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From entrepreneur to educator, local hair stylist shares her journey 

BusinessFrom entrepreneur to educator, local hair stylist shares her journey 

When Susan de Jong first set out to be a hairstylist at 25, she never imagined where her career would take her or the legacy she would build throughout the years.

“I knew I wanted to do hairdressing since I was six years old but when I graduated from Grade 12, I didn’t have any money to go to hairdressing school,” said de Jong. “I ended up settling on a job and did a few things here and there, but I hated those jobs. It was actually my husband Bert who encouraged me to enroll in school because we were finally in a position where we could afford it.”

After completing her initial schooling in 1985, de Jong began her career and quickly discovered her passion for colour, honing her skills and soon becoming a colour technician at Charisma Hair Design.

“I think that when I first started out, I was pretty confident but every single day in the real world brought new problems. When you graduate, it’s really just the beginning and when you get into the salon you realize there’s still so much to learn,” de Jong said. “I’m so grateful that I had Joe Gallo as my mentor and that he was so willing to give his time and show me everything step-by-step. He never complained, never made me feel silly for asking a question and never put any boundaries on what I was capable of. His patience is something I will never forget. It was all those boot camp-type sessions that encouraged me to learn more and hone my skills.”

Susan de Jong, lead instructor for Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design, demonstrates a classic french roll to students on Friday, May 17, 2024.

After around five years of being a dedicated staff member, de Jong found herself soon promoted to salon manager where she began working with co-op students, ran meetings and performed other various managerial duties.

Inspired by the work she was doing and with a drive to continue pushing herself, de Jong set out to open her own salon with Penny Romyn, and the two opened Changes Hair Consultants in Brantford in 1997.

Throughout the years, hundreds of customers walked through the doors at Changes knowing they could trust the expert staff to transform their hair and leave them feeling confident. From family cuts to bridal services, there were many specialities the salon offered on a day-to-day basis.

Susan de Jong, lead instructor for Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design, poses alongside a few of her students on Friday, May 17, 2024. Pictured in photo, in no particular order: Susan de Jong, Kim Britton, Amy Somerville, Alysa Mazur, Preeti Singh, and Lexis Foley.

It became a hub for learning as she continued to take in apprentices looking to learn from her at Changes, and de Jong ultimately helped shape many careers during that time.

“I probably had 30 apprentices come through my doors and it was always fun to see the little light bulb come on or see them understand exactly what you’re explaining,” she said. “It was a changing moment in a lot of their lives when they realized what they were doing and why they were doing it, that was a great moment to witness.”

After 13 years of being an entrepreneur, de Jong eventually sold her salon to one of her stylists in 2010 to retire alongside her husband Bert de Jong.

Susan de Jong, lead instructor for Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design, demonstrates how to complete a manicure on Friday, May 17, 2024.

While the couple had more time to spend together, de Jong knew she missed the hairstyling world, and she soon began speaking with Bert about pursuing a joint business venture.

“I had done a teaching stint at a local high school, and I was planning on going back for teacher’s college, but I realized that instructing at a private career college was more aligned with what I wanted,” she said.

After several years of meetings, organizing finances, various obstacles and a year of renovations, de Jong, with the help of her husband and family, opened the doors to Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design in April of 2016.

Amy Somerville teaches a student brow lamination during her class at Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Shallow Creek started off with a host of programs such as the full-time hairstyling course, barbering courses, and aesthetic programs that taught facial treatments, cosmetic make-up, body and facial waxing, lash and brow tinting, manicures and pedicures.  

“I wanted the college to be a place where we could take absolute beginners and set them up for success but still give them room to grow when they graduated and moved onto their apprenticeship,” said de Jong. “But as well, it needed to be a place for upgrading education so that if someone wanted to add on another skill and say, become a barber, they could do that, or if they happened to leave hairstyling and wanted to come back, they also have that opportunity. We never finish learning in this industry, it’s always progressive because when you quit learning, you quit moving forward.”

As the years have gone by and hundreds of students have come in to the learn the trade, de Jong wanted more for her students, and continued adding other programs that could offer a well-rounded education such as bringing back the part-time hairstyling and spray tanning courses as well as adding the lash extensions course and lash lift and brow lamination courses.

Susan de Jong, lead instructor for Shallow Creek Academy of Hair Design, gives a lesson on finger waves and pin curls during an in class lesson on Friday, May 17, 2024.

Knowing the importance of real-life hands-on experience, the college’s operating salon is where the community members come in and receive any one of their various services. To be more flexible to customers’ changing work schedules the salon has recently extended its hours, and by fall, de Jong will be adding a Saturday salon day.

de Jong said that as she envisions the future of Shallow Creek Academy, the college will continue to adapt and expand its programs to the needs of the Brantford community as it always has.

“I’m looking forward to what’s coming next for Shallow Creek,” she said. “New programs around life skills and business, lots of new students, the sky is really the limit; There’s going to be a lot of changes around here and I’m looking forward to see what’s coming next.”

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