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Conversations with the Inspiring Cari Engelhardt

Today we’d like to introduce you to Cari Engelhardt.

Cari, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
My hair-story starts when I was a little kid; I grew up in a local theatre program called CYT, where my love for hair and makeup blossomed in backstage during shows. I was that kid who would drive her mom, nuts and cut her own hair behind the couch or cut all of Barbie’s hair. The summer after my freshman year of High-School I worked as an assistant at Capelli Salon Academy, which solidified that being a hairdresser was what I wanted to do. After finishing high school I immediately went cosmetology school, graduating in July 2017 and immediately started working in the city at Thomas West in the Merchandise Mart. I moved to Lincoln Park the following month and in the year since then I’ve studied hair  and salon life in Chicago and two different, amazing salons(Thomas West and Trio Salon), I got to network and connect with so many people, I learned to jump out of my comfort zone and say yes, and I got the opportunity to help with the Beauty Changes Lives fashion Show 2018 preparation, which was amazing, crazy, and so much fun. I moved back to the suburbs in July, and in August I found my home at Salon Coccole in Lake Zurich where I am continuing my training, and I now teach part-time at the theatre company where it all started.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
It definitely has not been easy. The first year out of school, I felt like everything was moving at an extremely slow pace, and I wasn’t improving at the rate I wanted to. I was trying to find my place in the industry and I was living independently for the first time ever, and those together caused a lot of stress and anxiety. If I could give a piece of advice to someone starting out, it’s that you should always take care of yourself first, both mentally and physically, and find something and/or someone outside of work to keep balance. If I had worked through days when I was at my lowest or just ignored my needs, I would have lost my passion for what I do. I really relied on my fiance for support and I started working out regularly. I found a gym near my apartment (HUSTLE Fitness on Halsted) and worked with the trainers there and they kept me accountable and out of the house on days when I could barely get out of bed. Even though I don’t live near the city any more, working out is still part of my self care. Take care of yourself first before there isn’t a “you” to take care of.

What should we know about your work? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
I am a hairstylist who is specializing in cutting and styling. I love working with curly textures, bridal and event hair, extensions, and everything in between. I really love taking the time to work with my clients on what will make them feel their best and getting their hair and scalp as healthy as possible. I’m still learning and figuring out what my “brand” is, but right now I really appreciate every person who takes a chance on me and sits in my chair, because they are giving me the chance to grow and figure out what I’d really love to specialize in.

What do you feel are the biggest barriers today to female leadership, in your industry or generally?
I think the biggest barriers today are knowing what we’re worth and having the confidence to stick to it, and that more often than not we have to work harder to get to the places we want to. Women are more than willing to put in the work, and there is certainly no lack of motivation, but more often than not women aren’t given as many opportunities as our counterparts to be in a leadership role, so we have to create our own from the ground up. Many of us also second guess our worth or get pushed to the side; in my case, when I’m telling someone what a haircut with me costs I feel small and almost guilty about the price I give them. I’m very lucky to work in a salon founded and owned by a confident woman, but I see just how much harder she works than other male employers I’ve worked for in the past, which gives me the confidence to stand up for myself and my worth. I’m lucky to be in an industry where I can forge my own path and be in charge of what direction my career goes, but some women aren’t in the same position and we need to work on creating more opportunities so we can really be equal to our male counterparts.

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