My first job was as a receptionist in my mum’s beauty salon. The history of Blowtique is set in the surroundings of my mother owning hair and beauty salons in Ireland for over the last 30+ years. I’ve been exposed to this industry for my whole life.
I moved to Chicago through a scholarship from my law school, University College Dublin. When I arrived in Chicago, I was shocked that I couldn’t find anywhere to have my hair blow dried. My hair is naturally really curly and I like having it done. I couldn’t believe that central Chicago didn’t have a service that is so common back in Ireland.
Women in America are really into getting their nails done, but hair styling didn’t seem to be a part of their beauty culture. When I did want to get my hair done, it was extremely expensive. If you want a senior stylist, it’s more expensive. Or if you want your hair curled or braided, it’s an added price. The few times I went in to get my hair done, to get my highlights done in a top downtown salon, and was sent upstairs in a towel to blowdry my own hair. If you didn’t pay for the extra blow out, you were expected to dry your hair yourself.
The beauty culture in Ireland and in greater Europe is rich with easy blow dry salons.It’s just something that people frequently do. It’s nothing luxurious, it’s not out of the ordinary, it’s not for a special occasion -- it’s just part of a beauty routine. You don’t have to be wealthy. It’s affordable. It’s easy. And the results are great!
The big catalyst was my wedding in 2009. I had over 100 guests from Ireland. We have a huge family and loads of friends, so my wedding turned into a big vacation for everyone. There were so many women who wanted to get their hair done for the wedding, but no one find a quality place to service them. People who did find appointments came back to the hotel and had to redo their own hair. We were in central Chicago and we were shocked that none of my friends or family could find a blowdry for an affordable price.
This is when I decided to change things. I had the experience and I knew we could do it. If anyone could do this, it was us! That tends to be my nature: I need something, it doesn’t exist, I create it.
What I really want to get across, is that we’re not people who saw this as a fad. We have the background. We have 30+ years of experience in the industry. I saw a need that was being filled elsewhere and I did what I could to create an inexpensive and high quality service for women in Chicago.
What separates us from other salons is we have so much experience in this field and all our senior stylists are taught and trained in Ireland. We have expert staff that we hand picked to run and manage the team. We have the European Standard.
We are always looking to expand, because there’s always more opportunity to create something beautiful.
Dave Sajdak, Director of Operations
Dave's business experience is dedicated and decorated. With a background in promotion and marketing, Dave has had the opportunity to curate all different kinds of events, from small grass roots venues to international televised events. Over the years, his management technique has grown and transformed to adapt to many different business environments. Dave has more than 20 years of management experience with companies such as Zumiez, Oakley, and MasterCraft Boats, where he coordinated events that range from small parking lots to the Indy 500.
Dave has conducted businesses as small as one employee to businesses with up to 150 employees, all working under his management. During his time with Oakley, Dave was in charge of sales and merchandise training for 250 national retailers (including Macy's, Dick's Sporting Goods, Bass Pro Shop, Champs, Finish Line, and Cabela's) in four different states.
Dave’s favorite part about being a member of the Blowtique team is the camaraderie and the ever changing climate. He loves the fast pace and the fact that there are no two days alike.
In his free time, Dave is devoted to construction and renovation.
Danielle Reilly, Creative Director
Our Creative Director, Danielle Reilly, joined us from Dublin, Ireland where she worked in high end salons such as Peter Mark and NAME. In total, Danielle has more than 11 years of professional hairstyling experience. “From the early age of seven, I knew I wanted to be a hairdresser. I used to set up my parent’s room like a salon and practice on my friends as a teenager.”
For three years, while Danielle was in secondary school, she dedicated all her free time to Sakura Salon, where she attended training classes every Wednesday evening and worked in the salon every Saturday: “After my first day of working in a salon, I knew there was a great amount of hard work to be done, but when I saw the results of the stylists, how creative the job could be, and the joy of a satisfied client, I knew I wanted to be a hair stylist. I love it all. I love that every day is different and that every client is unique.”
Danielle went on to secure a position with Peter Mark, a highly regarded and multi-award winning salon in Ireland with 74 locations and three hair schools. Peter Mark is one of the most difficult and rewarding companies in Ireland to train with — Danielle began a four year apprenticeship that consisted of intense courses on all aspects of hair. In Danielle’s first several months of the apprenticeship, Danielle was awarded the title of Head Trainee: “The bar is set extremely high in Peter Mark’s hair training school. In order to succeed, there must be passion in everything you do. I was so honored to accept the title - It showed that all my hard work had paid off and that I was thriving in a very difficult program. ”
The role of Head Trainee gave Danielle the opportunity to manage the back end of the salon. This helped her to realize what she wanted to do after training - become a styling manager. During the apprenticeship, Danielle took courses in reception, teaching, and Kerastase products, which allowed her to open and close the salon, conduct in-salon training, and educate her peers about the Kerastase product range.
After graduation and almost five years with Peter Mark, Danielle went on to work for a small, local salon, NAME, that specializes in up-styles and on-site styling for weddings and high end hotels. “I was so excited to do something so different and personal. After seven months of being with this incredible salon, I was selected to move to Chicago and be a major part of Blowtique. I was hired to teach up-styles while I slowly built my career as a styling manager, which grew into my current dream position of Creative Director.
“I never get bored of my job; In fact, my job is my hobby. I love coming to work each day.”
After a long day at the salon, Danielle loves her commute home in her car. “I love my drive home. I blast my favorite song, whatever is in the top charts, and I sing my heart out. People often look at me as if I’m crazy, but I love it. It allows me to unwind completely.”
Stephen Donovan, Color Director
Hailing all the way from Dublin, Ireland, Stephen brought with him more than 10 years of experience in the hair industry. Trained in one of Europe’s largest companies, Peter Mark (a multi-award winning salon), Stephen graduated with high distinctionsand secured a place in their top flagship store in Dublin’s most prestigious location, Grafton Street. It was only a matter of time before Stephen, with a talent and flair for color, became Head Colourist and Head of Training, educating all staff in Peter Mark's Flagship Salon.
Stephen went on to secure the highest score in the renowned L’Oreal Specialist Colour Degree, the highest achievement for a colourist. Progressing to Colour Director, Stephen ran the Colour Department and oversaw all consultations and applications of more than 50 colourists and stylists.
With a huge interest in Fashion, Art and Greek Mythology, and a weakness for European Haute Couture Designer Stephane Roland, Stephen says they all contribute to inspire him as a hair artist.
“I’m delighted to have joined the Blowtique team as Colour Director! Working as a Colour specialist/stylist gives me the opportunity to meet new people and to use my artistic creativity to make them happy. I love making people feel good about themselves and my position as Colour Director allows me to do just that.”
Nikki Coen, Style Director
“Your hair is the crown you never take off!”
Nikki Coen fell in love with the beauty industry at a very young age. At just 17 years of age, Nikki began her stylist training with Peter Mark in Galway, Ireland. The standard Peter Mark apprenticeship is a four year program, but Nikki accomplished her qualifications in just two and a half years. Nikki, a dedicated professional, finished the last year and a half of the apprenticeship as a junior stylist.
While working with Peter Mark, Nikki continued to hone her skills. She entered into three different hair shows, one of which she placed in the top ten with over 60 people competing. “I was graduating at the time, so I competed in Dublin’s Peter Mark Styling Awards Graduate Category. I had 45 minutes to cut and style on the floor. It was high pressure, but I came out in the top.”
Nikki then became a Nixon Specialist and a Kerastase Ambassador for both Peter Mark salons in Galway, and she also taught classes that trainee stylists are expected to pass before their final examinations. After graduating from Peter Mark, Nikki left to do some travelling for almost four months. She worked in salons in Singapore and Spain before returning to the Peter Mark team in Galway.
In December of 2015, Nikki joined the Blowtique team as Styling Director. “Joining the Blowtique team was an opportunity of a lifetime! To live and work in Chicago has always been a dream of mine and I am so grateful to be here. I love my job because it allows me to express my creativity. Hairstyling is an art, if you ask me. I love to make clients feel good about themselves, it’s something I have felt passionate about from a young age, and my love for styling has only continued to grow over the last ten years.”
In her spare time, Nikki loves to act. While she lived in Ireland, Nikki was part of a group called D.A.D.S. (The Dunmore Amateur Drama Society.) The group traveled around Ireland to compete in amateur drama competitions. “As my mum says, it suited me because it allowed the drama queen in me come out! I have so many happy memories from my time in theater.”
David Grant, Makeup Artist
First and foremost, David is a working artist. David moved to Chicago in 2006 to study at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. With a classical fine art background in oil painting, illustration, photography, and art history, David's work is published in 74 countries and all 50 states.
David started in makeup industry 15 years ago and has extensive experience in natural high definition beauty makeup, along with editorial, SFX, TV, film, and stage makeup.
David is passionate about making makeup fun and empowering. His focus is to enhance natural beauty rather than covering the skin with a heavy mask. "Makeup is not one size fits all, it must be customized based on physical traits, personality, as well as lifestyle."
Alexandra Gerard, Social Media Director
Alexandra is a Milwaukee transplant and a DePaul graduate. With a degree in creative writing and a passion for human computer interaction, Alexandra curates Blowtique’s strategically beautiful online presence. “One of my favorite things is a perfect Instagram aesthetic. It’s something I’m constantly trying to achieve with Blowtique.” As our social media director, Alexandra curates our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, writes our blog, serves as our ad hoc photographer, and maintains the Blowtique website.
“Everything about my job is creative and that’s why I love it. The hair and beauty industry is an artform and I’m lucky enough to be able to document it in a way that allows me to show it off as something fresh, adaptable, easily digestible, and deeply personal. Beyond that, I genuinely believe that Blowtique is above and beyond other salons -- every time I’m in the salon or I attend one of our DIY Hair Camps, I am completely blown away by how talented our stylists are at hair design, but also how talented they are in their ability to teach clients personalized, lifelong techniques.”
Whenever Alexandra returns to Milwaukee, she loves to visit her mother’s consignment shop, Ivana’s Trunk, and her family brewery, Brenner Brewing. Alexandra is the proud owner of a 17 year old cat named Bread, whom you can see at @alexgerardsucks. You're likely to run into Alexandra at Innertown Pub.