“Don’t be afraid of the space between your dreams and reality. If you can dream it, you can do it.” - Walt Disney
Ann Marie Walts grew up in the small town of Westfield, Massachusetts and her early years were filled with struggle and instability. Ann Marie lost her father at a young age, moved twenty-three times in fourteen years and lived in a world where money was always in short supply. The reality was that college was never an option for her. Success is always an option, though, and Ann Marie chose a beauty filled path to achieve it!
Ann Marie felt a calling for the beauty industry from a young age so she chose to take training at a Cosmetology school and learn hairdressing. Her natural talent and artistic skills with hair led to a key position with Redkin, where she spent ten years as a hair color educator, sharing her creative passion with others at companies like Ulta and Regis. On the side, she did hair, makeup, manicures and Great Lengths extensions out of her own small studio space, whenever time allowed.
In December of 2007, Ann Marie added one more service to her offerings when she signed on for training in eyelash extensions with Xtreme Lashes. “I’m usually the one who has the newest thing that’s out and hadn’t quite jumped on eyelash extensions yet, but when it started popping up in my neighborhood, I didn’t want to be left behind. There was a buzz about it, even in our area.”
Ann Marie admits she chose Xtreme Lashes primarily due to brand recognition, having heard the name and seen postings about the brand online. Xtreme Lashes also fit in with her goal to offer only high end, high quality brands and services. “I’m a small town girl that wanted to bring back the big city style makeovers and services to our little area,” she says. It took awhile for the eyelash extension concept to grow on Ann Marie. Initially she was concerned about whether people would get them. During her training, though, she says, “The trainer expressed several times that this is a service that’s not going to go away and I could see that. I got it.”
A few months after training with Xtreme Lashes, Ann Marie moved her small studio in West Springfield, Massachusetts up the street to a larger space with better visibility and changed the name from The Loft to The Loft Salon Studio. These small adjustments led to a huge increase in business, and in April of 2008, she made the decision to leave Redkin and devote herself entirely to her own business pursuits.
Since that time, Ann Marie has achieved her Certification with Xtreme Lashes and qualified for a Directory listing. The beauty business is booming at her location and, not only has the recession not affected her business, she’s actually seen a 52% increase in business over the past year! “My life now is not how it was when I grew up,” she says. Ann Marie estimates her overall income will be about $69,000 for this year and while that may not sound like a huge amount, Ann Marie takes at least every other week off to enjoy life. In fact, she has only worked 130 days this year – less than half the year.
Her tremendous success is been an inspiration to her friends, family and community. Ann Marie has been asked twice this year to speak at local high school career days and one of her key pieces of advice to students is to go to beauty school and then get their foot in an Xtreme Lashes class. “My recommendation is beauty school for one year before any other school so you have that to fall back again,” she says. “I don’t feel this field gets enough respect and recognition but the rewards are great. I had a doctor put me down once and I tell students this: Put on your black Xtreme Lashes jacket and you’re giving people that wear that white jacket a run for their money without the debt that goes with it.”
Ann Marie also has a bit of advice for newly trained Lash Stylists: “Lash anybody and everybody for the first six months at no charge and then hold your own and charge accordingly. This is a specialty service – a procedure. Charge for it and have faith. You will get clients, they will pay for the service and they will value it.”
It’s clear from the response of her clients that Ann Marie has taken her own advice and her clients DO value her and her services very much:
“Ann Marie is extremely talented in the many things she does and also has a wonderful personality. She considers everything you tell her, which you will see after filling out her consultation form, analyzes your hair (or whichever service you are in for), and comes to a decision, which made me feel very comfortable with what she says and does. I did the Japanese hair straightening and eyelash extensions with her this past weekend, and she did an amazing job. She takes her time, and she really does one-on-one work. I was the only customer with her for about 9 hours! Not surprisingly, I love the results!! In fact, she went out of her way to accommodate me, which really, really helped me out. I will definitely be going back again to take advantage of the awesome services she has to offer. Thanks so much Ann Marie, and keep up the amazing work!!!”
- Summer C
“Ann Marie made me feel so welcome and comfortable. She was really open to ideas, and unlike many other salons she was very open for change. Her style of work was very accurate and thorough. She is a natural, with an artistic eye that I trust. She took some great pictures of my hair after the change, and I posted them on my Facebook page, and it just blew up!! Everyone was amazed at the amazing job Ann Marie did, and the amazing color of my hair!! I also got lash extensions. I absolutely love them! I never even wear mascara now, my lashes are so long and they look so natural. I wear contacts, and they are so comfortable. I forget I even have them, until someone gives me a compliment.”
- Laurie C