Kameron Rabenou has an idea for starving artists: Make people the canvas and clay for your art, and earn a paycheck.
His Shore Beauty School, now in Egg Harbor Township after 31 years in Pleasantville, teaches a profession in which some of the key abilities are artistic, he said.
“Many people working as artists have problems making a living, but cosmetology is where someone with artistic abilities can make a good living,” said Rabenou, of Linwood. “Despite the bad job market, we still see good opportunities for our students.”
With Shore Beauty School’s long history, just about every salon in the area has at least one person who trained there for state certification in cosmetology, manicuring or cosmetology instruction, he said.
Steve Fitzgerald, of Absecon, trained at Shore Beauty School and five years ago opened his own business, the Smithville Barber Shoppe on East Moss Mill Road in Galloway Township.
“I went to the old one. The new one is outstanding,” Fitzgerald said, adding the school’s excellent staff “get you to where you need to be.”
Five people work at Smithville Barber Shoppe — two barbers each day — and “all of the people who work for me came from Shore Beauty School,” he said.
Fitzgerald said he returns to the school occasionally to give a demonstration or teach a class “and get to see the new talent.”
Rabenou said the school regularly brings in salon professionals to supplement the work of the school’s 11 instructors and an instructional supervisor with 31 years experience. Representatives from salon vendors, such as Redken and OFRA Cosmetics, also are brought in for sessions on how to use their products.
The school goes beyond the core curriculum of state regulations, hair-cutting and coloring, and health issues related to hair care.
“We train students in the business of beauty with a very specific program we call Sheer Success Business Fundamentals,” Rabenou said, which includes how to market services, what the industry calls “building your chair,” and how to cross-sell and up-sell products and services.
The new location was designed like a high-end salon with natural light for color correctness, networked classrooms with wide screens for educational video, and high-capacity ventilation for comfortable working conditions, he said.
Rabenou said plans by the city of Pleasantville to redevelop its former neighborhood compelled the school to relocate and “gave us the opportunity to design a new facility from scratch to best accommodate our students’ needs.”
The facility will also allow Shore Beauty School to add a skincare training program and additional state certification, which he hopes to begin in February.
Tuition, depending on the program, ranges from about $3,000 to $14,000, he said, and federal financial aid is available for qualifying students.
The beauty industry in the region — hair, nail and skin-care services — has been largely immune from the effects of the economic downturn.
In Atlantic County, beauty employment rose from 796 in 2007 to 849 last year, while the number of establishments increased from 147 to 152, federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data show. Similar increases were seen in neighboring counties.
Average annual pay in the industry declined a bit in Atlantic County — from $18,932 in 2007 to $18,422 in 2011 — but total wages increased from $14.9 million to $15.6 million, suggesting more workers are sharing a more slowly growing pie.
Rabenou, who acquired the school five years ago, said opportunities to work in the cosmetology trade are exceptionally varied.
“If someone gets certified and licensed, they can work at a salon, for a few salons, 100 hours a week or five hours a week. They can start a salon, or a chain of salons. People achieve all different levels of success in this industry,” he said. “If a stay-at-home mother wants to make extra money for her children’s college, that’s something she can do.”
He said the school works to place students at salons that suit their needs and backgrounds.
“This economy is really tough, and we can’t guarantee our students jobs, but there are jobs out there and if they really want to work, the jobs are out there,” he said.
Contact Kevin Post: