SHERIDAN — An array of hair and nail salons populate Sheridan, but one of them also serves as a school for skin specialists, nail technicians and hair stylists.
True Colors Cosmetology Training Center opened eight years ago.
It offers specific courses in nail and hair care, or a full cosmetology program — which entails studying hair, skin and nails — that takes about 13 months of full-time study and work to complete.
Owner Mae Huson and two instructors teach Monday through Thursday and have a professional salon open Thursday evenings, Friday and Saturday.
Huson also owns a True Colors shop in Gillette. Students — who range in age from 18 to 60 — begin at different times throughout the year and learn topics like biology, chemistry, anatomy and electricity, then practice techniques on mannequins before working with customers.
There are currently four students in Sheridan and seven in Gillette. In the past, there have been double-digit students at a time. Huson wants to consistently have 10 to 12 students in Sheridan.
“Of course I want it to be better,” Huson said. “It’s not where I want it to be, but I’m not giving up.”
About 75 percent of the store’s revenue comes from tuition. Huson taught herself the financial and administrative aspects but more so enjoys the personal side of running a school and business.
“If I don’t have people who are excited about what they’re doing and feel like I believe in them, then I have no business,” Huson said. “It’s part of who I am. I like adding value to people, inspiring people to do what they want.”
Instructor Kacy Bell has taught at True Colors for the past six years. She attended the school and was one of True Colors’ first graduates.
Bell always wanted to be a cosmetologist and remembered styling hair and doing makeup with her sisters as a youngster.
To become certified to teach, Bell had to work and learn for an additional 1,000 hours.
Bell said it can be difficult teaching students of all different ages and personalities, but that also makes it more interesting to figure out the best way to get the lessons across.
“I have had my challenging students, but it just makes my job more fun,” Bell said.
Her favorite part is seeing a student comprehend a certain concept.
“I love to see that light shine,” Bell said.
One of Bell’s students is Jessica Angulo, who is studying to become a hairstylist. She began school in April and currently works on the floor three days per week and in the classroom once per week.
Angulo graduated high school in 2004 and said it felt odd at first being back in a classroom learning anatomy and microbiology, but she said her instructors have been extremely supportive.
Angulo hopes to work fulltime at True Colors and eventually become an instructor as well.
“It’s just been a passion my whole life,” Angulo said. “Everybody that’s in my chair, I try to make happy.”
Huson doesn’t work directly with other salons in Sheridan, but she encourages students approaching graduation to apply at the different salons around town.
“I teach my students, I say, ‘We’re a commodity,’” Huson said. “We have to understand that [customers] can go to another stylist anytime they want, so you have to be willing to listen to them and give them a good product and be able to understand what it is they’re wanting.”
Huson is still working to fill her classroom, but no matter how many students fill her salon, she’s making personal connections and readying her pupils for the workforce.