Ulster BOCES means different things to different people. For Rebecca “Becki” Davoli, it meant finding both her confidence and her passion, and led her to a position at the Live Free & Dye Salon, which was voted the winner of the 2022 Best Salon by Hudson Valley Magazine.
Becki was practically a stylist already when she entered the Ulster BOCES Cosmetology program. She grew up under the tutelage of her mother, an expert stylist and former Cosmetology teacher, and was already running her own nail salon for her friends right next to her mom’s at-home business. Ulster BOCES brought her a step further.
“My instructor at Ulster BOCES really pushed me out of my comfort zone,” Becki says. “Her assignments were sometimes uncomfortable, but they taught me the best thing I could have learned—confidence!”
The now-retired instructor she refers to is Laura Harnden, who not only gave her students cosmetology instruction–but career preparation, too–with assignments in public speaking that would help to prepare them for upcoming interviews and to interact with future customers.
“Ms. Harnden would tell us ‘You have to learn to sell yourself!’” recalls Becki. “Whether that may be at interviews, or even at the salon you are working at.”
Being a stylist in today’s world is quite demanding, explains Becki. Most stylists are in charge of their own self-promotion through social media and management of their customer service. Many manage their own business needs as independent contractors while working in a salon alongside other stylists. Salon culture can also bring out some negative competition between stylists, she explains.
“At Ulster BOCES, we learned about breaking the stigma of competition and learning to support each other in an atmosphere of camaraderie, while still building our own confidence as stylists,” Becki says. “Understanding that balance between recognizing other people’s talents but believing in your own is still something I live by every day.”
Becki remembers how Mrs. Harnden raised a very important question. “She asked us, ‘What do you love?’’’ says Becki. Perfectly aligned with her innate artistic talents, color was what Becki loved most. “Color is my favorite,” she says. “It can change a person’s whole look, and it is always evolving.”
“Every year, there is new technology and new colors,” she adds.
After Ulster BOCES, Becki’s first job was at a salon in Poughkeepsie, where she learned some new and interesting things, she says. She passed her New York State Board exam, earning her Cosmetology license, and then landed in the “perfect place at the perfect time,” she says. At The Studio at Stephanie’s salon in Milton, Becki met another person—a multi-talented hair colorist by the name of Brittany Perry— who would greatly influence the next chapter of her life.
“Brittany taught me everything I know,” says Becki. “As her assistant, I felt like I was being paid to get educated.”
Perry clearly valued Becki’s talent, so much so that when she opened her own business, Live Free & Dye Salon, in August 2020, she invited Becki to work as one of the stylists there. Becki gladly accepted, and still works there today.
At Live Free & Dye Salon, Becki colors and styles hair, and has also been able to deepen her knowledge of creating hair extensions, another technique she loves and excels at, by taking a Master Course Level One with a company called Invisible Bead Extensions (IBE). With her strong business sense and excellent customer relations skills, Becki has kept her clientele thriving.
Since taking the job, Becki says, she has tripled both her clientele and her income. She also says she appreciates the positive work climate at Live Free & Dye Salon. “It’s a wonderful, supportive environment, where I can be creative and I can stay fresh,” she says.
“I believe that learning never stops,” Becki says, “and I always want to be learning and growing.”
- Career & Technical Education (CTE)
- Success Stories