Pirooz Sarshar has been training from age 12 to take the helm of a company like Peter Coppola Beauty, where he was recently named chief operating officer.
From the moment he began working at his mother’s salon as a young teen, Pirooz has been a game-changer in professional beauty. With every role he’s explored—from stylist to session artist to educator and from salon chain manager to distributor salon consultant, product developer and brand owner—he’s changed the game, written new rules and left a legacy that’s championed the role of the hair stylist and educated consumers—both women and men—with everything they want to know about the beauty and grooming services and products that are best for them. Add that to an uncanny sense of how to communicate with both stylists and consumers about what they really want and need to succeed, how to magnify messages through public relations and social media guerrilla tactics plus common sense, and you have an industry leader who’s at the right place at the right time to wake up the professional beauty industry and bring it back to the people—the hairstylists—who made it great in the first place.
Pirooz fell into the beauty industry by accident, when his mom forced him to practice karate and work in her Washington, DC-salon after school to keep him out of trouble. He was shampooing hair and sweeping the salon at the same age—12—that he earned his black belt! “After a while, I said if I have to do this, I might as well make money, so when two stylists offered to teach me to cut hair, I jumped at the opportunity,” he explains. When his mom started bringing top educators to the salon from Paris to teach cutting, he joined in the training.
When he was 15, Pirooz also played football and his friends on the team made fun of him for working in the salon. All of that changed the day a cheerleader asked Pirooz for beauty tips. Impressed with his knowledge, all of her friends started lining up to ask beauty questions. Now, the football team wanted in on HIS game! And his path as an educator was set.
On a trip to New York City, Pirooz wanted to get his hair cut. His older sister recommended Bruno Dessange Salon. “A stylist there gave me a haircut that changed my life,” he explains. “I felt so good about myself, that I had to go back. On my second visit, the stylist told me that he was moving to Washington, DC. When I learned that he was interested in martial arts, I offered to teach him karate if he’d teach me hair cutting. I started assisting him, then I’d cut hair on Saturdays and charged crazy money.”
After enrolling in the Graham Webb Academy in Washington, DC, Pirooz learned to color hair. When the school was featured in Vogue for the work they did using coloring guns, he become obsessed. He assisted top stylists to continue his learning, then began managing a chain of salons, where he had people lined up for cuts. Tired of management, he moved to New York City, where he worked at Bruno Dessange—then Bruno Pittini—while doing session work and producing shoots. When the salon closed, his mother sent him to France for more technical training.
Returning to Washington, DC at age 23, Pirooz decided he needed to learn how to really sell products, so went to work as a distributor sales consultant. After achieving great success by focusing on the 20% of the salons that provided 80% of the business, he asked to change his title to salon consultant so he could work more closely with his customers to help them achieve success. He created a new role for the traditional DSC as salon partner and business-builder.
After being contacted by a colleague who was launching a professional hair care brand for children—Jungle Care—Pirooz began learning manufacturing, branding and product development. As he traveled around the country, then to Australia and Bali, he constantly encountered a common theme—women were upset with how little attention their boyfriends and husbands paid to grooming. The light bulb went off: He returned to the United States and launched the Grooming Lounge.
There, he created a three-pronged approach, using stores, a catalog and the Web, to change the way the industry approaches men’s personal care. “We trained people out of beauty school how to retail first, then how to cut men’s hair. That’s how we ended up with 40% of our sales from products,” he explains. “We remembered our clients’ names, educated them about hair care and skin care and grew the average annual client spend from $600 to $6,000. We did 10,000 cuts and shaves a year and were the first group to service salon clients via the internet between services. We did tons of press and made the experience and brand fun by making fun of grooming in our media."
After growing the Grooming Lounge into an iconic brand, Pirooz moved back to New York City. There, he began helping people from hair stylists to entrepreneurs create legacy brands of all sizes. Once he teamed up with his cousin to open a boutique product laboratory and manufacturing facility, he was able to develop brands from concept to distribution and every step in between.
Now, as chief operating officer for Peter Coppola Beauty, he’s ready to revolutionize the professional beauty industry once again by developing services, products and an education system that hair stylists will use to achieve success by solving their clients’ modern wants and needs.
“My goal it to turn the industry on its head,” he says. “I’m a guy who loves the professional beauty business and is very concerned about its future. A lot of people are doing a lot of wrong. Peter Coppola Beauty is all about bringing this industry back to hairstylists, doing what’s right for them and giving them the tools to do what’s right for their clients.”
Pirooz’s book, “It’s Not Easy Being a Man,” is coming out soon!