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Building Careers and Community: A Spotlight on Beauty Changes Lives

A nonprofit for, and by, beauty pros is helping the next generation of creatives make their mark on the industry

Beauty Changes Lives (BCL) is on a mission to make beauty and wellness a first-choice career. They are supporting future hair stylists, nail techs, estheticians, and anyone looking to work in the self-care industry to make that dream a reality. But it’s not just about helping new creatives get their foothold. The non-profit, founded in 2012 by Jan Arnold, Robert Passage, and Lynelle Lynch (all industry luminaries in their own unique way) strives to help professionals at every stage of their career journey.  

The organization offers scholarships, mentorship programs, advanced education grants, and a safe, supportive space for aspiring and veteran beauty industry pros. Boulevard’s own Jozlyn Miller, Client Education Manager, and Shanalie Wijesinghe, Director of Education are mentors with Beauty Changes Lives, so we might be a teensiest bit biased when we say that they are indeed the coolest and most community-minded bunch of talented creatives you’ll meet. 

A non-profit run by, and for, beauty pros

BCL is one of the few nonprofits dedicated primarily to supporting people working or hoping to work in the beauty industry. “Financial assistance and family support are often lacking for cosmetology, esthetics, and nail professionals,” says Meghan Hayden, Director of Communications at BCL. The goal, Hayden explains, is to make beauty education accessible to talented people who otherwise would not get the monetary or moral support to enter the sometimes overwhelming beauty industry.  

The BCL scholarship program

Anyone accepted to a licensed beauty professional program (like cosmetology, esthetics, nail technology) can browse the dozens of scholarships available through BCL and apply. Scholarships are sponsored by companies (from multinational corporations like L’Oreal to sole proprietorships) and various foundations, who work with Beauty Changes Lives to come up with award amounts and application requirements. 

BCL helps facilitate the process by partnering with cosmetology schools and spreading the word about available funding. Applicants submit a video with their recorded answers and are selected by a panel of industry experts (BCL does not pick the winners themselves). Since beginning the program, BCL has connected over 800 future beauty pros with scholarship opportunities, many of which are reserved for people in historically underrepresented communities and people of color. 

The program also offers advanced education grants for professionals already working in the industry who are looking for additional training to level up their skills and advance their careers. 

Paying it forward: Sharing knowledge through mentorship 

After years of running a successful scholarship program, the Beauty Changes Lives team noticed that something strange was happening — once beauty pros hit the five-year mark in the industry, many tended to drop out of the field. Clearly some kind of “next step” was missing. And so Mentorship Matters was born: A program that connects talented industry pros together to work through challenges and gain new direction. A mentor is assigned to a mentee to meet for one hour a month for six months, though in reality most keep in touch much more often. 

“It’s amazing to watch these relationships blossom and what was supposed to be a six-month program turn into career friends,“ Hayden says. “We are a community that is here for one another,” Megan Murray, who started out as a volunteer at BCL and is now a board member, says of the program, “Many of the mentors participate to give back because someone along the line supported them.“

What does the mentorship program actually involve? Murray and Hayden say it depends on the mentee. Some are relatively new beauty pros who are unsure of their direction and need help figuring out what their goals are before they can set on a path to achieve them. For these newer pros, the mentors and mentees are paired up based on need or expertise. Others are seasoned professionals venturing into some new territory and want to work with an industry expert in that specific area. As an example, Hayden recalls a mentee who had been in the industry for years and owned their own salon but needed help launching a product line. So BCL paired them up with Candy Shaw, of Sunlights Balayage fame to plan and implement her product launch.

Can I mentor for BCL? 

Hayden says, if you’re passionate about your role in the beauty industry, the answer is yes. In fact, they’d love to have you. “The number one qualification for a mentor in our program is passion. You have to have that spirit of sharing and wanting to give back,” she adds. And you don’t have to be a practitioner either. Business owners, marketing specialists, and talented sales professionals are welcome. In fact, the more diverse, the better, since one of BCL’s goals is to provide as dynamic of an experience as possible for their mentees and meet as many community needs as possible. 

The program is fulfilling for mentors as well. Boulevard's own Shanalie Wijesinghe says, "Becoming a mentor has been an incredibly rewarding experience. Developing my mentee has helped me learn more about our industry and our next generation. Helping my mentee accomplish her goals and level up her skill set has been a great learning experience for both of us. Sharing experiences through mentorship has been an invaluable experience. Beauty Changes Lives has created an amazing community."

To learn more about the mentoring opportunity, you can reach out to meghan@beautychangeslives.org or apply directly on the BCL site. 

Can I apply to be paired up with a mentor?

Yep. All beauty professionals can apply for one-on-one coaching with a mentor through the Mentorship Matters program. The cycle for the 2024 program will open on August 1st, 2023, so applicants should keep an eye on this page for the next round of mentoring. 

Making a difference by the numbers

Since it was founded over ten years ago, Beauty Changes Lives made an outsize impact in the beauty industry. Ninety-five percent of scholarship recipients through BCL completed their program of choice, 90% attained their professional license, 92% are currently working in the industry, and 30% now own their own beauty business. 

The astoundingly impressive stats aside, there are invaluable human connections created over years of mentorship and community-building. Past mentees, like Brendetta Ashley, now a hair guru in her own right, often return to BCL as a mentor. Ashley had originally applied and was accepted for an advanced education scholarship, but then decided to participate in the mentorship program, and now she is back, this time as a mentor, giving back to the same community that once helped her. 

Stories like these are what fuels the BCL team. “It is crucial for beauty pros starting their career to see people they can relate and connect to in positions of success,“ says Murray. 

How to support Beauty Changes Lives

If you’d like to get involved, there are plenty of options! You can support the scholarship program by making a donation or by sponsoring a scholarship. As mentioned earlier, you can also sign up to mentor (or be mentored) through the Mentorship Matters program. But there are even easier ways to help. 

  • Become an advocate: Sign up for the BCL email newsletter to receive ready-made marketing materials about upcoming events, scholarships, and career opportunities. Then share them with your network and on social media. And that’s it! Simply by helping BCL spread the word, you’d be making a difference. 

  • Volunteer to be a judge on a panel: If you have a few hours to spare, sign up to help sort through scholarship applications and rate applicants. 

  • Participate in the ONE DAY ONE TICKET event!: This event was created specifically for individuals and solopreneurs who want to get involved but may not have the time or resources. All we ask is that you donate one ticket sale price of one service (such as a $50 haircut) for one day. During the last event, 1,600 individuals participated raising over $100,000 for BCL! Make sure you don’t miss the next one on March 21, 2024

Making community involvement a part of your business helps the industry (cue the cliché about boats and rising tides), but it also helps your brand. Improving your connection to the self-care community also helps you have more informed, relevant conversations with your clients. To learn more about building a sustainable brand, check out our Brand Building Guide.

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