright from Sabrina. She’s already proved that her abilities and attitude can take her wherever she chooses. Success is guaranteed. It’s merely a matter of deciding what it’s going to look like.
“For now I love renting a chair at Workshop but I would love to own my own boutique salon one day. I love setting goals for myself but I’ve grown to understand that you need to put in your time first. Everything won’t come immediately. Continue your education as new products and trends emerge. It’ll happen. You just have to put in the work!
“It still feels so good that I can make people love their hair. Even after I graduated Hair School I still didn’t understand that I had that ability. It was only once people kept coming back to me I realized that I must know what I’m doing!”