Atorina Babaea’s Choice Leadership

Allow me to offer a cliché: The power behind the throne. Now, allow me to adjust it: The power behind the chair.

That’s in reference to Atorina Babaea, the artist and district leader behind the styling and grooming empire of the enterprising Phil Weaver. Weaver is the famous Ottawa entrepreneur who gave up a thirty-year career in high-tech to become the CEO of Oakview Management. Oakview oversees forty-nine salons across Eastern Ontario, under the auspices of four high-profile brands: First Choice Haircutters, Magicuts, SmartStyles, and the nascent Rooster’s Men’s Grooming.

A network of that size doesn’t run itself—nor can its details be looked after by a CEO who’s as busy as a beaver…er, Weaver. That’s where Babaea enters the picture, gracing it with her thorough professionalism, and deep, humanistic appreciation for First Choice Haircutter’s clientele.

For somebody so vested in the culture, it’s hard to believe that Babaea got involved in it as a necessity. “I didn’t know I wanted to pursue a career in the hair industry,” she confesses. “When my son was born in 1989 in Athens, I decided to take a course to help with my finances. I didn’t know it would be a long-term career, that I could keep growing in the industry.”

But grown she has, covering the busy bases of a team-based playing field. “Team leaders perform an important role in helping to manage groups of employees meet organizational goals,” she explains. “Team leads help to achieve many business objectives, including training, performance monitoring, and conflict resolution. Learning to be a strong leader supports the success of your co-workers and the company.”

Atorina Babaea is the influential district leader overseeing Oakview Management’s salon brands across Eastern Ontario, known for her professionalism, dedication to her team and clientele, and commitment to excellence and kindness in the hair industry. Photo by Nicolai Gregory

“We operate over forty-five salons locally. We will continue to be a leader in the Ottawa area market offering a great place to work, well-trained and experienced stylists, and quality service.”

If anybody understands the daily pressures of today’s hard-working stylists, it’s Babaea. She spent a quarter century cutting hair. While she eventually felt the urge to climb the career ladder, she well remembers the purpose and pleasure of that job. “There’s something incredibly fulfilling about helping someone feel good and look good,” she maintains. “As a hairstylist, you have the opportunity to do this daily, whether you’re giving someone a confidence-boosting haircut or helping them prepare for a special occasion.”

It’s a palpable concern for the clients she has passed on to her charges ever since assuming First Choice’s Team Lead.

The team at First Choice Haircutter’s Eagleson Road location with Atorina, Soheila Hassan, Stylist, Kristin Royle, Stylist, and Malihe Khamseh, Store Manager. Photo by Nicolai Gregory

“Create a warm and inviting atmosphere from the moment a client steps into our salon,” she advises staffers. “Greet them with a genuine smile and provide a comfortable waiting area. Also, efficiently manage check-ins to minimize waiting time, ensuring a smooth transition into their pampering session.”

Babaea also makes sure that every employee is up on the latest industry trends and developments. For that, though, she has a little help: “Our stylists are trained several times a year,” she explains. “We have six senior design team trainers that work very hard to keep the training going.”

Babaea even offers guidance to industry wannabes, those looking to someday join First Choice’s reputable team. On the professional level, she encourages aspiring stylists to consider a career in cosmetology. Many of her employees are graduates of The Ottawa Westend Beauty Academy, which provides a hairdressing course that teaches the fundamentals required to successfully infiltrate this crowded industry. “They teach all of the services we offer in our salons,” Babaea affirms, adding unequivocally, “You will be set up for success.” On a more philosophical note, she recommends that aspirants investigate the true nature of their commitment.  “Make sure that you truly want to focus on a career in the industry. There are successful people doing hair as a part-time job, but I like to hire people who look at it as a career.” That approach pays better, too. In contrast to their competitors, First Choice offers employees a guaranteed wage and attractive benefits.

Photo by Nicolai Gregory

It’s advice that again reflects the friendliness, professionalism, and vision that defines her and the franchise she represents. It’s an approach First Choice intends to keep firmly in place while it expands. Says Babaea, “We operate over forty-five salons locally. We will continue to be a leader in the Ottawa area market offering a great place to work, well-trained and experienced stylists, and quality service.”

Whether you’re styling or leading, she warns, it’s a busy career—but if you have the right kind of personality, it’s a good one. “It comes easy if you’re a good person and genuinely care about people. You can always practice a bob shape or practice layers, but if you practice being kind to people every day, you can never go wrong.”

Photo by Nicolai Gregory

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