Four COM alum collaborate at Texas City salon
For Brenda Valles, Beth Darden and Chad Thomas the camaraderie found in the College of the Mainland Cosmetology Program didn’t end at graduation.
After Darden found a job at Salon Envy in Texas City, she thought it was the perfect place for Thomas and Valles to launch their careers as well.
“I love the atmosphere. It’s welcoming,” said Darden, who became a cosmetologist after previous jobs in oil and gas and advertising fields. “I love the positive energy, making people feel good about themselves.”
The three, who graduated with cosmetology operator certificates from COM, work as independent hairstylists and rent spaces from owner Renee Spurgeon. Open seven days a week and located at 2302 Palmer Highway, Salon Envy is currently building a 2,700 square foot addition.
“You have to go somewhere where you have support. I think I found it,” said Valles. “I’m so happy with where I am, and I wish I’d gone to school earlier, (but) better late than never. I’m so happy I don’t see myself ever moving to another career.”
Spurgeon, who has worked in the industry for 25 years and owned a salon for nearly eight, has long been connected with COM. In memory of her grandfather’s passion for workforce education, Spurgeon and her family founded a COM scholarship, the C.R. and Margaret Johnson scholarship, in 1992 for students in workforce programs.
“All this is due to my grandfather,” said Spurgeon. “I wanted to do hair, and my grandfather believed in me.”
Spurgeon now tries to show that same support to others.
“I am willing to take anybody new and help them out,” she continued. “I’ll do whatever I can to help them succeed.”
Thomas, Darden and Valles, who graduated from COM in 2013, are grateful for mentors Spurgeon and stylist Yvonne Flores, who graduated from COM nearly 20 years ago.
“We’re lucky to be in a salon where you have a mentor,” said Valles, adding that they often watch each other’s techniques to glean tips.
Flores, who has enjoyed teaching so much she now considers returning to COM to become a licensed cosmetology instructor, explained her passion for hairstyling.
“We’re not just a salon. We’re a salon that’s going to customize your style. If you bring in a picture in, we’ll tweak it to whatever you want. … You’re going to go in and get a color and style where you can go and take on the world.”
While learning from each other, the former COM students also draw on their experiences cutting, styling and coloring hair at The Salon at College of the Mainland.
“We were learning client interaction,” added Thomas. “Lab instructors taught us new techniques used in the real world.”
COM instructors, who all have salon experience, readied them for passing the state licensure exam and the rigors of the job.
“At COM they were very supportive, understanding. They always pushed us,” explained Thomas. “Ms. (Ellen) Chicon really is a special person. She’s a woman of her own league. She was able to spot those that had drive to succeed. She was more than a teacher.”
During their first year on the job, they are reveling in the rewards of the career.
“You’re going to be a therapist. For some older clients (you) might be the only contact they have. They come in, and you’re there talking to them, showing them they’re worthy,” Thomas said, adding that he enjoys “that moment when the client walks in and you can tell they’re not OK, and they walk out and they’re OK.”
“It makes you feel really good to know you made them happy. It’s not just today – it’s going to be every time they look in a mirror or get a compliment.”
Learn more about the COM Cosmetology Program at www.com.edu/cosmetology.