“We don’t just teach students to cut hair, paint nails.”
brick and mortar building that houses Pat Wilson’s Beauty College is
rooted firmly on Main Street just north of the railroad tracks. The
school’s reach in the community branches out from there reaching across
the street, across the city and across the region.
In Henderson alone, the owners of 12 different salons all learned how to be businesswomen in the classrooms at Pat Wilson’s, and then how to make other people look and feel beautiful in the school’s attached salon.
The college was founded in 1975 by Pat Wilson, who was a second-generation beauty school entrepreneur. Wilson grew up in Providence, where her mom operated a one-room beauty shop out of the house, then later opened a beauty school that is still in existence in Madisonville.
Wilson followed suit, opening the Henderson store (she also owns the Madisonville school along with extended family). Wilson served on the Kentucky State Board of Cosmetologists for 20 years and strove to make the beauty college more than just a place where students learn basic job skills.
The school is active in the community, offering reduced prices on services for patrons and working with the women’s shelter and other organizations to provide haircuts and services for those less fortunate.
Wilson is semi-retired now, dividing her time between Florida and here. Daughter Rhonda Dossett, who became a third generation beauty school owner by divine design, now manages the Henderson college and helps in Madisonville as well. Wilson’s other daughter, Jimmie Jo Capps, worked at the college with her mom and sister until her death a few years ago.
“And my daughter will probably be the fourth generation,” Dossett said. “She loves it here.” Dossett originally had not planned to join her mother and grandmother in their entrepreneurial endeavors. She wanted to be a psychologist and earned a bachelor of science degree in psychology. She was in the post graduation job search phase when her mom asked her to help out at the beauty college with some of the paperwork, and she never left.
“I can’t tell you how it feels to work here,” she said, enjoying a short break from her work. “Ladies come in here, and they might not be very confident; they may be single parents who are struggling, and then they go on to support themselves.”
Seeing the transformation in students, Dossett couldn’t turn away. She uses her psychology often in dealing with students and clients. She counsels them on life and career decisions. She teaches them how to be good with people in addition to the skills of their craft.
The school also teaches much more than hair and nail care- although those are its core – like teeth-whitening, spray tanning, micro-derm and facials, for example. After students have 300 hours of coursework, they can then begin to work in the beauty school’s salon to practice and refine their skills. All the services are available to the public at a reduced cost.
“The only thing we don’t do is full body massage, and we’re thinking about even doin that,” Dossett said.
The school’s educational curriculum is divided into three programs – cosmetology, which covers hair, skin and nails: nail technician; and aesthetics, a new program specializing in advanced skin care. Right now there are 50 students enrolled in courses there. The cosmetology program lasts 14 months, while the other programs take around eight months to complete.
“Most people don’t realize that our curriculum is well rounded, that we don’t just teach students to cut hair or paint nails,” Dossett said. ” Our students are taught to be business women and men, not just job skills.”
They can go on to own their own businesses, work in corporate offices or become inventors of hair and body beauty products.
Dossett doesn’t have to look very far to see how successful the schol has ben in helping others branch out on their own. Several salons owned by former students can be found within blocks of the beauty college and throughout the region
-Leigh Ann Tipton/Gleaner Correspondent