If the economy has experienced ups and downs in the past ten years, no one let the cosmetology and beauty school industry know. The field continues to experience steady growth despite fluctuating economic cycles.

There are now nearly 1,600 accredited beauty schools in the US. Employment growth rates for hairdresser, stylist and cosmetologist jobs are expected to increase 13 percent between 2012 and 2020 with a combined annual revenue of about $20 billion.

Summit Salon and Academy features nationally known trainers and guests.

One notable industry trend: a handful of schools and salons are rocketing some students to high level incomes while allowing them more flexible hours than a traditional salon setting. These are the so-called Ivy League schools of the industry. Fifty of the largest companies generate 15 percent of the revenue in the US beauty business.

Luke Huffstutter of Annastasias in Portland, employs students leaving Summit Salon Academy. He believes the fastest track to a successful career in the beauty industry is finding the school that teaches and models business as well as styling basics.

Annastasias also emphasizes intangibles, believing the fun and artistic side of a business is what makes people enjoy their job. According to Huffstutter: “We would like to move from creative to artistic. The students like art, fashion, make-up, design and painting. We are targeting students who don’t want to go to a traditional school, but are attracted to design, architecture, drawing and art. We are more than an alternative, we are an answer for students who draw and paint for fun. We turn their passion into a career.”

Huffstutter isn’t sold on the 40-hour work week. He believes stylists can have a great life with hobbies and careers as well. “We see so many artists being waitresses or waiters because their art doesn’t pay the bills. We are saying that career can be in alignment with art. Someone can work 32 hours, make an amazing living creating at work and still have time to go home and pursue other passions.”

Another thing Huffstutter doesn’t buy into is the poor mentality of commodity stylists. He sees graduates earning upwards of $80,000 or more.

Summit Salon Academy has a reputation throughout the region as the go-to-school for high skills training and the fastest track to higher income levels. The best salon owners see the talent coming out of Summit Salon Academy and landing at Annastasias. Salon industry expert, Darren Wood, agrees the better the school and training track, the better the lifestyle afterward. “No question that a student’s choice of school decides everything for that student’s future in the industry. It can make the difference between making $20,000 over $100,000.” Wood went on to say, “The most successful in the field, will come from the top schools like Summit Salon Academy and will be ramped up in the shortest amount of time.”

Darren Wood is known as the turnaround king of salons in the Portland and greater northwest area.”I look to hire from schools like Summit Salon Academy before I look anywhere else. Luke and his brother, Chris, at the academy, prepare their students to succeed and do it fast,” Wood said. “They are ready to go day one.”

Luke Huffstutter of Annastasias Salon in Portland

Huffstutter, owner of Annastasias, speaks highly of the school slash salon track: “Our salon offers teaching opportunities for its stylists as well as a great chance to make the same kind of money Darren’s salons do. The first rule of building a successful salon is to attach yourself to the best schools. Summit Salon Academy is by far the best school in terms of turning students into master stylists and smart business people. Annastasias Salon is the finishing ground for top students to learn, not just the craft of the being a stylist, but the business of how to become the highest paid in the field within a few years of leaving school.” Darren is himself a guru in the salon turnaround field. He knows how to make new students successful in a short time. “We have students who come out of Summit at the age of 21 or 22 and are well on their way to making as much as a hundred thousand dollars a year on a 32-hour schedule.”

Where a stylist attends school is often the most important step in getting set up for a happy and prosperous career. Luke Huffstutter agrees: “We want to retain the best talent for Annastasias that comes from Summit Salon Academy, but I am just as happy if they are selected or lucky enough to go to work for someone like Darren. It says a lot about us and how we are training them, because we are focused on launching students into successful careers first. Annastasias welcomes seeing our best students move on to a top salon like 22 Changes and Ensemble.”

According to Huffstutter, “For a stylist to work for a legend salon manager like Darren, they need to go to a school like Summit Salon Academy. It’s not an exaggeration to suggest it is the Stanford of salon schools. And when you start getting the paycheck to prove it, the payoff makes the school stand out. Over a lifetime, the difference in income and quality of life is astounding.”