Modern Original People: Jenny Strebe

Meet Modern Original Social Media Pioneer Jenny Strebe

Chances are you’ve seen Jenny Strebe demo her talent at top events and trade shows. She’s currently touring as one of five “Leading Ladies,” the all-star entrepreneurial panel empowering audiences to take charge of their careers. “Sharing my knowledge gained through trial and error can help other stylists facing challenges.”

Her influential blog Confessions of a Hairstylistmade Jenny an Instagramstar with 478K followers; her YouTubesubscribers hover around 231K. She is one of the earliest and still-rare social media stars monetizing her work.

Maybe you watched NBC’s TODAY Showwhen her daughter’s “momanaged” handle @TheConfessionsofaMiniHairstylist (49+K) went viral. The backstory: Jenny was readying a video on a mannequin when Magnolia asked if she could play too. “I gave her a box of bobby pins and she did a great updo. I asked her to re-do it for recording, and an overnight star was born.”

Fueled by fierce determination every step of the way, Jenny’s journey is the result of hard work, setting goals and staying authentic. As a super-girly young lady, she always wanted to be a stylist, practicing her skills on dad and countless cousins. Her first makeover: a lonely classmate teased by others. Jenny’s empathy secured an immediate friendship built on empowering someone less fortunate — traits that helped define her later career — but at the time, resulted in being picked-on too.

In high school, Jenny the skater chick experimented with her identity by doing funky things to her own hair and pairing high-end clothing with vintage-thrift finds.By 17, she was determined to attend cosmetology school, a path dismissed by college-bound pals and family since everyone expected more from her. Comments like “Oh, you’re just going to hair school?” – their reference points being the local drab Walla Wallasalons – didn’t deter her.

Her rebuttal: “I’m going to take this career as far as I can go.” Jenny trusted her gut and with $1200 in savings, headed to the Portland, OR. She found a tiny studio apartment and enrolled in cosmetology school within a week. While her skills were on par with classmates, her drive and passion pushed them to the next level by entering every school competition, helping her gain confidence.

An onlooker who recruited for Toni + Guy, her dream job, told her to see him when finishing school. Wearing the corporate look suggested by her career counselor — which maxed out her Macy’s credit card — Jenny walked in. Not looking the part, she didn’t get hired. She tossed that outfit and worked at a no-name salon for 4 months.

Tiring of Portland’s rainy weather, a friend suggested moving to Arizona where there were five TiGi salons, increasing Jenny’s chances of getting hired. And she did.

Jenny shared her goals of becoming an artistic and educational director with her boss, who pushed her to go through unpaid recruitment training at local schools for two years, talking about products and demonstrating haircuts. Initially, panic attacks ensued, but she eventually grew comfortable speaking to groups of any size, so important for her future endeavors.

After eight years, Jenny sold everything to fund 10 months of backpacking in Europe. When needing cash, she’d work in every TiGisalon along her path augmenting that with acts of kindness like cutting hair at orphanages. Heading home to Arizona, she married and returned to TiGito recoup her clientele.

Hard Work Pays Off

Magnolia’s birth marked a turnabout: she booth-rented for over a year, bringing baby along who’d nap through Jenny’s three-hour stints. She had a hunch it was time to go back to educating, and challenged herself to create different styles for 30 days. When a client suggested turning this project into a blog, Confessionswas launched.

Noting the analytic upticks, Jenny grew excited. “Amid the sea of mommy-bloggers, no one else was doing this in hair.” When YouTube launched, she tapped her previously unknown talents as producer, star, director and writer.

This pioneer had the insight to merge her style with what was going on in social media, quickly scoring 60K organic followers. But each post was costing $150 in supplies in addition to hours of time. “Unlike makeup, sponsorships weren’t — and still aren’t — a thing. I want my voice to always be authentic. When I endorse something, I really stand by it.”

Inspired by a fan in Texas requesting a class, Jenny starting charging for her time and talent, and transforming the family’s van into the Confessionsrolling tour across America.

State of the Industry: Advice + Thoughts

Early in your career, “Stardom shouldn’t be the immediate goal. Fine tune your skills, build a clientele and learn to sell retail. Be yourself. And don’t be afraid to stand out, dig deep for creativity. Take it, twist it, turn it – make it your own. People are afraid to be unique on social for fear of bullying.”

Sister Act: “I overheard one show attendee label me business shark. I took it as a compliment though it wasn’t meant as one. I’ve worked hard and strategically. I also believe we’re not supporting each other enough at every level. Onstage, guys get the applause, and the reaction to women isn’t as great. At salons, female customers tend to think male stylists — gay or straight — know what other men want to see. In product aisles, it’s rare to see a woman’s name on a label no matter how great her talent is. Despite women comprising 90% of our industry, men still get paid more.”

The most frequent question she gets is about work/life balance. Jenny’s empathy lets her know when someone — or thing — needs prioritizing.

She shares, “doubt brings anxiety. People have the answers, they just have to listen and trust their intuition. If they’re getting anxious about something, it’s probably not the right thing to do.”