Have you ever left the salon with a fresh haircut and color and just felt unsatisfied? You came prepared with all of your inspiration pictures and were ready to embrace a new look, but for some reason, your look just didn’t turn out the way you imagined. Believe it or not, these experiences are just as stressful for your stylist, who wants nothing more than for you to leave the salon more excited than when you arrived. It can often feel as though there is a gap between salon professionals and consumers that can sometimes prevent both parties from achieving what they want. Francis Tesmer, CEO of ROLFS Global, recognized that gap more than a decade ago and has been on a mission to fill it ever since.
The culmination of her hard work and research is finally here, as Tesmer has collaborated with Mesa Community College (MCC) and Arizona State University (ASU), and the L’Oréal USA Professional Products Division to pioneer the creation and development of a revolutionary higher-education program for beauty professionals that is the first of its kind worldwide. Students around the globe can now earn the first-ever Associate in Applied Science (AAS) in Beauty and Wellness through Mesa Community College (MCC) and then apply to Arizona State University (ASU) for a Bachelor of Applied Science (BAS) degree program in Health, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation with an emphasis on personal care.
Tesmer’s hope is that salon professionals will be able to take what they’ve learned in cosmetology school and their real-life experiences on the job and elevate their careers to the next level.
“This is the time for beauty to meet humanity,” says Francis Tesmer. “Our over $500 billion dollar essential and powerful industry has the highest obligation to positively impact the world and humanity collectively in a time when we need it the most. We are responding to this historic calling by empowering our workforce through higher education, which will enable them to embrace a much bigger and more transformative role in the world.”
The L’Oréal USA Professional Products Division will support enrolled students with an industry-oriented curriculum, guest lectures by experts in the field, mentorship, apprenticeship, and other career advancement opportunities.
“Supporting the development of a collegiate degree that enables individuals with a passion for beauty to pursue a career within and beyond the salon, symbolizes L’Oreal’s commitment to personal and professional growth for the talented individuals who aspire to pave the way for the next generation of beauty innovators,” says David Greenberg, Group President of the L'Oréal Professional Products Division in North America.
How The Program Came To Be
Tesmer is the first to admit that before embarking on this journey, she had little to do with the beauty industry. She spent most of her career as a global entrepreneur and humanitarian education advocate, taking on roles in her native Germany such as, Economic Senator. When her mother passed away 12 years ago, however, she decided she wanted to take on a larger role in helping women worldwide. Through discussions with her longtime friend Rolf Lohse, the visionary behind ROLFS Global, she decided she could make the biggest impact on women through the beauty industry.
So Tesmer set out to learn as much as possible about the beauty industry, first focusing on hair. She met with industry giants such as Redken and L’Oréal to try and get a better understanding of what was really going on and how she could help to elevate the lives of women in the beauty industry.
“I was extremely disappointed to find out what's going on,” Tesmer admits. “Because here we are, an over $5 billion industry that has one of the most uneducated workforces and many people are not successful financially, and they're mostly women. I look at the average income of a hairdresser in America is like $22,000. And I found out that really, the reason is people don't have the kind of education they need to have to be successful.”
The entrepreneur began to dig deeper into the education side of the beauty industry and realized that while cosmetology school teaches aspiring hairstylists the technical aspects of cutting, coloring, and caring for hair, they seldom teach students how to run a successful business. So Tesmer decided to set up her own salon and figure out if she could pinpoint the lapse in knowledge.
“We tested everything with our own team in our own salon, constantly perfecting the knowledge, the curriculum, and everything,” she says. “And when it was done, we learned that actually, if these beauticians have the knowledge, education, support, love, and everything, they can become very, very successful and do very well.”
Once Tesmer identified the core tenets of her suggested curriculum, including finance, communication, ethics, and evidence-based decision making, she set out to find a higher learning institution to partner with to bring the knowledge to the masses.
“You have to be able to present, to communicate, to analyze, critical thinking, all of that comes to play for the beautician, which by the way, ends up helping them be more successful.”
She spent nearly 10 years convincing colleges and universities this was a worthwhile investment before partnering up with MCC and ASU. Once she found her academic partners, Tesmer brought on the L’Oréal Professional Products Division as a salon authority to give students the opportunity to learn from the best in the industry. The lucrative partnerships give students the opportunity to leverage their careers in the beauty industry in ways they’ve never been able to before.
This program isn’t just for aspiring hairdressers and cosmetologists, however. What’s revolutionary about the program is that applicants can apply their real-life experiences to count as college credits. A licensed cosmetologist will be awarded 30 credit hours towards his or her AAS degree at no cost. So whether you’ve got years of experience or are just starting out, this program is bound to take your career to the next level.
Both Tesmer and Greenberg insist this program doesn’t just benefit salon professionals, it also benefits clients. The more education your stylist has, the better they are able to serve clients, ensuring no one ever walks out of the salon feeling unsatisfied ever again.
“Now more than ever, beauty is about innovation and evolution,” explains Greenberg. “As more clients expect inventive and customized experiences, salons are adapting with new digital technologies—leaving an opportunity to evolve professional training and education to meet these heightened needs and attract more talent to the industry.”
Beauty professionals in action during class
The Program’s Success: One Year Later
Despite the industry’s setbacks, closures, and inability to work during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the first cohort of 12 students was able to graduate with honors, Tesmer says with pride. “All 12 of the first students enrolled in ASU’s associate’s degree program now have 60 credit hours already under their belt. This means that, if they want to continue their education, they’re eligible to get their bachelor’s degree in four semesters, which is half the time and half of the cost of traditional programs.”
Setting the students up for success is a priority from day one. The courses, and the professionals that teach them, are hand-picked for the students to be as relevant as possible to those enrolled. Additionally, each student has access to a hands-on advisor to help with enrollment, financial aid, and more. Personal finance, communication, and marketing were favorite classes of the first class of graduating associates, Tesmer says.
She says the first dozen students were just the beginning. Tesmer anticipates graduating 1,000 students this year and is in talks to expand the number of partner universities, giving enrolled students more physical campuses to attend in-person learning if they wish.
When the program was built, the term “virtual learning” was absent from the lexicon of most Americans, but the virtual nature of the degree has been a blessing in disguise, Tesmer says. “We’ve seen the success of the virtual program, and it’s pushed us to open it up on a national and international level.”
While the international program is slated to start in 2022, 50 students from around the United States are currently enrolled, and L’Oréal is sponsoring a scholarship program to give students—and the program—a strong foundation for learning.
As international borders open back up, Tesmer is hoping to launch an exchange program where students from the United States will travel to Paris to L’Oréal’s campus to learn European techniques and gain a global perspective.
Looking back at the first cohort of students, Tesmer says the most gratifying part of the program is “giving students the education and credibility they need to feel empowered as business owners and business professionals.” She adds: “I like to think that we’re training students to create the salon of the future. I’m always challenging the students to envision a new future for the beauty industry with the tools we’re teaching them.”
That sentiment is echoed by the program’s students, too. “Starting with your [cosmetology] license, you believe that anything is possible, but understanding the necessary business acumen and feeling confident in the corporate setting can be challenging,” says Alex Torres, a student and digital education manager with Matrix. “Having a college education allows me to come to the table with a deeper understanding of the business, and now I truly believe the possibilities are endless from here.”
How can I enroll in the program?
The beauty industry has faced a lot of hardships while dealing with Covid-19, but both Tesmer and Greenberg agree: now is the perfect time to enroll.
“The need for, and importance of, a more diversified education in beauty has been further proven during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Greenberg explains. “Stylists need to be equipped to handle financial, health, and operational crises with educational tools that ready them to respond to critical business challenges.”
The best part is, you can earn your degree from the comfort of your own home—no matter where you are in the world.
“My goal is to educate 100,000 hairdressers and beauty professionals,” Tesmer says. “This program is global because we can offer it online.”
Interested students can learn more and apply for the Beauty and Wellness program at