Jill Higginbotham was a musical theater major in college when she discovered that she enjoyed doing the makeup and hair for her theater productions immensely. After freshman year, she changed directions, left school and moved home to Louisville to study cosmetology. After finishing cosmetology school, she and her father became business partners, starting J Michael’s Spa & Salon. These entrepreneurs take their work seriously, putting as much effort into the business side of J Michael’s as they do into the styling and services they offer. We always look to Jill for the new trends, as she usually is sporting a new look every time we see her. When she’s not busy running her business or making people beautiful, this busy mother of two is still involved in local theater, but this time as a hobby, not as a career.
You are an entrepreneur and businesswoman first, and a stylist second. How do you think this mentality has contributed to your success?
I am an entrepreneur and business woman first. I love the art of my business, but I think it is most important to know the business of my art. In the five years J Michael’s has been open we have tripled in size. I think the business mentality has been and will be the key to our continued success. I have not done this alone, my father and business partner Jerry, my management team and everyone who is a part of the team at J Michael’s has contributed to our success. I think one of the ways I have been successful at business (and trust me, there have been failures) is my ability to surround myself with good people. These people are the backbone of J Michael’s, and I wouldn’t be a success without them.
You make sure that the products you use at the salon are healthy. Do you think this makes a difference?
Absolutely. Your hair, makeup and skincare product is literally absorbed into your skin and hair all day long. The average woman consumes about a tube and a half of lipstick a year. Most lipsticks, skincare and hair products are filled with petrolatums, fillers, talc, silicone, lead, the list goes on and on. Some of these ingredients have been linked to cancer, others are more likely to damage your skin and hair in the long run. Even worse, many of the large, most common product companies are owned by very large companies that specialize in drugstore lines. These large companies will change the healthy ingredients in an in-salon product line to the fillers, etc., without ever alerting consumers. If a guest is going to come to our salon and spa and entrust us with their hair, skin and overall everyday look, we want to honor that by using products that are healthy for them both inside and out, creating maximum impact to assist them in their needs and concerns. We believe it is our job to help everyone create a look that represents who they truly are.
What are some trends you are seeing on the horizon in your industry?
I absolutely love that we are seeing more and more people have fun with hair color. I feel like, no matter where you go, you will find someone with platinum blonde hair, or rose gold, or an all over navy blue. I think the handpainting technique known as balayage is here to stay, which is exciting. It’s been around since the 1950s and gives each artist the ability to enhance your hair with their artistic eye. I also think we are going to see a little “less is more” when it comes to makeup and skincare. I think women and men are looking for more natural options to care for their skin as well as looking to tone down the makeup (although I love the use of contouring and highlighting) and find an easygoing everyday style. Another fun trend is nail art, just being creative with the shape and color of the nail. However, the most important trend is breaking the rules. Enjoy creating the look that works best for you with no restrictions because of age, status, your job, etc. I love that we see people from every walk of life having their stylist/artist create a look that is unique to them, whether it’s a chic bob with mascara and lipgloss, or a head full of teal extensions with micro-bladed eyebrows, winged-out eyeliner, contoured cheek bones … you get the picture. It’s about a look that complements you!
What do you like most about your job? And what do you like least?
Making someone smile and relax is the best thing about my job. Literally, everyday, I get to make people feel better. I may walk away tired, but I walk away fulfilled. The hardest part of my job can be managing creative types. Because we are stylists, we are artists. We can be emotional, stone-faced, opinionated, introverted and extroverted all at the same time. One of the most important things to me is taking care of my team and I take it very seriously.
What are some things you are working on now that we can look forward to seeing in the not-so-distant future?
Becoming a flagship salon for Eufora International, bringing microblading to the city of Louisville and of course, setting the standard on guest service and education!
Give us a peek at your agenda. What’s a typical day or week like for you?
Well, most days I wake up at 6:30 a.m., and if I’ve slept passed 7 a.m., that’s sleeping in. Mondays and Tuesdays are administrative days for me. I book meetings, oversee the branding and marketing, improve the systems of J Michael’s and meet with the management team. I’m a small business owner, so I wear many hats. On Mondays, I make sure to leave work by 2:30 p.m. so I can pick up my 12- and 14-year-old daughters from school. On Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, I book appointments behind the chair, but leave time open to continue running the business and make myself available to my staff. Evenings are filled with ice hockey, soccer and play practices. I volunteer at St. Margaret Mary, St. Xavier and the Oldham County Arts Center as well as a few others. (I have a problem with saying no.) Weekends are filled with games, church and family time. My schedule is constantly changing, and I love that. I do well with change and growth.
What advice do you treasure?
Don’t be afraid to fail; fear never trying.
Fill in the blank. You’ll never see me without my _________.
Hair extensions. I love them! They are a special kind of high-maintenance addiction.
Where can we find you hanging out around town?
Favorite thing to do in Louisville?
Eat. It’s Louisville. We are literally a destination city for food, and we have some amazing options!
Are you a night owl or early bird? What do you do during that quiet time?
I’m probably more of an early bird. I wake up and hit the ground running. I’m not sure I know what quiet time is. But I love coffee, wine, candy crush and my dog, Dallas.
Tell us some of your favorite local restaurants.
What’s on your personal reading list right now?
Lightning round! Give us your:
Candy or junk food splurge: Anything with chocolate
Guilty pleasure song: “Piano Man”
Tearjerker movie pick: I don’t cry a lot, but I ugly cried at Inside Out
Standby nail polish color: Cake Pop in CND Vinylux
Favorite cocktail: Kentucky Mule
Cartoon alter-ego: She-Ra
What are three of your favorite things right now besides faith, family and friends?
- Anything that has to do with history (especially ancient cultures)
- Playing four-way solitaire with my husband Paul and two daughters, Belle and Audrey
Thanks to Adele Reding Photography for today’s beautiful photos taken on location a J Michael’s Spa & Salon.
Read about more inspiring women in Louisville in our FACES of Louisville weekly features here.