As Tracey Hughes discovered, turning your dreams into reality can be as easy as never looking back.
As a young British hairstylist in the 1980s, Tracey Hughes was given the opportunity to teach, and she took it without thinking twice. “When you are young you naturally say yes, and I think having that experience very early on influenced my career,” she says. From there, Hughes set out to travel the world, falling in love with Australia and making it her home for more than 20 years.
With the award-winning success of her salons, working as a guest artist for multiple manufacturers, and the launch of her education brand, she continues to push boundaries—and she’s not done yet. We caught up with Hughes to find out how she stays motivated and on top of her game while continuing to reinvent herself.
Salon Magazine: How did the concept of Tracey Hughes Education come about?
Tracey Hughes: When I opened my salon, Mieka, I had established myself as a guest artist with a focus on education. With the salon, I built a culture centered on education and I wanted my team to have a strong technical and customer service focus. When I became a brand artistic director, I had the opportunity to work in different countries and after stepping out of that role, I really wanted to focus on education through my own brand, Tracey Hughes Education. With the experience I have in training more than half a million hairstylists worldwide, I wanted to bring that focus to train other educators. Now I run an educator training program, and work with stylist teams and education teams.
SM: How important is it to make the right connections no matter what stage you are at in your career?
TH: Even though I have a profile and have been working in and out of multiple countries, I still get to know the stylists. Doing main stage shows gives people
a chance to get to know me and I always make an effort to meet the audience, no matter how big or small the show is. It’s amazing; the more that I understand hairstylists on a personal level, the more I can nd out what the industry needs right now. If you have the privilege of coaching and motivating others, you naturally want to create the human connection. Right now, the industry is missing that really solid connection with other people. No one should feel they aren’t good enough. This is where the having the right coach and mentor and being open-minded comes into play.
SM: How do you define success?
TH: Success is very different for everyone. I think a lot of what I have is determination; I’ve fought through personally and professionally tough times, and I have this hunger and I aspire to never give up. My husband says I’m a bit odd because I never give up. I’m high energy and I rely on that. Even when things get tough, I can coach myself through it. I also remind myself to stay present in the moment and not to look too far ahead. You just have to keep pushing through and surround yourself with good. You have to have the combination of communication, technical and care skills, and not let fear or self-doubt hold you back.
SM: You have had some amazing success but it hasn’t all been easy for you. Can you tell us about that?
TH: When I sold my salons a few years ago to a corporate company, I thought it would be a great opportunity to create consumer awareness of our industry. I sat on the board of directors [of the corporate company], spent time making the decision to roll my salon in with this company, and then decided I could bring up my education. Six weeks after the sale, I was made redundant. After having very pro table salons for 18 years and putting so many years of development into my team who were like family for me, those were very dark days. Thankfully, I still had education commitments to uphold and that’s what got me through.
SM: How did you keep yourself focused during those tough times?
TH: It took every ounce of strength I had to stand on the stage after what happened, but it’s also what kept me going. The people I taught—seeing them developing a new skill—it was a light bulb moment for me. We all have challenges through life. The fact that I could help people during my tough time was key. Also, when there were days that I wasn’t feeling motivated, I exercised and focused on looking after myself physically, and I found that helped me stay energized and in a positive mindset.
SM: Tell us about your work and development of Leading Ladies.
TH: I’m proud to be the founder of Leading Ladies. I wanted to celebrate women in our industry who were making a difference, women who were making a bit of a disruption. Our industry is more than 85 per cent female, but there are a lot of men who are at the top as decision-makers from a corporate aspect, especially. Women go through challenges that other women understand, and while having a balance of career and family isn’t new, we are trying to heighten awareness of it. Each woman represents a different aspect of the industry, which includes focuses on education, social media influence and business. With Leading Ladies, we share business advice but it’s also about making people realize that life on the road is not that glamorous when there are things that you still need to overcome.
SM: What would you tell your younger self?
TH: To think about more security. I am very much a risk-taker and I embrace change, but sometimes having a bit more security is a good thing. Also, I would say that you don’t need to be so independent. Ask for help and support more.