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Life & Work with Nicole Kilstrom of Canton & Glen Burnie

Today we’d like to introduce you to Nicole Kilstrom.

Hi Nicole, we’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been creative and been in love with all things beauty.  Growing up, I was always playing dress-up and convincing my friends and sister to let me do their make-up, hair, and nails.  In school, I was constantly in art classes and participating in anything creative.

After high school, I was a little unsure about what direction I wanted to go or what I truly wanted to do. I held off on starting college for a year and was working as a private nanny and a server at a couple of local restaurants.  Doing so, I found my passion for working with people and the power that putting a smile on someone’s face had!

I was not exactly excited about academics in high school, but when it came to cosmetology school, I indulged in all education, especially the theory of how it all worked!  About a year after high school, with a lot of my mom’s encouragement and support i finally dove into the beauty industry.  In 2019, I signed up for Temple Annapolis and was so excited to start my journey and from the first day of cosmetology school, I knew I had found exactly where I was supposed to be.

Skip ahead to 2020; when COVID hit, I had just taken my first guest at the school when we entered the shutdown. Before I knew it, the school became 100% virtual. I was so excited to start working on live guests and was devastated by this.  Luckily I had so many supportive friends and family that would let me practice on them, and I just started diving into color and extensions at home.  I began to post everything on my online portfolio to showcase my work, and before I knew it, I had more and more friends wanting me to do their hair!  I quickly started perfecting my craft at home and learned more every time something didn’t turn out as expected, which gave me the confidence that I could fix it on my own.

In August of 2020, the family I was nannying for moved out of the area, and I was looking for a salon to work at while I finished school.  I had received a message from Denny at Kisner’s salon and barber and quickly jumped into a phone interview with him.  From that 2 hour-long phone interview, I knew Kisner’s was exactly where I wanted to be!

I started on a career path at Kisner’s under Denny as his barber apprentice.  While still in cosmetology school, I learned everything I needed to know about men’s cutting and even the business behind it from Denny, which was a whole other world for me.  I also enjoyed working with Melissa, our in-salon Redken educator, where she taught me everything I needed to know about salon reality and color theory and got me excited about education and wanting to educate others!

After going back to in-person classes and working on live guests at school again, I was accepted into the phase 2 program at school. I always found myself helping other future professionals that I saw struggling and sharing all the information I had learned from Kisner’s.  This was when I knew I was passionate about educating others, just like my mentors Denny and Mel had taught me.

After graduating from cosmetology school in July of 2021, I quickly tested for my cosmetology license.  I started working as a full-time level 1 stylist at both Kisner’s locations in Glen Burnie and Canton.  I had always known my passion was for color and extensions, but I quickly confirmed that when working behind the chair full time!

While starting to work behind the chair full time, my focus was still on education.  In 2021, I attended 3 Redken certification courses, including Redken Specialist, Shades Eq specialist and Blonde authority.

In January of 2022, I was promoted to a level 2 stylist, and in February, I attended a Bellami Hair extensions certification course that certified me in 5 different extension methods and boosted my drive and love for extensions.  I knew then that my focus would be on extensions!

In May of 2022, I was promoted to a Level 3 stylist.  Since then, I have been working on perfecting my specialty of color and all methods of extensions behind the chair.  This year I am focusing on my Redken Hair color certification and becoming an educator in the associate program through Kisner’s.  I am most excited to share everything I have learned along the way with other young professionals in this Industry!

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not, what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Covid was one of the biggest struggles I endured while attending cosmetology school.  I was most excited to get hands on with color on live guests and attend live hair shows.  When Covid changed all that, and I found myself on virtual schooling for 70% of my education, I feared that I wouldn’t be prepared for salon reality until I got a jumpstart at Kisner’s and was introduced to Denny & Melissa and the world of Redken education!

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
I am a licensed cosmetologist in the state of Maryland.  I specialize in 5 different methods of hair extensions, Blonding and Hair color.  But In all seriousness, what I get to do is create art every day,  make people feel beautiful and confident!  I couldn’t imagine doing anything else; it is truly the most rewarding career.  So far in my career, I am most proud of all the education I have received and my ability to use it to better every one of my guests’ experiences every visit!  Over the past year, I have attended multiple certification courses, but to date, I am most proud of my Bellami master stylist certification!  I am very excited to be working on becoming an educator and bringing on an associate through Kisner’s salon.  I can’t wait to share all of my knowledge and love for the beauty industry with others!  What I believe sets me apart from other stylists is my attention to detail and passion for not only beautiful hair but healthy hair as well! Since starting in a salon, I have always loved product knowledge and educating my guests on what is best for their hair and how to use it.  It has always been very important to me to set my guests up for success not only in the salon but when they are at home too!

The crisis has affected us all in different ways. How has it affected you, and any important lessons or epiphanies you can share with us?
Though Covid has thrown many struggles and growth my way, the most significant thing Covid has taught me is the importance of self-care.  It’s easy to not care about what your hair looks like or getting dressed up because who will see it anyway, but it’s not about who sees it.  It’s about how it makes us feel about ourselves.  How you think about yourself and your appearance radiates far beyond what you see on the outside, but it can make or break your whole mindset!  Even when more of us are working from home and trying to protect ourselves, it’s still important to take care of elves and feel good about ourselves!


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