Economy turns finance folk into hair stylists

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Davidson McGarity is not the kind of guy who had a thing for hair.

"I went to UNC Charlotte, got my undergrad in finance," he says.

But when the financial world fell apart, so did his.

One thing McGarity has always been, however, is business savvy, and these numbers are hard to ignore: The salon industry has outperformed the national economy now for three years in a row, adding jobs instead of shedding them, and raking in $60 billion annually.

"The more I thought about it, the more I thought why not?" McGarity says. "Why can't I do it."

He still remembers his first day at the Aveda Institute.

"It's me and, like, 17 or 18 other girls," he says. "And I'm one of the older people in the class, and it was a shock. I never thought that this is where I would be."

He certainly never thought that this is where he'd be happiest, either...that was the biggest shock of all.

"The personal interaction that I get out of working in a salon, far surpassed anything I was doing before."

McGarity still has a few months of school, but he already has a job waiting for him.

"2009 was a tough year, you know," he reflects. "And to be where I'm at now - when one door closes, another opens. Everyone's heard the cliche, and for me, it really rang true. I'm grateful."

His is the kind of story that's bringing the beauty business forefront, and allowing an expansion in schools. In fact, Paul Mitchell just opened in Charlotte last week.

"We're seeing a big increase in diversity in our student enrollment, everything from a high school student to a mother of three," says Bryce Carey of Paul Mitchell Schools.

The secret seems to be out. Even in tough times, this career can be lucrative.

"You can make a great amount of money this way. The tree of opportunity that lies within the beauty industry is really incredible," Carey says.

Says McGarity, "I've got really high expectations. Shoot for the moon kind of expectations."