This series gives insight into why some of our customers choose to bank local by banking with us.
Mitsu Sato says he makes changes in his life every 20 years. When he was 21 he moved from Japan to California and 20 years after that he moved to the Kansas City area. It’s been more than 20 years since 1993, when he first landed here, and we told him we’re not in any hurry to have him leave!
Mitsu has a thriving salon and beauty school now, but when he first arrived here in the early 1990s, he said there was plenty of opportunity because our KC haircuts didn’t look so great! But, all joking aside, he leveraged his experience and contacts working in Hollywood and Los Angeles to get in touch with local fashion editors in Kansas City and he hit the ground running when he arrived, cutting hair for local models and personalities.
After a few years working on the Plaza for someone else, he struck out on his own with a salon at 89th and Roe, where he operated for ten years. In 2006, seeing a need, he opened up a Beauty School at 91st and Metcalf (where he also moved the salon). He shows no signs of slowing down either. A new Lees Summit location is due to open Summer 2021.
When we asked him why he started the school all those years ago, he said simply, “the assistants I was bringing on really had no clue about proper cut and color, and I just saw an opportunity in the marketplace.” His students can benefit from working in the salon right next to the Beauty School (and customers can benefit from a really inexpensive haircut from someone who is learning the ropes!). He has also developed a good relationship with Beauty Brands, who have come to appreciate the consistently competent students Mitsu trains.
While the cosmetology program is typically 1500 hours and can be completed in 10.5 months, there’s been a lot of growth, due to the explosion of interest in skincare, in Mitsu’s aesthetics program, which is 1000 hours and can be done in 6.5 months. While some opt to do these programs back to back, others opt for evening classes, which take roughly twice as long as the full-time versions.
Mitsu was already looking for a smaller bank when he first found us and one of his regular clients was Ellen Bolen’s mother. Needless to say, Mitsu heard “you need to check out my son-in-law’s bank,” and since we were only five blocks away at that time, that was easy. “I love how friendly and personable everyone is. I especially enjoy being able to sit down and have conversations with the bankers when I visit. You can’t do that at a big bank.”
Fifty years of experience in the industry meant that Covid was just another challenge that he has faced in all his years of doing business. When he first opened his Beauty School some other national chains showed up in town and tried some unethical practices to get students: they got found out by the Department of Education, which was responsible for student loans and classified these institutions as no longer eligible for them. Mitsu, in the meantime, had always been doing business the right way and when those national chains left town even more students flocked to his classes.
Covid has imposed some limitations on numbers of students in the classroom, but Mitsu and his team have also adapted using online classes to supplement what is a very hands-on type of training.
We’re excited to be part of his ongoing journey and can’t wait for his new location in Lees Summit to open so that even more people in the KC area can benefit from his experience and passion for making people look and feel great!
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