10 Things To Know About Ouai Founder And Kardashian-Approved Hairstylist Jen Atkin
Jen Atkin knows hair. She has applied her Midas touch on the tresses of all the Kardashian and Jenner siblings from Khloe to Kylie, not to mention Bella and Gigi Hadid and Chrissy Teigen, and started Mane Addicts—a website dedicated to all things related to hair, from maintenance tips to styling tutorials.
Her own brand, Ouai, of haircare products has expanded to include perfume, plus a body wash and lotion, and the range is now available at Sephora.
Atkin was in Sydney to headline the Bumble Bizz Summit—a networking event featuring panel sessions for aspiring female entrepreneurs. Bumble Bizz is an extension from the Bumble dating app, where it is the female users that determine who they want to message, and the Bizz side of the app focuses on networking for career and business opportunities.
Atkin first drove to Los Angeles to look for a job and now flies to the Middle East to meet clients for haircut appointments—here are some of her thoughts on starting out, perseverance and being a boss:
1/10 She grew up in Hawaii and Utah and drove to Los Angeles after high school with her best friend
After arriving in Los Angeles, she landed her first job as a receptionist at a beauty salon.
“We decided we just wanted to discover something bigger than the town we grew up in. At 19 years old, you’re just fearless. You take risks. We had nothing to lose, in hindsight. We packed up our Honda Civics and moved to Los Angeles. We didn’t know anybody, didn’t have a job lined up, didn’t have money, didn’t know how to balance a cheque book. We just went and hoped for the best.”
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2/10 She got her work ethic from her mother
“We grew up in a Mormon town, it was a very small community and none of the moms really worked. My mom worked, she worked since I was small. My family had a ton of different businesses and I grew up helping her in those businesses. My mom had a big impact on me, she is really passionate about everything she did and that really stuck with me.
3/10 Growing up in a religious household helped shape her outlook
“Looking back now, growing up in a religious household, it wasn’t even really about religion, it was about being a good person, about setting goals, about keeping a positive outlook on things and putting positive things out there in the universe. I definitely think that has stuck with me and really helped me a lot in my career.”
4/10 Being a receptionist sparked an interest in hair styling
“I was feeding parking meters; I was so excited because the first week I was there I got to feed Bette Midler’s meter. I took that time to observe because I didn’t realise you can make a living doing hair. I learned the business side of things, handling the money, how the hairstylists got paid, and how the salon paid for itself. From there I got promoted to salon manager.
I didn’t have the money to go to hair school. At the time, it costs $21,000 to go to Tony & Guy or Vidal Sassoon. Another assistant told me about a state-funded programme, so I saved up for that.”
5/10 One of her early jobs was on Madonna’s world tour
“That tour was in 2006 and I was assisting her hair stylist. So I got a job going around the world on Madonna’s dime.”
6/10 She believes in paying it forward
“My advice is to be nice because it really is true—the people you see on the way up is the people you see on the way down.
It is also important to send the elevator back down for someone. As you are networking and making connections, it’s important to just spread it and pay it forward. Help other women connect the dots.”
7/10 She calls up Kris Jenner for advice
“When I first started Ouai, I wanted to have conversations with female founders, I wanted to know their journey. I reached out to Sonia Kashuk and I’m really lucky I have Kris Jenner on speed dial. I think it is really, really important to have mentors.”
8/10 Competition doesn't worry her
“I think this also goes into why I found success as a hairstylist. I just don’t sweat the competition. I don’t have that gene where I care what people think about me. I try not to put energy in that. It can really distract you from what you want and where you are going. I like to have blinders on and look forward to where I’m going to go next.”
9/10 The New York Times have dubbed her the world’s most influential hairstylist but…
“If you want to get into hair, know that you will miss everyone’s wedding and baby shower and never have a Saturday to yourself, ever. I joke about it, but it really was a sacrifice, because of the travel. Also get a chiropractor cause my shoulders are killing me. It’s really hard on the body.”
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10/10 What she wished someone would have told her in the beginning
“I wish someone would have told me to save my money… And I feel like I was really naïve as to how long I would have to be working really hard. Everyone thinks of this timeline where you work really hard and then you retire. I think if you found something you really love—like I hope to be doing hair for the next 20 to 30 years—but I wish someone would have told me that in the beginning.”
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