|Ryan Bowen gives a trim to Dan VanEtten.
(Press photo by Ken Grosjean)
During his first semester at the University of Toledo, Ryan Bowen came up with what he figured was a great plan to help finance the remainder of his bachelor’s degree in business.
Bowen not only had a natural aptitude for cutting hair, he also liked it, and his friends and classmates were more than happy to give him the chance to practice on them.
“My uncle owned a barber shop, and from getting my own hair cut and spending time at the shop, I developed an interest in haircutting,” he said. “I thought I would go to barber college, which would take a year, and then work at my uncle’s shop to make money to pay my way through college.”
So he left UT and enrolled in the Ohio State Barber College in Toledo, and, true to the plan, after graduating as a master barber, he went to work at the Millbury barber shop started by his uncle Dan VanEtten in 1967.
Fifteen years later, he’s still at the Woodville Road shop, only today it bears the name of the current owner – Ryan himself.
“I’ve worked here for 15 years and I’ve owned it for eight years,” Bowen said. “My uncle is retired, but he comes in here one day a week. I also have another guy that I hired to work with me full time.
“It was a good decision for me,” Bowen says of his career path. “I really like what I do – I like working with people and I like being my own boss.
“It gives me the freedom to set my own hours and do other things I enjoy,” said Bowen, who also coaches basketball at Lake Schools.
As a full-time student, Bowen completed the 1,800-credit barber program in just over a year. After successful completion of coursework and a practical demonstration of various barbering skills, students are required to take a board exam and subsequently a state licensing exam, Bowen said.
“If you pass, they send you your license and you’re good to go,” Bowen said. “It was a lot of work – like having a full-time job, but I wanted to get done as fast as I could because I was anxious to start working.
“Thankfully I had a couple of buddies who let me work on them when I was starting off and I’m still cutting their hair now – only now I get paid,” he said.
“I have a lot of regulars, some people who have been coming here since the day I started,” he said. “I have two or three customers who have standing appointments and have come in once a week for the last 10 years.
“I have been lucky – it all kind of fell into place,” he said. “It has worked out great.”
Unlike Bowen who hadn’t planned to spend his career as a “scissor wizard,” Pam Valiquette had always wanted to be a hair stylist.
“I always wanted to do hair ever since I was a little girl,” she said. “I even cut my own hair once, but not very well.”
As a single mother of four, she took a number of retail jobs to support her family. “I had ‘jobs’ but I really wanted a career,” she said. “I looked into the Toledo Academy of Beauty years ago but couldn’t afford it at the time.”
Once all her kids were in school and daycare wouldn’t be a concern, she took the leap and enrolled – at the age of 38.
“I was highly motivated because it was something I really wanted to do – to get my life started in a career,” she said. “So I did whatever it took – going extra days, extra hours.”
In November 2008, she graduated – a month early despite a six-week leave due to a back injury. She’s currently working at The Future Wave Salon in Oregon.
“This has improved my life a lot, and not just because of the money,” she said. “I absolutely love what I do. I enjoy going to work and when I go home, I’m happy.”
She urges anyone who has a dream but thinks, “I can’t do this now because…” to take a chance.
“If I can do it, anyone can,” she said. “If there’s something you really want to do, go for it.”