Sept. 22, 2006
Working at what he loves
Jacob Rozenberg is excelling at his chosen career: hairdressing.
"I love what I do." This is the message that not only
emits from Jacob Rozenberg's lips, but radiates throughout his whole
being as he talks about his hairdressing career.
At only 18, "career" may seem too strong a word to use,
but Rozenberg's been practising and working at his chosen profession
since he was seven years old.
"I could do something artistic with fashion that wouldn't take
forever to achieve," said Rozenberg about what attracted him
to hairdressing. "I'm a little impatient, so the whole idea
of trying to design a dress or design an outfit and then try to
sew it and then see if it works it's hard, it never seemed
easy for that to happen.
"So when I was able to start playing with my sister's hair
when we were young," he continued, "I was like, 'wow,'
half an hour later, it's done and she looks awesome. It was the
idea that you could complete something in a day or a few hours,
and could totally change someone's look around and make them look
He said that he doesn't necessarily have to do anything drastic
to effect such a transformation; just little adjustments here and
there that really change the hairstyle or make it easier for people
"I like the creative aspect, but I also like the client aspect
and the being with people," Rozenberg stressed. "It's
a fun part of my day to see who's in the book and get excited to
have different personalities come in."
Despite his young age, Rozenberg has secured a job with the prestigious
Lounge Hair Studio in Yaletown. He has worked hard and overcome
several challenges to get there. For example, Rozenberg found out
that he was dyslexic when he was in Grade 1.
"I had constant tutoring from then on," he said, "
and the whole time [my parents] made sure that I knew that even
though I was dyslexic and reading wasn't my thing, there were other
things that I really ... [would] strive in and do well at.
"So, when hairdressing started to be something that I really
enjoyed and I was quite good at it from a young age with no training,
they [noted that] this was one of those things ... a creative skill
that I have and my mother especially embraced it and my father,
after seeing how all the family and friends really enjoyed it, he
was like, 'Oh, this so much fun.' He got into it, too."
His parents' main concern, said Rozenberg, was that he not drop
out of high school.
"When I found out about the hairdressing program at Van Tech,
I said, 'Well, this way I could do a few academics, still get through
high school, but take hairdressing, which is a less strenuous course
for me because I really enjoy it and I could still take my history
that I wanted, the English, the science, the math.' "
Rozenberg's instinct paid off. He graduated high school in June
and has been accepted into Langara's program of business management;
an acceptance that he has deferred for at least a year in order
Rozenberg switched to Vancouver Technical Secondary in Grade 10,
after he had heard about the school from the Lounge.
"When my mother was diagnosed with cancer the first time, we
had gone to the Lounge Hair Studio because we found out that they
did wigs for people," he explained. If someone brings in a
wig to the Lounge, he said, the salon will personalize it so that
it doesn't look like a wig; they will texturize it and cut it so
that it fits properly.
During that visit, Rozenberg mentioned his interest in hairdressing
and was told that the salon takes students from Van Tech. It was
an option he pursued and to his great benefit.
In Grade 11, his teacher, Janna McCullough, placed him as an apprentice
in the Lounge. It was also McCullough who asked Rozenberg to compete
in the B.C. Skills Competition, despite the fact that he had not
even finished his first year in the hairdressing program. He won
the gold medal.
Skills/Compétences Canada is a national, not-for-profit organization
that works with employers, educators, labor groups and governments
to promote skilled trades and technology careers among Canadian
youth. Examples of participating trades are aircraft maintenance,
carpentry, electronics, hairdressing and welding. Students compete
at local, regional and provincial events to win the right to represent
their province at the Canadian Skills Competition, which Rozenberg
did with his provincial gold.
At the 12th annual Canadian Skills Competition, which was held in
Halifax this year from May 23-26, Team B.C. brought 21 medals home,
with Rozenberg winning gold for hairdressing. He told the Independent
that he just missed out on qualifying for the World Skills Competition
he came in six points behind the person who was chosen.
However, in addition to the Skills Canada competition, Rozenberg
spent the month of May training in Ontario while still in
his Grade 12 year. He was doing so because of a call he had received
from Norma Ann Eaton, chairperson and CEO of the Cosmetology Industry
Association, the prime sponsor of Skills Canada's hairstyling category.
She was the one who informed Rozenberg that he had qualified for
the World Hair Championships in Moscow. He had been chosen as a
first-alternate as the result of his work at the B.C. Skills Competition
and a spot had been freed on the national team. It was his for the
taking, and he took it.
Rozenberg returned to Vancouver to write his final exams and attend
graduation. Then he went to Moscow for the competition of hair professionals.
Canada placed seventh, with Rozenberg receiving the highest marks
on his team, which was competing against other countries that had
been training for this event for two years, not just the month and
a half that Rozenberg and his team did.
As an incentive for him to complete high school, Rozenberg's father
had promised him a trip to Europe if he graduated. The trip to Moscow
seemed like an ideal opportunity for the young Rozenberg to cash
in, so to speak, but circumstances didn't allow it.
"It all came at a very tough time for me, the Moscow competition,
because my mom was quite sick," said Rozenberg. "It was
the dream that we'd all be there together, but things sometimes
happen for a reason and the timing worked out that I was able to
go but that he wasn't able to come with me.... He'll take me [to
Europe] one day, but right now, being on the low-ranking scale as
an employee, you don't get any vacation time. Once 2007 rolls around,
in September, I get my 10 days off for that year. So, we have to
wait a year, but he'll take me one day, I have no doubt."
Rozenberg said he is very glad to have gone to Moscow, although
he admits that it was a very difficult thing to do. His mother passed
away on June 16. He left for Moscow immediately after the family
finished sitting shivah.
"My mom was totally there with me, totally there," said
Rozenberg of the competition. He attributed the team's impressive
finish to his mother: "When we came in at seventh place in
the world, she was really helping us out there."
Rozenberg is quick to admit that many people have helped him achieve
his success, from his parents and two sisters, other family, friends
and teachers to his own hairdresser, whom he calls his mentor
it was she who let him start practising when he was seven.
Now, 11 years later, Rozenberg is a licensed hairdresser. Among
his clients are members of the Jewish community, including at least
one rabbi. With respect to his life, Rozenberg said that Judaism
has played a big role. He described the Jewish lifestyle as something
that has always been there; something that's ingrained in his family.
"We celebrate Shabbat every week," he explained. "I
went to Israel on a pilgrimage two summers ago. I would say that
Judaism really is an important part of my life.
"I'm the only Jewish stylist at my salon," he continued,
"so I get all the tough questions, random questions about kashrut
and stuff like that."
Luckily, he can point his colleagues in the direction of his rabbinical
clients for the really hard questions, but he has a solid knowledge
base himself: from synagogue, attending Jewish camp and participating
in United Synagogue Youth (USY). In all these places, he has also
found support: he has clients from shul; at Camp Miriam, he was
the go-to guy for anyone wanting their hair done for Shabbat; and
he was the regional president's hairstylist on the regional general
board of USY in 2004/2005, a position created especially for him.
Rozenberg is not content to rest on his laurels. He's already training
for the World Hair Championships in Chicago 2008, for which he's
hoping to make Canada's national team. As well, he is working Sundays
through Thursdays and, in his off hours, trying to boost his clientele.
He should be helped in this endeavor by the Lounge's hierarchy,
where, as a junior stylist, Rozenberg's prices are half of what
they will be when he becomes a full stylist. So, women's haircuts
are $30 and men's are $25 first-time clients get 15 per cent
off. For October and November, the Lounge is offering 50 per cent
off haircuts done on Sundays and Mondays. The salon also has a client
reward scheme and online booking of appointments. For more information,