Baytown, Texas — Roberta Hector is the voice of experience. An Aruban-native and owner of R & E Cosmetology School in Baytown, Texas, the 10-year beauty industry veteran has dabbled in a little bit of everything, from opening her own salon right after beauty school (“I know that was bold,” she said to me in retrospect) to becoming a student again while earning her instructors’ license to now owning and operating a cosmetology school with an open-to-the-public, full-service salon.
On a recent Saturday morning when I arrived at the salon for a manicure, I heard her voice fluently sliding between English and Spanish as she chatted with her students. She revealed to me later that her bilingualism played a key role in her becoming a cosmetology instructor. “When I was in beauty school, I had some instructors who couldn’t speak Spanish. They’d come to me and say, ‘Please tell Anna to do this,’ or ‘Ask Victor to do that,’ and then they said, ‘You know, you should be an instructor,’” Hector remembers. “That comment stuck in my head.”
Her fluency in Spanish has helped her capture potential beauty students who possibly couldn’t enroll in other schools due to the language barrier and helped her create strong client relationships with a wider range of customers. I thought about how great it would be if more instructors and salon owners, especially in states (like Texas and NAILS’ home of California) where there are a lot of Spanish-speakers, would pick up a working knowledge of the language. It would be a great way to cultivate more diverse salon staffs and client bases.
I also took the opportunity to ask Hector about what’s changed in the nail industry over the years. Her response was “Tips on toes. Clients didn’t wear enhancements on their toenails until recently.” In an era of “rock star toes” (glitter toenails) and readily-available toenail tips, I thought it was interesting that just 10 years ago, Hector wasn’t seeing requests for these types of services in her salon. It’s definitely a great development though, especially in this Houston suburb where clients can show off their toenails year round.
In Hector’s opinion, the biggest challenge in running a cosmetology school is managing expenses. The biggest reward, she says, is “when my students contact me from the working world and tell me how successful they are.”
For reprint and licensing requests for this article, Click here.