Episode 3: A Hair Stylist’s Journey

Hair Stylist and Podcaster: Karie Koltz

Episode 3: A Hair Stylist’s Journey Career Spotlight

From the kindergarten classroom (their kids’, not their own) to Holli sitting in Karie’s chair for a fresh look, Holli and Karie have chatted about their career journeys many times. Plus, Karie has shared much of her working life through her own podcast, Hair Talk. 

Karie Koltz has been a hairdresser for more than 30 years. Located in Seattle for most of those years, she has clients who have come to see her every month for a couple of decades and more. She’s worked in many different salons and has amazing stories to share. 

Now Karie and Holli, along with Casey, share the conversation with you: how does one become a hair stylist? (and is the correct term “hair stylist”?) How do you stand for ALL THOSE HOURS? What is it like working for a salon as opposed to owning your own? How much latitude do you usually get with people’s hair and look? 

If you’ve had the same look too long, maybe it’s time to check out Hair Talk?

Find Karie: https://linktr.ee/kariekoltz

Listen to Hair Talk with Karie Koltz: https://www.hairtalkpodcast.com/

“You know, way back when we were called beauty operators.”

Karie Koltz

Episode 3 Transcript



Welcome to the Career Spotlight Podcast. I am so excited for today’s episode with Karie Koltz. She is a professional hairstylist and podcaster. She’s actually one of the people who has inspired me in the beginning seeds of ideas for us to start this podcast, the Career Spotlight Podcast. Welcome, Karie.



Thanks for having me. It’s really fun. This is very exciting.



I’m delighted you’re here. And I’d love to give our listeners a little bit of background about you. So I thought we could start with some quick Q&A if you’re up for it.



I’m up for it.



All right. Do you remember how we met?



I imagine that it was in the kindergarten classroom. But I don’t know exactly. <both laugh>



You know, I have a confession to make. I don’t remember exactly when we met. But I do remember the impression I first had of you. And that was that you always looked so put together, and not like you were trying too hard, but you just always had this wonderful polish about you. And I thought, wow, how does she do that?



Well, thank you. I didn’t ever feel like that when I was doing drop off or pickup. <both laugh>. But it was probably before work or after work, so.



Yeah. So we really got to know each other through our kids first, I think in the kindergarten classroom, and then beyond in the same school community. And then slowly but surely, I decided I wanted you to be my hairstylist, and I’ve followed you ever since.



Yeah, that’s been awesome. I love that. And then we’ve connected creatively a lot. And it’s been a fun journey with you. And now it’s nice to meet your husband too and have a chat with him.



Yeah, I don’t know that we’ve met before.



Oh, you have, you just don’t remember. <Holli laughs>



We probably saw each other at school events at some point. And that’s fine, it’s hard, it all falls out the back.



I don’t know that you guys have had a real conversation together. It’s always been me talking to Karie. Well, I’m that partner in life, right, where I know all the parents and I just kind of fill you in on what you need to know. <Karie laughs>. At least when it comes to our kids’ schedules in that circle. But yeah, let’s go ahead and stop talking about our personal lives so much. And I would love to talk more about your experience Karie and the professional that you are. And yeah, let’s dig in. Casey, do you want to kick us off with a more direct question? 



Sure. I can do that. I would love to hear more about how you came to be a hairstylist. Actually, that produces a question for me. Is hairstylist the best term that you prefer?



Oh yeah, there’s a lot of names for us. I like them all. <Karie laughs>. But yeah, it kind of changes over the years and over the decades. You know, way back when we were called beauty operators. Beauty operators, hair stylists, hairdressers, I don’t know, now they have designers, technicians, magicians.



I like magician better than technician, technician just seems so cold. What you do is creative, well, it is technical, but it’s really creative problem solving.



Definitely, yeah. Honestly, I just wanted to get through beauty school, because I was just so excited about all of it. And I had a really great experience with beauty school. I was unusually confident, <Holli laughs>, which I’ve found through talking to other hairstylists through my podcast that my experience was not typical. Like I was just excited to do everything and not shy about it, and just very excited about all of it. 

And you know, over the years, I’ve become smarter about it. So that kind of creates a little bit of a shake in confidence every once in a while because, I don’t know, I think as you get older, that confidence that you have as a youth is just kind of like, not so magical anymore. <Karie laughs>. You don’t know what you don’t know, right?



Yeah, I was gonna say exactly that. Yeah. And you spoke to evolving as a business owner and as a professional, and I think as you get more specialized, more skills, sometimes you realize, oh wait, I didn’t know that I needed this. And now I need to learn this.



Exactly. And so then the anxiety comes. <Karie laughs>. As things just get more complicated. 



Right. Well, that brings me to one of the questions I forgot to ask earlier. And that was, what was your first paycheck job Karie? Was it with hair or without hair?



Oh, definitely without hair. So I was 16 and I worked at a drive-up-window burger place that was locally owned. I was like a waitress, there was a small dining area. But most of the time I was making ice cream cones and sundaes and milkshakes and burgers. I wasn’t making them, I was serving them. <Karie laughs>



Sounds like a fun first job. Was there anything from that experience that bled over or inspired or informed your choice to go into doing hair instead?



It taught me about working on your feet for hours and hours, and the hard work that it is. So it kind of prepared me for that. I think the first day that I worked eight hours I was exhausted, and I was a busy kid. <Karie laughs>. It’s a different kind of tired. 



So in your experience, and working in hair, and I’ve listened to your podcast, I’m a big fan of Hair Talk with Karie Koltz and company. And I’ve noticed, yeah, some of the stories that you all share have to do with, you know, just how physically exertive the industry is. I don’t think we as people who just come for our hour or so appointment, think about how taxing it is. What has helped your creative inspiration and enthusiasm stay and have stamina over the course of your career?



Advanced education, for sure. As soon as I got out of school, I just worked at a place that offered classes and I just took every class, and kind of been doing that my whole career. These days, I like to go to another city and spend a few days and do intensive training. And I’ll even go back to basic haircutting. Just basic, basic, basic and slow everything down and break all my bad habits. Because you always get bad habits and cut corners. And you know, it just happens naturally.



That’s awesome. The physical side of your industry, how do you keep up or keep your stamina and your physical agility going?



I work out a lot. And I have a team of people to help me with my aches and pains. So I go to acupuncture on a regular basis and massage. And when things get really bad, I go to the chiropractor.



I’m glad that you know and have tools and resources to help you help support your body.






I’m curious, right out of beauty school, you went right into working for someone else. And now you work independently. Have you worked for someone else most of your career? Have you had periods where you go, I work for this salon, and then I was independent for a bit? What’s that look like?



After beauty school, I went into college. And so I worked at a chain salon that just paid hourly plus commission. And it was really nice because I just had to show up for work and clean up and go home, and then I could go to school at the same time. Then I went to art school, I graduated from there. And as that was all happening, I climbed up a ladder, corporate ladder. Because I thought maybe that would be something I’d want to do. And I realized after I demoted myself, that it’s not something that I want to do. It’s not for me. 

I didn’t like managing, and I didn’t like working for a corporation that I didn’t understand why they made decisions that they made. Once I realized that I was going to be a hairdresser for the rest of my life, I decided I was going to really try and build my business and my brand. So I got a job downtown and charged more for a haircut, and I worked under someone who was sort of helping me realize what kind of hairdresser I’m going to be. And then that led into working for myself.



Tell us more about what inspired you to go ahead and make that leap from working for others in a salon to working for yourself.



I don’t like people telling me what to do. <all laugh>. I don’t mind having a discussion with somebody about collaborating. Like, if you can tell me why then I’m on board. But a lot of times when you’re working for someone else, in my experience, it’s their way or the highway, and I can’t be happy in that kind of environment. So I didn’t mind working for someone else as long as I had a say and a voice in my work, basically. It was all very work related. It wasn’t necessarily a personal thing. But we were sharing clients, he cut the hair and I colored the hair. And I thought it was really important, if we needed to talk about it, we talked about what the look was and stuff, and he just wanted to dictate to me what his vision was and then me just do it. And I couldn’t work that way. I had to have some ownership in my work and creative license, right? And he said, I just want a yes man. And I’m like, I’m not it for you, so that was that.



Do you find that when you’re with different clients that come in, do you have people that come in and they’re like, oh, I just want the standard thing that I’ve been doing for a decade? And then I’d imagine you have people that come in and it’s more of a collaboration, and they go, well, I want something kinda like this but I don’t know what that looks like. And you get to kind of riff on that with them.



Most of the time it’s a collaboration. Even people that are getting the same thing over and over again, we always tweak it, we always do something a little different. You know, it’s always something to keep it fresh and keep it modern and current. I try to steer people away from, you know, having the same look forever, for decades. I mean, you can have it similar, but there’s always little details that you can add to a color or cut that makes it current. So they don’t look like they don’t have any idea. <Karie and Holli laugh>



Like they’re out of touch. 



Yeah, like everybody wants that. You know, everyone wants to stay current. I can think of two people that don’t, and they are still wearing the very, very, very curly poodle perms that they did in the 1970s. So, they’re the only exception. <Holli laughs>. I’m the only one they can find that will do those poodle perms.



Yeah, that’s funny.


<Sponsor transition Holli’s Voice>

You’re gonna do one of these poses for me. Yeah, very GQ. Here we go. Good, nice and friendly, kind of curious.



The Career Spotlight Podcast is sponsored by Native Light Photography, Holli’s business. She helps career professionals shine through headshot portraits, creates story branding photographs for small businesses to show the world what they do, and also teaches others how to take better photographs of themselves. As a thank you for listening, Native Light Photography is offering a complimentary guide for how to prepare for your next photo session. Visit nativelightphoto.com/careerspotpod to download your guide today.



Let’s dive right back into our episode.



Hair is such a part of our identity too.



Yeah, one of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about having you be my hairstylist, Karie, is your ability to also think about your clients and go, hey, I saw this and thought of you, would you consider, do you want to try something different that looks like this? You’re very inspiring and encouraging of someone like me who’s very, I don’t want to say I’m boring, but I definitely am a fan of the same. <Holli laughs>



I don’t think that of you at all. Yeah, you make bold decisions quite often. Like you went from really long hair when I met you, to a Pixie in one sitting. You know, like that’s super brave.



Yeah. I think over the course of my lifetime, like I had really long hair as a kid, and then I went from that to a pixie, I think I was like 14. And then the bob. So I’ve done the range many times, so that’s why by the time I saw you, I was like, yeah let’s do this, I’m ready to go back there again.



Right. So it was familiar on some level.



Yeah, exactly. But yeah, I have like three lengths, long, pixie, and then chin-length bob. I guess because I’m not doing really cutting edge styles and color, I don’t think of myself as bold.



I think of you as bold. <both laugh>



Oh, thank you. You know, you mentioned working for someone who sort of helped you discover the kind of business owner you wanted to be and the kind of stylist you wanted to be. Can you tell me a little bit more about that and your industry? Does that naturally happen that you sort of have a mentor, or do you kind of have to seek that out?



I think it does naturally happen. I didn’t have a nurturing mentor, I had someone who was trying to mold me into something that he wanted. And it was my defiance that helped me come to that decision, which is also telling. These days, I see new stylists gravitating towards these mentors that are women that are just grabbing them and saying, listen, I know this is good for you, you need to do what I’m saying. You know, just over with the podcast, I’ve heard these women do that. And I’m like, should I be doing that? I’m kind of at that age. <Karie laughs>. But I don’t think that everybody’s meant to be a mentor that way, you know?






I don’t know, I think it’s just really interesting how people find their inspiration and find that. I didn’t get it by someone telling me, I got it by someone trying to control me. <Karie laughs>. It’s like when you have a boss, and you’re like, I know the things that I don’t like about that, so I’m going to be different. You know, I think that’s how I approached it. But I think it’s such a common thing for hair stylists to try and find somebody to look up to. I’m not saying I didn’t have people that I looked up to, I definitely did. But I don’t think it was a typical path.



Right. So tell us more about your podcast. When did you start it and what inspired you to start it?



I started last summer, June/July of 2021. And I think I started it because of a couple of things. I moved from my business to my home. And so I’ve been home a lot, and kind of missing that salon environment and that energy from people. I still have my clients, so I’m not lonely or anything. But I miss talking with my colleagues and people in the industry. And I’ve always, I don’t know, wanted to interview people. I just started practicing on my clients. I used to have this thing where I felt like I was being intrusive, if I asked them too many questions. So when I was thinking about doing a podcast, I thought, I’m just going to put that aside and I’m going to ask people questions, regardless of my feeling if I’m being intrusive. So I started practicing on them before I had the podcast and I got really good results. I learned so much more about people and I really loved the interview process. Like me being on the other side of that is not as comfortable. <Holli and Karie laugh>. Today, you know, as a guest. I like asking the questions. 


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

All right, so we are here today with Irene Rivera. Welcome. Welcome, welcome. Hi girl.


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

Thanks for having me. I’m so delighted, like when I was walking up, I was like, who me? <all laugh>


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

Heck yeah. It is fun.


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

It is. I love this space too. That mirror is incredible.


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

Thank you. We are recording in my studio today. And I’ve got my co host, Linda. Hi guys. And our sound genius, Leah. Yes. <all laugh>. And our guest, Irene, we’re super happy. So Irene, tell me about yourself.


<excerpt from one of Karie’s podcast episodes>

So I started doing hair in like 2005. And I went the route, because I was kind of a young mom, I needed a little help from parents. So I ended up moving to the Tri-Cities where my folks live. I’m sorry. You know me though, I can actually make friends anywhere. So it actually worked out. That’s true. But mom and dad helped me a lot with Raj while he was little, so I could go to school, as we know, it’s like eight hour, nine hour days. And then I worked on top of that, for part time at a salon. So I really dove into the hair industry right off the bat. School and then to the salon, where I did retailing and I was a cashier at Northwest Beauty in the mall. Yeah, like I can say I worked at the mall.”



I love your podcast and like I had mentioned earlier, I wanted to thank you for being inspiring. You know, I think the fact that you did something new and you’re clearly having fun with it, I thought, wow, you know what? That looks like fun. So I convinced Casey to join me in this, I call it The Adventure. A lot of people are like, oh, is this your new business? I’m like, no it’s not. But it’s definitely something that could be an extension, right? It’s more a way to, like you said, get to know people and have more conversations with others. And yeah, so as you’ve been doing your podcast, is there anything new that you’ve learned in your industry?



I’ve been talking to a lot of different people, a lot of people who have been doing it for a long time and then some new stylists. I think the thing that I’ve learned the most, is how different the industry is now than it was 30 years ago. Like it has changed in ways that I had no idea. 

Stylists are coming out of school with insane skills, like such good technical skills, good skills. And they’re learning how to market themselves, they’re using social media to their clientele. They can literally dictate who sits in their chair, like, I want this kind of person in my chair, this is who I market to, this is who I get. Whereas I had to take whoever walked in the door. So somebody walks in with a flat top, I don’t know how to do that. Someone walks in, you know, with a color correction, I got to know how to do that. And I got to in five minutes. Like I didn’t have time to think about it or process it or anything. So it’s completely different. And I listened to different podcasts by millennial coaches, and I learned so much from them. And I love what they’re doing with the industry, the way they’re changing it, it’s very exciting. And I’m kind of on my way out. And so I’ve just kind of been riding the wave at this point. <Holli laughs>. I’m on the down curve. <Karie laughs>



Got it. Okay, I have to ask into that. I think that’s really interesting. Because you’re not very old, Karie. I don’t think of you as somebody who’s like expiring or anything. Really, you know, it shows how much I don’t know about your industry. And I guess it probably depends on where you’re at. What does that look like, when do people retire from being a hairstylist?



That’s a really good question. Because there isn’t a time that we decide that we’re retiring. It can be anything, it can be any time. A lot of hairstylists, I know, are doing hair into their 70s and 80s. It’s a lot.



That sounds like a lot. 



Yeah. And I’m 51, and I’ve been doing it since I was 19. So I think for me, this is my down, you know, I’m on the downslope and I’m trying new things. That’s the other thing, it’s like, I’ve been doing it for so long, what else can I do? I’m just listening to my 19 year old self telling me this is what I do. So, you know, what does my 51 year old self tell me? You know, there’s other things. But there’s no way I’ll ever be able to walk away from it. So it’s, you know, you just start dabbling. <Karie laughs>



Right, right. Well, that brings up something that’s been really fun, and a fun way that I’ve worked with you that we haven’t shared yet. And that is that I’ve really enjoyed working with you when I have a client that needs extra support for their photo session. You’ve come in and you’ve been an amazing hairstylist for a photoshoot, which is different from say, you know, someone who cuts somebody’s hair every six weeks. But you definitely have a way of coming in and helping put a client at ease and feeling really comfortable for their photoshoot, and like they’ve got it dialed in for their hair. Yeah, I guess tell us a little bit more about what you’re dabbling in beyond your hair business.



I think about coaching, I think about volunteering, I think about giving back. Like, that’s like my biggest focus. Okay, I’ve done this, what else can I do? How else can I help? I think about working in retirement homes and doing little old lady’s hair, because I love them. And I think about doing free haircuts for people in need, just stuff like that, stuff that makes me feel good.



Karie, I’m curious, if people wanted to learn more about you and your podcast, where should they find you online?



They can go to linktr.ee/kariekoltz, and that has all of my businesses and links and things like that on it.



Well, we’ll make sure it’s in the show notes, so that people can just link to it. And you’re fun to follow on Instagram as well, which I’m sure is in your linktree. I like seeing your behind the scenes and examples and your podcast posts. I have a great wrap up question, if you were to give someone looking to enter the industry today any advice, what would that be?



Never stop learning. That would be my advice. Like, you don’t get out of beauty school and know anything. <Holli laughs>. You don’t work this job for 30 years and know anything. Like you are always learning, be confident but humble. So just be open to all of the things. 



Yeah. Well thank you, Karie. It’s been a pleasure having you on our podcast and we really appreciate you being our guest today.



Well, it’s been great. I’m really happy for you both. I think this is a really great podcast, and I’m so excited to hear more. I listened to your first one with the two of you, and learned a lot and it was so fun. You guys are hilarious. Good job.



Thank you Karie.



Thanks so much for joining us for this episode of the Career Spotlight Podcast. Don’t forget to subscribe on your favorite podcast platform so you’ll never miss an episode. We would love it if you left us a review and shared the podcast with someone it might help.



You can find us online at careerspotlightpodcast.com, Twitter @careerspotpod, and Instagram @careerspotlightpodcast.



Until next time, take care.

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