Tricoci University of Beauty Culture ( TUBC, conceived and launched by the legendary Mario Tricoci ) will open its newest locationin Rogers Park, on Loyola University's main campuswith cosmetology courses beginning Nov. 30. Windy City Times talked with Brian Weed, TUBC's CEO, about the school and Mario himself.
Windy City Times: You're CEO at the school. What precisely do you do?
Brian Weed: I have oversight of the entire business. Mario is really focused on a lot of things, so he needed someone to help run the businessthe nuts and bolts. But he's still clearly the inspiration behind and driver of our innovative curriculum, the tools we use, and the look and feel.
I've been with the company for two and a half years, and I'm really enjoying it. We have a great operation, and we're helping kids and adults realize their dream. It's fun.
WCT: So do you have an extensive background in hair and beauty?
Brian Weed: I don't. I went to business school and been with a variety of companies, but none of them have been in the beauty industry. However, I've spent a good period of time with Hyatt Hotels, so I understand what it's like in the service business across a lot of disparate unitswhich is kinda what we are. We not only provide services to the students in our classes and programs, but also to the student salon, the front end of our school where the students get practical experience. Part of what Mario emphasizes is what we need to teach our students how to be professional; it's not just about the mechanics of cutting hair. It's about having a service mentality. We need to have our students "salon-ready," and we feel that we have the most salon-ready graduates of any beauty school out there. Independent research has [ confirmed ] that.
WCT: Obviously, this school is different from most "mainstream" colleges and universities, but it's also similar in that you have extracurricular activities and student council, for example. Also, how long do students attend?
Brian Weed: We have two main programs. One is cosmetology, and that's a 10-month program if you go full-time and 16 months if you go part-time; the majority of our students go full-time. And then our other program is called aesthetics, and that program is a five-month full-time program and an eight-month part-time program.
I think everyone gets excited about the things you can build into the program, and we feel that we've been pretty innovative on that front as well. We have student councils, which are collections of class representatives, and they make decisions on a variety of programs but then they also decide where we have our give-back events, called our TLC ( Teaching, Learning, Caring ) Program. This generation of students, thankfully, is all about giving back to the community so we can do that.
WCT: The university also utilizes netbooks, I understand.
Brian Weed: Yes. This generation is growing up with technology all around them so we thought the old model of printing out binders and using traditional paper was a little bit dated. So we put the curriculum on netbooks. Each student gets a netbook or mini-computer to keep; it's pre-loaded with Internet, e-mail and our curriculum. They can take their tests online; it's working with the students on their terms and there's also a great green benefit. I believe we're the only school in the nation that has done it this way.
WCT: Let's talk a little about the newest campus. Out of all the neighborhoods in Chicago, why was Rogers Park chosen?
Brian Weed: We have one campus by O'Hare [ Airport ] and we thought there were plenty of opportunities to expand within Chicago proper. So we started scouting out locations that fit the demographics of our students and that we better serve the campuses we have [ which are in the northern suburbs and Chicago's North Side ] . So this was a little pocket in Chicago that we thought fit the criteria, and it was an underserved part of the market.
We also thought that the opportunity to be located near a traditional four-year university was fantastic for our students. The neat thing about it is that they feel like they're in a larger university environment, which has a nice vibe to it. But on top of that, there are university students who are looking for a good value on beauty services; our students then will get more experience.
WCT: Besides its location, how will this campus be different from the other [ Tricoci ] schools?
Brian Weed: The programs and teaching approaches will be similar. However, this one is exclusively focused on cosmetology whereas other campuses offer aesthetics.
WCT: Do you foresee other campuses opening downtown or in other areas of Chicago?
Brian Weed: Yes. We're actually working on another location that we're really excited about. We don't have it exactly tidied up but we should have some news to announce relatively soon. It'll likely be in the Loop area, and there could be additional campuses beyond that.
WCT: This sort of expansion seems unusual during these economic times, I have to say.
Brian Weed: Well, it might be but we think that, given how attractive the beauty industry is and how well we're positioned to provide a great education, it's a chance for people to realize their dream to become professional. The number of people expressing interest in our program has expanded significantly.
WCT: What's the retention rate on your campuses? Also, what's the percentage of male students? It seems like in the promotional materials, the students were all female.
Brian Weed: It is predominantly femaleI'd say about 90 percent female, but there are plenty of males. At a salon you tend to find females but it's a great opportunity for men and women.
The retention rate is very good. We actually have to maintain that data for accreditation purposes. The completion rate last year was 90 percent, which is great; I think that's higher than most colleges, and the industry standard is 50 percent. We also have an 85-percent placement rate.
WCT: My last question: What is Mario Tricoci like?
Brian Weed: He is fantastic to work with. You might think, given all of his accomplishments, that he is floating at the 10,000-feet level and is detached from day-to-day thingsbut he provides a lot of [ input ] about the schools and marketing. He's an incredibly hard worker, and he really wants to give back to the industry.
The newest school is at 6458 N. Sheridan. See www.tricociuniversity.com .