Richard Weintraub, with a worldwide, 50-year impact on the beauty salon industry, cuts to the chase for entrepreneurs: "If you always follow the pack," he says, "then you only go as far as the pack."
When every other hairstylist was doing roller sets in the 1970s, Richard Weintraub, then a young Sarasota hairstylist, set out to do something different. "That’s what everyone was doing," he says. "It was nothing I aspired to do."
A Key West-native who moved to town in 1972, Weintraub looked into geometric hair cutting, which demonstrates defined triangular, diamond, circular, or rectangular lines in the hair cut. This style of cutting was used to create the groundbreaking Dorothy Hamill haircut in 1976. Hamill's cut for the Olympics was short, fell over her forehead, exposed the earlobe and narrowed to a triangle in the back. "I was on the forefront of leading that in this community," Weintraub says of the hair cut.
"If you always follow the pack, then you only go as far as the pack," adds Weintraub, 72. "I wanted to create a brand that was different from the masses."
Weintraub's work began appearing in Vogue in 1976. In 1977 he styled fashion model Lauren Hutton's hair. Accolades and accomplishments grew from there, including representing the United States in 1983 and 1985 at the World Congress of Hair in Paris and Rio de Janeiro.
Notably, Weintraub is also an accomplished entrepreneur, having owned Yellow Strawberry Salon in Sarasota for 48 years, until announcing his retirement earlier this year. At its peak, the multimillion-dollar business had 68 employees across three salon locations and a school.
In a look back at his career with the Business Observer, Weintraub recently talked about his advice for up-and-coming business owners, lessons learned and more.
Made his mark
Growing up on the small island he did was naturally restrictive in opportunities, he says. He was very “hungry” when it came to pursuing success.
"Every opportunity, I always said yes," he says. "Then I'd worry about it later. When someone knocks on the door, you have to open the door."
But he also made sure to seek out the right people in terms of mentorship. Those are people he's never forgotten. "Every Thanksgiving, I call everyone who’s ever helped me," he says. After a 50-year career of thankfulness, Weintraub says now it’s a race between him and his mentors to see who can call who first on the fourth Thursday of November.
Even with the success he's seen, Weintraub says there's a level of rejection he's faced too. "You've got to get some thick skin to be successful."
When Weintraub was getting started, trends would change every two to three years. Now, mostly driven by social media, it could change in a matter of two to three hours.
The key, he says, is to remain ahead of the trends.
"One of the big secrets is don’t get complacent — don’t flatline," Weintraub says. "You have to stay on your toes. That's something that keeps getting harder.
Those who can
Weintraub says he's always thought of himself as an educator — even while a beauty school student. That includes the time a large crowd gathered around to watch him work. People wanted to know his techniques, and in showing them he learned more about his own work. "In education, the educator learns the most."
The pinnacle of his career, he says, was being accepted as a member of Intercoiffure Mondial, a prominent Paris-based industry organization. Being asked by his peers to teach at their salons is right up there as well. "The moment you realize you have the potential," he says, "you have to pour gasoline on that fire."
Weintraub has never had the chance to just sit down and read a book. Now retired, that's a different story.
Now, his days are filled with reading a couple of books at a time, most recently including "Mile Marker 0." Weintraub also plays tennis four times a week and goes to the gym.
Weintraub and his wife Leisa, married 34 years, also started their bucket list, which includes visiting Africa and the Galápagos Islands, as well as restoring his family house in Key West."I haven’t stopped for some reason," he says. "I keep going."