Attending a Beauty School

Joy Poloncic is a native of Andover, South Dakota. She and her husband Tom Poloncic have owned Black Hills Beauty College in Rapid City, SD since February 1990. In this exclusive interview with JobMonkey, she describes her background, how she began her career, what it’s like to own a beauty school, the cosmetology curriculum, and the types of job opportunities graduates of her school might find in the field of cosmetology.

Cosmetologist Working on Woman's Face at Spa

What is your educational background? Do you have a cosmetology degree?

My educational background is in business. No, I do not have a Cosmetology degree, but I have been associated with Black Hills Beauty College since 1984.

How did you get involved with Black Hills Beauty College?

After moving to Rapid City in 1984, I was hired to work in the Admissions Office of Black Hills Beauty College.

Is cosmetology something you have always been interested in? What drew you to it?

Being involved with the cosmetology profession was never an interest to me while growing up, but after working at the college for a few years prior to purchasing it in 1990, I realized that cosmetology is a great profession and I decided I wanted to become a part of it. So, here I am today, owner of Black Hills Beauty College for 19 years with my husband, Tom.

Describe a bit about your job history prior to ownership of Black Hills Beauty College, and how it led you to what you are doing today.

After attending college, I was hired to work in the Admissions Office of Black Hills State University in Spearfish, SD, before moving to Wyoming for a couple of years to manage a health spa. Then we returned to South Dakota and I began working at Black Hills Beauty College.

What are some of the qualities that your most successful students seem to possess?

Wow, that’s tough. We have many graduates who are very successful and live all over the United States, working behind the chair as a stylist, being educators for product companies, such as Redken, Matrix, Paul Mitchell, etc., or teaching in cosmetology schools. Many of our graduates are salon owners and managers located in many different states.

Describe the cosmetology curriculum in place at your school.

Black Hills Beauty College is a member school of world-renowned Pivot Point International program. Students at Black Hills Beauty College are trained using Pivot Point education and also have the use of professional products in the classroom and on the clinic floor. By using Pivot Point education and professional products, our graduates have the tools necessary to be very successful in the industry.

Is cosmetology a learned skill, or must one possess a certain amount of natural talent to be successful?

With the training used at Black Hills Beauty College, students do not have to have a natural talent for hair. And, if they have been doing haircutting, styling, perms, etc., they will learn a new and professional way to do hair by attending our school.

Does someone have to be a cosmetologist to run a cosmetology school?

You do not have to be a cosmetologist to run a cosmetology school, but you must be a licensed cosmetologist to teach at a cosmetology school. To run a quality cosmetology school, one must have desire, a good business aptitude, and be willing to understand what it takes to serve people.

How long does it take the average student to obtain a cosmetology degree at your school, and what is the cost? Do you help place your students in jobs?

South Dakota requires 2100 hours of training in order to become a licensed cosmetologist, so it takes approximately 13 months for students to complete their training and become eligible to take the South Dakota State Board Exam. The cost of a cosmetology education at Black Hills Beauty College is approximately $10,000. Yes, we do help place our graduates in salons, but with the education that our graduates receive and the rapport we have with salons, our graduates can usually pick where they would like to work.

Do you think someone gets into cosmetology for the money, or for other reasons?

Yes, I do believe some people do get into the cosmetology profession because of the money. One can do very well as a hairstylist if they work hard. On the other hand, some people get into it because they love working with people and it is one of the best careers that you can have when it comes to working around family schedules, etc.

A lot of young people might have the idea that cosmetology school is relatively easy. Is that really true?

Yes, a lot of people do think that cosmetology school would be easy, but that is not the case at Black Hills Beauty College. There is a lot of theory work that goes along with the hands-on training.

What sorts of job opportunities do your graduates find?

A Cosmetologist has many job opportunities, such as:

  • Professional hairstylist;
  • Skin care specialist/esthetician;
  • Nail technician;
  • Salon manager/owner;
  • Platform artist or educator;
  • Product representative (Matrix, Redken, Paul Mitchell);
  • And many more.

How have the cosmetology curriculum and the expectations regarding your students changed in the time that you have owned the school?

Being a Pivot Point member school, the curriculum at Black Hills Beauty College has changed very little over the years. Pivot Point is great with keeping up with new trends, techniques and new technology. Our expectations are still at a very high level for our students and graduates. We believe the sky’s the limit in this profession.

Is it hard to find cosmetology instructors for your school? What do you look for when you hire instructors?

Yes, it is tough finding qualified instructors that meet our expectations. When hiring instructors, we look for those who have the passion to teach, individuals who are patient and caring, and of course people who are reliable and dependable.

Do you think that cosmetology school gives your students have an accurate picture of what it will be like to work as a cosmetologist? How do you try to do that?

Our students work on a clinic floor that is open to the public, and consequently they get experience in performing salon services. And, time is money in the salon, so we do encourage the students to complete services in a timely manner while they are in school so that they will be as efficient as possible in the salon.

I don’t think everyone understands the range of career paths that cosmetologists have. Can you describe some of the more unusual job options available to your students?

Again, there are so many job opportunities available to a cosmetologist. Besides the different job opportunities listed earlier, cosmetologists are also employed as make-up artists, or they may write beauty articles for magazines. One exciting opportunity that a graduate of Black Hills Beauty College experienced was working as a cosmetologist on a cruise ship, which she found to be a lot of fun and very exciting. What better way is there to travel for free and see many different parts of the world?

What are some of the most challenging aspects of your job? What are some of the most rewarding?

Some of the most challenging aspects today are trying to get young students to understand the importance of hard work and dependability. With going to school year around and the amount of education they can receive on a daily basis, we need them in school daily to help them be the best cosmetologists they can be. Some of the most rewarding aspects of being a school owner are watching the students grow and mature during their time at Black Hills Beauty College, plus keeping in touch and hearing from graduates about their success stories as cosmetologists. The rewards that my husband and I see and feel as owners of Black Hills Beauty College are unbelievable and never-ending.

What do you say to encourage potential students to pursue a career in cosmetology?

We always tell prospective students that a career in cosmetology is amazing. You are always learning new and exciting things. Plus, you can move just about anywhere and get a job as a cosmetologist if you want one.

Describe the future job outlook for cosmetologists.

I believe the future job outlook for cosmetologists is great because it is a service industry. No matter how bad the economy gets, people will still get their hair cut, colored, etc. Quality education and great customer service will help cosmetologists be successful in any economic situation. Plus, so many jobs have been replaced by the computer, but a computer can’t cut, color and perm hair!

Check out Joy’s school at

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