My name is Joel Gamso. I’m 51 years old, I have been married to a beautiful woman named Tammy for almost 26 years, and we have three teenage children: Cameron (19), Madison (16), and Connor (13), all great kids. In my former life, I sold building materials to high-end contractors and was in that industry for 30 years. I made very good money for many years but was getting a little burned out and, as I’m sure you know, construction is a declining industry. My wife has been a hairstylist for 26 years so I have always been exposed to that world.
Cameron, our oldest son, became interested in the beauty industry. After attending Premier several years ago and visiting Paul Mitchell The School Tampa, he decided to enroll. That was in February 2008. Tammy and Cameron were going to the school for a tour and invited me to join them. I agreed to go, and that trip changed my life forever.
...my foot was tapping to the music and I was getting caught up in the energy all around me. That’s when I spoke those six fateful words that changed everything: “I think I could do this!”
Upon arriving I was instantly impressed with everything I saw and heard: smiling, friendly people with positive attitudes (just like construction—not!), upbeat music, and great energy. We were waiting for Becky to take us on our tour and had only been in the building for about five minutes when something strange came over me. I looked down and noticed that my foot was tapping to the music and I was getting caught up in the energy all around me. That’s when I spoke those six fateful words that changed everything: “I think I could do this!”
My wife and son both looked a little caught off guard. I wasn’t sure what had just happened but we were all about to take an incredible journey.
By April I had decided to take the plunge. We started saving as much money as we could, knowing that I would be unemployed for about a year with my wife supporting us. I was concerned about encroaching on my son’s experience and we had many discussions about it, but he assured me that he didn’t mind. (How cool, father and son going to beauty school together.) In August I resigned from a six-figure-income job (much to everyone’s surprise) and we started school on September 16.
The first day of school was terrifying. My Core class was the largest the school had seen (28 people) and was made up of 3 guys and 25 girls. Most were very young and I felt like I was back in high school. I went home that night and told my wife that I had made a huge mistake, but she was very supportive and encouraged me to try anyway. (No going back now!) We jumped right in, working on mannequin heads, and I felt really clumsy, having never braided or blow dried hair before. I thought I was at a disadvantage but soon realized that I had the advantage: these youngsters had to learn to have a strong work ethic, people skills, and heart. I just had to learn to do hair.
How cool, father and son going to beauty school together!
I took my education very seriously because we had so much riding on this and tried not to miss a thing. I was on Student Council, a Core mentor, and in the Design Team. Cameron and I were both in Phase Two together. Being the “old guy,” I didn’t fit in at first but soon became the father figure to many of these young kids. I made some great friends (both Future Professionals and Learning Leaders) and was given the nickname “Papa Bear.”
I’ll never forget this amazing journey. None of it would have possible without the emotional and financial support of my wife Tammy, and I owe it all to her, We plan to open our own Paul Mitchell Focus Salon in a couple of years in Sarasota, Florida. I hope my story might inspire someone to take a leap of faith and make a change in these uncertain economic times. If Papa Bear can do it, anyone can!
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