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Salon owner earns international award (video)

By Jessica Rodrigo
Oct. 22, 2013 at 5:22 a.m.
Updated Oct. 23, 2013 at 5:23 a.m.

As an apprentice, Anna Salinas watches and assists Joe Anthony Pena as he works to color a customer's hair at his salon, Hair Dimensions. Pena, who recently was named International Hair Dresser of the Year by Farouk Systems, owns the salon, travels to teach and perform at hair shows. He is always working to educate his staff at the salon.

Joe Anthony Pena knows great hair, and he has another award in his salon to prove it.

Farouk Systems, a Houston-based company that manufactures professional hair care products and promotes education in the hairstyling industry, recognized Pena as the International Artist of the Year for his dedication to furthering the hair and beauty industry.

Pena was given the award during the Join The Revolution Global Conference in August, at which 5,000 people attended and 123 countries were represented. The award came as a complete surprise, he said, thinking that so many other people deserved the award.

"I find myself more in a mentor position now and really didn't expect the award," Pena, 41, said.

The Victoria native and owner of Hair Dimensions was honored for his contributions to the global board with the company and to the world of hair styling and beauty.

As part of the global board, he is in charge of creating new looks and techniques for stylists and salon owners. Because styles change every few months, he likens the industry to the cellphone market. Stylists have to constantly be tweaking the way they cut, color or style hair, he said.

Pena started styling hair at age 11 when his friends started asking him to cut their hair. A year later, he went into business for himself.

He was a 12-year-old charging $2 a cut, and by 15, he was charging $5 a cut.

With willing clients in his Silver City neighborhood, he learned tricks of the trade that he would use the rest of his career, including the how-to's of working with coarse to fine hair and everything in between.

"I woke up one day, and by the grace of God, I was cutting hair," he said about his artistic ability. "It was something that I wanted to share with others."

All of the stylists at Hair Dimensions have spent time under Pena's watchful eye taking notes from the seasoned stylist.

He takes his job very seriously and takes pride in sharing his knowledge with those who want to get a foot in the door of the beauty industry. That's why he starts with students who are dedicated to the field.

After Erin Kopecky earned her cosmetology license and graduated from the Victoria Beauty College, she found herself at Hair Dimensions, learning how to style and cut hair by Pena.

While she was still at the beauty college, he visited her class and made a lasting impression on her. His message for the group was to believe in their work and continue to grow, she said.

Kopecky, 20, has worked with Pena for about three months and earned her license in September. She's also learning how to apply makeup and eyelash extensions at Hair Dimensions.

"At first, I was intimidated to work with him, but now, I'm getting more comfortable," she said.

With the experience she is gaining at the salon, she's learning how to think like a stylist and how to build a lasting relationship with the salon's clientele, just as Pena does.

"He has an eye for what looks best for the client," Kopecky said.

When she's not shadowing him or participating in one of the many educational workshops he hosts for his stylists, she's working with Pena's right-hand manager, Tonya Casillas.

Casillas, 39, is the manager of the HD2, the second location of Hair Dimensions that opened in June 2012, and learned everything she knows about the business from Pena. She said he's someone who she admires not only as a mentor but also as a business owner.

"How can you not be the best when you're learning from the best," she said about Pena's award and reputation.

Casillas stood in the same shoes as Kopecky when she graduated from Victoria Beauty College and worked her way up ranks. Now, she oversees HD2, located in the same shopping plaza, and teaches the new stylists the same way Pena taught her.

"I admire that he's so patient with his students. He's so helpful and approachable," said Casillas.

The opportunity to create style and add to someone else's confidence is an important theme for all of the stylists at his salon, he said, and education is the foundation for making that happen.

"This isn't just a job; it's your life; it's your career," Pena said. "You're responsible for people's image and the way people see them."



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