“I love coloring hair as far as technical skills go, but my favorite thing about being a master stylist or running a salon is just that it’s never the same day. There’s a lot of different things you can do in here. It’s not routine, and it’s always different, which I love,” said Julie Petersen, Salon Owner of DeSigns Salon.
Petersen is the daughter of Dr. David Dobson and the late Yvonne Dobson. She’s back in De Smet and opened a new hair salon in the front of her father’s chiropractic clinic. She says it’s fun to be working with her dad.
When Petersen was a senior in high school here in De Smet, she was asked what she was going to do. She said she was going to attend South Dakota State University (SDSU) for nursing, but if she could do whatever she really wanted to, she would learn hair styling. But during college, she worked as a nurse’s aide at a hospital and soon realized she didn’t like the environment or the smells.
She contemplated her career choices and decided to study hair styling. Because that school had a waiting list, she continued at SDSU and took business and accounting classes. Although she never got a degree, those classes helped her out with salon ownership and business coaching.
All her life Petersen enjoyed working on hair. She grew up with naturally curly hair and had to figure out how to manage it. On the way to games in high school, she enjoyed doing French braids on the bus.
Petersen’s brother Jim shared with her that he wished he could be a dentist. She thought about his choice: The hours were great and pay would be good, but everyone dreads going to the dentist. However, everyone loves getting hair done.
“I think the most rewarding thing is making people feel beautiful,” Petersen said. “And men, a lot of the times, they don’t need as much help and styling. But women, when they struggle with styling their hair and getting a look that they want, helping them to be able to do that at home, I think, is really rewarding.”
Petersen finally got into a school of cosmetology. Afterwards, she bought a salon in Watertown with a business partner in 2007. Five years later she bought her partner out. Her business was successful, and she expanded and even moved locations. Her salon there had thirteen chairs, four treatment rooms and fifteen stylists. They provided services including cuts, colors, nails, facials and aesthetics.
The salon in Watertown grew quickly, and at times, Petersen felt overwhelmed. She hired a business coach to help her.
Running a busy salon, she learned a lot about the business and used those skills when she earned her certificate for business coaching. She used her coaching skills to help other salon owners. Most of her clients, she said, focus on clients and hair styles and ignore the nuts and bolts of businesss.
Petersen said the biggest challenge in the salon industry is communication. Early in her career, she learned to talk with clients, picking up on body language, so the client’s expectations are the same as yours, and you are hearing what they really want. Another challenge is staying up on new trends. COVID created even more changes.
She has been working here in De Smet two days a week for the past year. She recently sold her salon in Watertown and is increasing her hours here.
“It’s been really sweet, and it makes you feel good when a community is so excited to have you come back and open up a business,” said Petersen. “I’m grateful for the support that I’ve already seen. I’ll be doing full-time hours in October.”
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