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Making a living, or making a life Featured

10:03am EDT July 22, 2002

Arnold Zegarelli has rebuilt his life on a loss. From the 1950s to the 1980s, Zegarelli was one half of the most renowned duo on the Pittsburgh hairstyling salon scene with his brother, Robert. "I was the how-to, technician, he was the feeling," Zegarelli says. "Together, we made one good hairdresser."

The pair became prime assets of Seligman and Latz, Inc., the largest salon chain in the world, which owned Horne's and other department store salons, through the 1950s and '60s. They went on to open an advanced haircutting school for the Pittsburgh Beauty Academy, dubbed the Coiffure Creation Academy from 1961 to 1971.

But when Robert passed away in 1981, it was as though Zegarelli were torn in half, he says. "I had to reinvent myself, develop the other side of my talents he had filled," Zegarelli says.

He began to look at the elements of his personality-mental, emotional, spiritual, financial, physical-as spokes in a wheel that he needed to keep in balance.

Robert's passing also gave Zegarelli incentive to grow and create.

"When he died, I really realized that I am not immortal," Zegarelli says. "So many beautiful thoughts died with him. I decided to put all these ideas and observations I was collecting all through my life down and compile them."

Already vice president of training for Seligman and Latz, the largest salon chain in the world, Zegarelli created a whole new series of seminars he would put on for company employees, and eventually as an independent contractor to non-fashion-industry companies as well. He entitles the series "Positive Achievement through Holistic Hair-dressing. He became a mainstay of local and national television, appearing on Pittsburgh Today regularly to make over audience members and on Oprah Winfrey, both in Baltimore and Chicago.

Zegarelli also created his own line of beauty products, Arnold Zegarelli Products, which he says grew from his and Robert's ideas. Zegarelli products are slowly gaining a foothold in a hotly competitive market dominated by giants like Matrix and Redken. Zegarelli's goals for the line are long-term ones. In keeping with his philosophy of balanced, stable growth, he says he wants to create a classic for professionals, and he's in no hurry to mop up short-term profits.

And finally, in a culmination of his goals and ideals, Zegarelli recently published a book of his favorite credos to live by, Diamond Capsules for Success and Wisdom, which can be found in Pittsburgh-area Barnes & Nobles and Borders bookstores. We asked him about his credos and his lifetime of developing them.

Where did you get all your quotes?

From talking to my clients. I've learned such a great deal from them. I don't like to give any names of who they are, though. It's like being an attorney, attorney-client privileges. You shouldn't take advantage that way. There was one famous hairdresser in New York who used to do JFK Jr.'s young wife. He started talking about the things she would tell him, and she dropped him right away. I don't think you should use people, you should love people.

Building relationships in your business is even more important than in most, isn't it?

We are really licensed to touch. People, when they come to us, really let down their hair literally; they let down their defenses. A trust factor is built in. One of my favorite bonus gems from the book is the noble quartet, four keys to building any type of relationship. Part one is trust, two is respect, three is sharing a common goal, and four is bonding. I don't do hair, I do people. Cutting hair is easy. It's the people that really fascinate me.

Hairstyling and fashion have the reputation for being a very name-recognition-based industry. How did you begin to build a nationwide reputation?

We would go out and do lots of international shows. You see, a manufacturer [of hairstyling products] would go out and find the best stylists from across the country and get them to teach cutting and styling onstage and use, say, Clairol products. Robert and I became very well-known. People would come to school from New York, from everywhere.

If you keep doing nice things for people, it comes back to you 100-fold. Robert and I used to speak to the Ladies Clubs around here in Pittsburgh, 30-some years ago. We used to go to the club and demonstrate on how to set your own hair, and at the end, we would give one lady a gift certificate for a makeover. And one person would win, but 10 would come after her! It was really priming the pump.

Does that kind of promotion work especially well in your field? After all, your service isn't like a watch, that you'll only need one of, but a service you'll want again and again?

Absolutely. When we used to go on "Pittsburgh Today," we weren't just showing hair styles, we were giving education, not specifically to get customers, but to educate the audience. It all keeps going back to the same thing.

So many in business aren't patient enough. They're always in a hurry to make money right away and don't try to build relationships. You're not going to be successful right away. When you start a business, you're just not going to make money right at first. If you just think about the short term and just getting something from your customers, never mind about the future, that's a win/lose situation. It should be win/win, and that's the way to sustain a business.

Not long ago, I heard the greatest story. A young Indian man and maiden were chasing the goddesses of success and wisdom. The funny thing is, first, they tried to catch Success. But she eluded them. When they decided to chase Wisdom, Success caught them. When I heard that, I said, that's got to be the name of my book, Success and Wisdom, because it represents the way to go about finding balance and happiness in life.

How did you get into your own product line?

Robert and I had so many ideas, so many creations, and we were always trying to find what the customer really needed. But the exact right thing was never on the market. We knew what we wanted-for instance, a mousse that would give fine hair lots of body, but was light and wouldn't weigh hair down. But we couldn't afford to do it ourselves.

Eventually, after Robert died, my sister-in-law Judy went into the business of manufacturing of beauty products and makeup. When her company went public, she came to me, and said, could we try to start this company, with you as the head? It's a public company, and I design the lines and act as the chairman of the company. It's a very different type of business.

When you're marketing your product, the fact is, the name is what attracts attention and respect of the buyer. That's the key to these sales. These products are sold from the hairdresser to the consumer.

And it's doing fine. We're playing ball against some real giants. The key is distribution. One way is to have a very large advertising budget and go directly after the consumer. Or do what we do-build our name with the professionals and find a niche.

Mine is a pretty general product right now. We plan to take it long, slow, and solid-we're in no hurry. We want a strong foundation, built on a cadre of professional users who want quality products. It doesn't have to necessarily be massive. It take just tons of money to introduce a new product. We have to get the basics first. The stage we're at now is growing distribution.

We've been on the Home Shopping Network with the products, and it's been very successful. It was more of a testing situation. We go on five times a year. As far as sales, you don't make a whole lot of money doing this, but the exposure is just great; it builds fantastic consumer awareness.

How did you decide to do the book?

The book really grew from the product line. Once I get to the top of one mountain, I find another. It was the next logical way to find a place for my ideas. The book is a legacy, it'll live after me. So many ideas die with the person.

It seems like you're really into the philosophy of growth.

I like to try t o be a creative entrepreneur. I'm not just interested in making money. Success follows wisdom, and my life is beautifully balanced because of that. It's a shame so many people spend so much time just trying to make money and not helping others get success. Eventually I know if I help others, I'll get mine.

My greatest gift is as an educator. As an educator, you affect eternity. Another of my favorite quotes is, you make a living out of what you get, but you make a life out of what you give. That's how I feel as an entrepreneur - I want to make a life.

Maggie Bennett is a freelance writer from Pittsburgh.