06 May Institute Insider: Making an Institute with Susan HaiseReading Time: 4 minutes
For the second episode of the Institute Insider podcast, we go behind the scenes with the woman who started it all: Susan Haise. Susan owns The Institute of Beauty and Wellness as well as its sister school, Aveda Institute Madison. Today, both schools offer six programs in the hair and spa industry, but Susan’s first program at The Institute of Beauty and Wellness might surprise you (hint: it’s not cosmetology). Susan shared the story of her career and the history of her business.
When we asked Susan how she initially became interested in the beauty industry, she brought it back to high school and how she always loved working with hair, makeup and expressing herself through clothing. A friend of her mom worked with the Florentine Opera in Milwaukee and asked if she would be interested in doing hair and makeup for the performers. Here, from wigs and theatre makeup to body painting, Susan gained knowledge of how the beauty industry worked and saw the diverse range of professions within.
Susan received her cosmetology degree from Erick of Norway beauty school. A few years later, when the initial idea for the institute started, Susan decided to go back to school for esthiology. Although her 1600-hour cosmetology program did include esthetic training, she really wanted to have the Aveda experience and learn firsthand from the Horst Institute in Minneapolis, Minnesota. There, she completed the 600-hour program before moving back to Milwaukee.
Susan started The Skin Institute and Day Spa in 1994. The idea started from the fact that there were no skin institutes in southeastern Wisconsin, yet the spa business in the area was growing rapidly. Susan saw both a need for professionals and an opportunity for a spa, so she started The Skin Institute and Day Spa. The institute would grow with the spa, creating a space for students to learn esthetics, and for professionals to mentor students, and maybe one day join the day spa team. The day spa, which in the future would become known as Neroli Salon and Spa, took off to a degree that the school and spa became two separate entities.
The institute’s first true location started in the Marshall building on the corner of Buffalo and Water Street. When the year 2000 came around, and Aveda came out with its first hair color, Susan jumped on the idea to expand the school to include a cosmetology program.
“The institutes that had the opportunity to carry Aveda hair color didn’t, and so as a salon owner at that time, it was really essential that I had a team that came to work with us and had a good foundation of using Aveda hair color because it’s just different,” Susan said. “It’s very much of an artist palette where are you start with primary, flat colors and then you add your tonal qualities. That’s why so many of the best colorists in our region use Aveda hair color.”
Fast-forward to today, the institute has grown to six programs, adding barbering, massage therapy and Ayurveda esthetic, as well as an instructor program. Its name was officially changed to The Institute of Beauty and Wellness and moved to its current location in the Historic Third Ward on Saint Paul Avenue.
A program close to Susan’s heart is the Ayurveda esthetic program. She found the inspiration for Ayurveda within the company of Aveda, which was founded on the principles of Ayurveda. The program at the institute combines Ayurvedic teachings with esthetics training to create a unique education that currently stands as the only program of its kind in North America. Susan even traveled to North India to get a better understanding of Ayurveda. She traveled to the places that Horst, Aveda’s Founder, once studied in.
In 2015, Susan bought the Aveda Institute in Madison. It was originally an Aveda Institute, which made it easier to incorporate everything from The Institute of Beauty and Wellness in Milwaukee. Both institutes continue to grow to this day, and serve many students on their path to a new profession.
Overall, Susan is a powerhouse whose main goal in life is to serve, from guests in the salon and spa, to students in the institute, and the team supporting both of them. To Susan, it wouldn’t be possible without the instructors.
“Our instructors are our rock stars, so quality of instruction equals the quality of the beauty school,” Susan said. “We are definitely mindful of the education, the training and the mentoring of one faculty member to another. We have an instructor training program in the school so our students are introduced to how to be an effective teacher, how to facilitate, and how to engage. We spend an enormous amount of time throughout the year just on training. We have coaches that help to oversee all the faculty to ensure the quality of execution and that it is as aligned to Aveda’s principles as possible.”
Susan’s goal from the beginning was to create a space for people to grow as a professional and simply as a person. With the help of her team, she created a school experience that not only grows the hard skills needed to become a service provider, but also the soft skills needed to truly connect with guests, such as listening, time-management and intention.
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