SMC and Dermalogica Offer Complimentary Fast Track to Salon Entrepreneurship

Six-hour “accelerator” online course leads to seven-week course, offers business training for current and future salon workers

SMC has developed an online two-week “Entrepreneurship Accelerator” course in collaboration with Dermalogica for those studying to be in or already in the salon industry; the course is a prerequisite for a seven-week course (also online), which covers topics ranging from salon operations, taxes, and leases to marketing and communications. Those already working can take this seven-week course in a self-paced format. Both courses are free. The next cohort for the accelerator begins July 2 and interested applicants can sign up at Photo Credit: Andrew Boone.

June 19, 2018

SANTA MONICA, CA—The salon and spa industry remains a growing sector of the economy, one of the few where women often dominate. When Dermalogica wanted to empower more salon workers with the skills to open and better manage their own businesses, they turned to Santa Monica College—and its Office of Workforce & Economic Development—to help make it happen.

Together with Dermalogica’s social impact initiative, Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship (FITE), SMC developed an online, seven-week curriculum covering topics such as financing and capability analysis, salon operations, taxes, leases, insurance, marketing and communications, building a clientele, merchandising and inventory, human resources, management style and business ethics. Those already working in the salon industry can take the course at their leisure; classes for them typically run about two weeks.

Teaming up to create the course were SMC Cosmetology Department Chair Deborah Perret, instructor Samantha Manuel, and Business Professor Steven Sedky. They developed the program together: Manuel handling teaching duties, Sedky bringing his business acumen and knowledge of Canvas, SMC’s online teaching platform.

“When I started my salon business, I didn’t have the opportunity to go through a program like this,” Manuel says. “In hindsight, I really feel like all the information we’ve put together would have been really useful.”

So far, two cohorts of students — spring 2017 and fall 2017 — have completed the program, which will continue being refined to keep pace with industry realities. For instance, Manuel wants to help students walk out of the class with a business plan started.

“I had no idea how to manage my business finances,” says Ayo Figueroa, who took the program last year from her home in Maryland. “Learning about business plan development and profit/loss statements was extremely helpful.”

Virginia resident Erin Nichols found the course inspiring as well as educational. “I log onto education.dermalogica several times a week to read articles and study products, and I saw the opportunity to take this class. What attracted me most was the question ‘What would make me financially independent?’”

A beauty professional with more than 15 years of experience, Nichols felt frustrated by always having to work for someone else. After taking the course, her attitude has changed, her ambition grown. “I am a firm believer that when you seek the education, nothing or no one can ever take that away from you,” she says. She has since earned her master esthetician instructor’s license, as well as enrolled in more online courses through a local college.

Nichols also appreciated that, even though she took the course from her home computer, she felt camaraderie with her fellow students. “I liked receiving feedback from other classmates in the discussion section,” she says.

Unbounded by geography, the course has already attracted students from as far away as South Africa. “I was overwhelmed when I saw how widely we could reach,” Manuel says.

The program’s success has also spawned a spin-off, shorter, self-paced version, again developed in partnership with Dermalogica.

Launched May 7, 2018, the new global Entrepreneurship Accelerator is a six-hour jump-start into salon entrepreneurship; it currently serves as a prerequisite to the seven-week course for those studying to be in the salon industry. Interested applicants can sign up for the accelerator via The next cohort begins July 2, with others planned for subsequent months. (The initiative was officially unveiled at a major event at UCLA on International Women’s Day in March).

“A lot of people in the industry have cosmetology training but limited business training,” Steven Sedky notes. “This project is all about supporting women entrepreneurs.”

Porscha Barclay, who was among the first cohort of students in the pilot course in spring 2017, agrees. “I wanted to learn about the salon industry from a business perspective, which is not emphasized in trade school.”

According to Natalie Byrne, Dermalogica’s Director of Global Impact “We wanted to create an open-source curriculum to reach so many salon industry professionals, entrepreneurs and inspiring students who may not have exposure to the business building skills that can grow their trade education to a thriving small business.” The new, shorter version is more of a “top-line curriculum that touches on what you would need to have success in your business. After completing the preliminary course, you will be eligible to take the seven-week course, which is a deeper dive into the curriculum.”

Of the longstanding partnership with SMC, she adds: “SMC is in our own backyard and they’re very big on international studies. So they were kind of hitting all the points of the type of student we wanted to cater to for this program.”

Unlike SMC’s noted Salon Entrepreneurship Certificate offered through its Cosmetology department, the Entrepreneurship Accelerator carries no academic credit. But it does carry the same advantage of practical, real-world lessons derived from firsthand business experience. And instead of being offered through SMC’s online platform, it is being disseminated via Dermalogica’s own online platform.

Those participating in both offerings also learn what it takes to build clientele and manage employees in the fast-paced 21st century cosmetology arena. This includes the vital tool of social media. Byrne says, “We hope to bridge more modern marketing skills through platforms like social media, giving salon professionals the tools to build their business and grow their clientele.” The courses can actually give aspiring entrepreneurs an advantage over some of their more established peers.

Co-founder and Chief Visionary of Dermalogica Jane Wurwand wants all women to have the same chance at business success that she had as an immigrant from the United Kingdom in the 1980s. “We started when we bootstrapped up the company on $14,000 of self-funding,” Wurwand recalls. From there, Dermalogica grew into the leading skincare brand in salons and spas around the world. Today Dermalogica’s FITE initiative invests in skill development for women and through this course helps to reach women in the salon industry.

“As a single mom, I knew I had to make changes for my family and for me as a woman,” Nichols says. “I was fearful of taking online classes, but Professor Manuel was always encouraging, and she played a huge role in my confidence in enrolling back in school. I cannot stop talking about all that I’ve learned to whomever will listen.”

For more information, and to apply for the Entrepreneurship Accelerator, visit A video on the SMC and Dermalogica partnership is available on the official Santa Monica College channel on YouTube (see “SMC + Dermalogica: Empowering Entrepreneurs”).

Santa Monica College is a California Community College accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). SMC is the leading transfer college to the University of California, the University of Southern California, and Loyola Marymount University; SMC also offers career training options in over 80 fields of study. SMC’s Cosmetology department also offers a number of career training options—including an Associate Degree and Certificate of Achievement in Cosmetology, and department certificates in esthetician, nail care, and business/salon entrepreneurship. Call (310) 434-4292 for more details or visit the SMC Cosmetology Department website.

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