“Artel, in Russian, means an association of artisans living and working together. We brainstormed a whole list of names but I really felt that this summed up what we were about. We’re all artists, we’re all independent but we’re also a family. We’re a team, we all learn together,” says Eliza Trendiak proudly. With the recent opening of her second location of Artel in the heart of Vancouver’s trendy Cambie neighborhood, the rocket success of her hair studio can be aptly attributed to the Blanche Macdonald Pro Hair graduate’s dedication and drive of her craft.
Eliza is a natural entrepreneur but, then again, she’s been self-starting since before she can remember.
“My family has always made fun of me, saying that I came out of the womb trying to start a business. As a kid I did lemonade stands, dog walking, sold cucumbers on the side of the road… you name it and was trying to start a business with it,” laughs Eliza.
It was no surprise to her parents then when Eliza declared that she was leaving her native New Hamburg, Ontario to go to Business University in BC. What did come to a surprise to Eliza was that she wasn’t 100% satisfied with the path that now lay at her feet.
“I didn’t want to end up working in an office. At the time I was doing my doormates’ hair and I just loved it. A friend told me that I should do what I wanted to do because I was going to be waking up and doing it every day. I took that to heart, so I graduated university and went straight to Canada’s Top Hair School. “My sister and one of my best friends went to Blanche Macdonald for Fashion Marketing and the quality of their work attracted me to this school from the get-go. Blanche has one of the longer Hair programs in Vancouver, twelve months as opposed to six months; I felt that if I was going to invest in my education, I wanted to spend the most time I could learning. And I loved that Blanche Macdonald had a Business program built into it, as well as Makeup and Hair for TV & Film; you could really get a taste of everything. I wanted to come out of school feeling prepared. Blanche just seemed to be the right fit.”
It was. Eliza took to the program like a curl to heat.
“My group (29) was awesome! We prided ourselves on being loved by the instructors. There was a lot of bonding through the intense practical exams and I still keep in contact with some of the girls from my program. I went into hair school like, ‘Oh, I’ve done an undergrad, this is going to be easy,’ but I’d be out in the hallways with the rest of them afterwards just exclaiming about how intense it was! It was a really great experience.”
It was during the Pro Hair’s Work Experience program that Eliza was introduced to Style Lab Headquarters, and by the time her internship had come to an end, they were already at a loss with what they’d do without her. They hired her on to their roster of independent stylists, and the four years she would go on to work there would inform the trajectory of her career.
“I love the idea of being independent and working for myself, but also within an environment of like-minded people that I could learn from. When I was thinking of opening a salon, I thought about getting a small studio by myself, but that didn’t appeal to me. I’ve always learned so much from working with other people. Style Lab totally opened my eyes to that and I feel really blessed to have only ever worked in chair rental salons. I run the structure here at Artel very similarly.”
I’m incredibly proud of this space, proud of the stylists here and of the culture that I feel is forming.
Even with an appointment book brimming with eager salon clientele, Eliza still found the time to take on a side project; she and her lens-wielding power-couple-other are the team behind one-stop-shop personal photography collective Trendi Creative, which has been sassing-up and snapping Vancouver since 2012.
“It started as a life partnership; Rob was working in the film industry while we were dating and it was a really difficult lifestyle to pace, to have any kind of balance. We got married and literally two weeks later he quit his job. It was terrifying. But I thought, ‘I’ve been running a freelance business myself, so I know that we can do this.’ We came up with the concept of Trendi Creative on the flight to our honeymoon. We would be cross-promoting each other.”
Launching Trendi Creative succeeded both in pushing the artists into new heights of awareness, and in whetting Eliza’s appetite for entrepreneurship. She wanted more of it, and with her ever-growing list of loyal fringe followers, she knew that her salon ownership aspirations were now within reach.
“I’ve always been interested in real estate, and for two years I had been searching online for potential spaces, always keeping my ear to the ground. I had even written a full business plan so that I would be ready.”
She’d been daydreaming about this since she first began Hair School. And when 3558 Fraser Street popped up on the market, Eliza was ready to pounce.
“I’m incredibly proud of this space, proud of the stylists here and of the culture that I feel is forming. As much as you want to plan out what you want a vibe to be, it’s something that grows organically. And I’m really proud that people have told me that when they come in they feel welcome.”
There have been a lot of firsts for Eliza in opening Artel. For a stylist who has been so proudly independant throughout her career, the transition to having a roster of stylists depending on her launched a steep learning curve.
“Being on this side of things now, I have so much more understanding and gratefulness for my previous employers. Oh man, now I totally get why they did some of the things that they did.”
Eliza knew what she wanted and what she was looking for in curating the Artel team.
“For me, it was really really important when I was hiring stylists to look for a level of professionalism. Looking not only at their work but their vibe and what they put out there on social media; maintaining a level of professionalism inside and outside of the salon. I was looking also for a warmth and a welcoming because I wanted Artel to be an approachable space.
“The level of professionalism was one thing that was instilled very early on in Blanche and something that I still value. This is a very personal industry, but you always have to maintain that level of professionalism in the way that you dress, with your language, with your topics of conversation. You really never know who’s sitting in the chair beside you and you never want to make anyone else feel uncomfortable. Just because you feel comfortable in a space doesn’t mean everyone else does. You should always keep that at the back of your mind.”
Eliza has done a lot of learning throughout her career and now, with her second location, she is more dialed in than ever.
“Clients at Artel on Cambie can expect the same warmth, charm, and neighbourhood vibes of the original location with a bright and low-key ambience. Nestled just off Cambie, Artel’s second location offers a relaxing reprieve from the hustle and bustle just steps outside the front door.”
The level of professionalism was one thing that was instilled very early on in Blanche and something that I still value.
Artel Salon is an exercise in balance: organics play with industrial in the decor, team success supports independent success, and each plays their part as mentor and mentored. It is professional and it is intimate. And just like Eliza herself, Artel is both savvy in business and rich in warmth.
Artel is already slated up there with the best of them in Vancouver’s thriving salon scene and Eliza is doing it all herself, in her own way. The new day begins as the first client arrives, and Eliza leaves us to claim the hours with the same fire that brought her here, from chair rental stylist to 2x owner of her own hair empire.
“Be hungry, stay hungry. When I was in school every person that I saw on the bus was a potential client. It’s an easy industry to get into, but it’s not necessarily an easy industry to stay in if you’re not hungry. You have to work hard, put in the time and you have to really want it.”