Grow Your Instagram, Grow Your Business
From the time she was able to save up enough money to get her own hair professionally colored, Sara Pestella has been laser-focused on one shade: blonde.
Or should we say multiple shades? Even before she was a stylist, Pestella knew golden from platinum and every shade in between.
“I saved up to get my hair done once or twice a year in high school, and I knew what I wanted from flipping through magazines,” she says. “I understood I didn’t want to see a line of demarcation before I even knew what that was.”
But living in a small town meant her choice of salons was limited, which became frustrating for Pestella after she clearly communicated what she wanted… and didn’t get it.
“I picked up on stylists’ mistakes like over-processing or a brassy tone on the top of my head,” she says. “I figured out the toner hadn’t been left on long enough, so my hair was orange, and I’d take mental notes.”
By the time Pestella made it to cosmetology school, she knew exactly what she wanted to master, and also knew a little about trial and error.
“When I started highlighting my friends, it probably took me less time to figure out blonding than other cosmetology students because of what I went through as a client.”
Building a Business on Instagram
Pestella has been a stylist since 2011, and currently works at Love Salon in Seagrove, Florida. She’s still passionate about blondes, but she’s also an educator and founder of Level 10 Education, which are classes on hair coloring techniques.
“When clients come to my chair to talk about blonde, I always ask to see a photo,” she says. “Because beach blonde may look different to me than another person.”
These days, the photos Pestella’s clients are showing her are ones from her own Instagram accounts.
Her clientele grew, and her Level 10 Education business blossomed from her consistency and dedication to her social media accounts, especially Instagram (she has been posting since 2015).
“I put a lot of time into my blonde transformations, and I’m proud of them,” she says. “I don’t post anything I’m not proud of,” she adds. “Don’t post it if it’s not your passion.”
Over the years, Pestella has learned you attract what you post—so be very careful.
“If your dream clientele isn’t a graduated bob with chunky highlights, don’t post it,” she says. “Eventually, you’ll start filling your book with the hair you are passionate about. You’ll eliminate Karen from coming in with a graduated bob—you’re in control of that. We don’t think we are, but it’s very controllable.”
Leveraging Followers to Pursue a Dream
With close to 44,000 followers, Pestella’s platform now sustains itself, with clients easily finding her. But she had to pay careful attention to Instagram’s algorithms to get to where she is.
“The algorithm changes about every six months, and you need to know what’s going on and how to adjust what you’re doing,” she says.
But first, Pestella recommends getting a grip on hashtags. “They’re so important because hashtags are how consumers find you,” she says.
Instead of hashtagging from the stylist point of view (example: #balayageblonde or #ombrecolor), Pestella hashtags from the client’s perspective.
“I’ll use #destinstylist or #destinblonde,” she says. “Clients don’t know your language, so you have to tag the way they would.”
Pestella also Googles the newest algorithms on Instagram on a regular basis, comparing what she finds to what she’s doing. And sometimes what she finds means dramatically changing her methods.
“For example, I used to hashtag in groups of 20, which would give me 20 chances to be found on Instagram,” she says.
Instagram now marks irrelevant hashtags as spam, so Pestella has learned to become more purposeful in her tagging.
“Now, instead of using my first comment for 20 hashtags, I use five hashtags in my caption,” Pestella says. “The algorithm is based on communication with your followers and how active you are with them. And you need to comment back, not just post an emoji.”
A New Career is Born
With her growing Instagram platform, Pestella found herself getting more and more questions about her techniques and formulas.
“I would stay up at night and message people back for hours,” she says. “I found so much joy in helping other artists that I decided to do it on a bigger scale.”
There was only one hurdle Pestella needed to overcome—a fear of public speaking.
“I realized education was my ‘why,’” she says. “So, I sucked up my fears and started small by teaching a class at the salon I used to work for.”
She continued to hold classes at the salon until eventually her business took off and she was able to branch out into her own salon and build up the Level 10 Education program. She travels two to three times per month all over the country and is holding her first overseas class in Australia next year.
She also has a team of three people who help her run Level 10 Education, scheduling classes and answering email inquiries.
Pestella is chasing her own dream and encourages others to pursue their “why.”
“Figure out your purpose on Instagram and what you want to accomplish,” she advises. “Be consistent with your posting and make sure it’s relevant to your audience, even if it’s just a few people.”
She also says not to compromise your passions, and if you don’t have relevant work to post one day, find a quote that resonates with you and post that instead.
“The days I posted quotes are the days I had bobs in my chair,” Pestella says. “And if you did hair that you loved a month ago, that grid is forgotten. Repost the photo.”
These days, Pestella is shifting her focus on Instagram from gaining new clients to getting stylists and owners to book her for education.
“My goal is to build a team of educators to help me educate and to create short training videos,” she says.