Rowan-Cabarrus Graduate Turned Entrepreneur Owns Successful Salon

College’s successful cosmetology program to move to Kannapolis


KANNAPOLIS, N.C. — When Lori DiDonato moved to the area in 1999, she was tired of corporate America. She was looking for something new – something exciting and challenging. She chose the cosmetology program at Rowan-Cabarrus Community College.

Today, Lori owns Untangled Salon, a successful salon in Cornelius. As a single mom and new entrepreneur, she committed herself and her family – and her retirement – to the salon.

“I think the College is fantastic and has one of the best programs for cosmetology. They have the right people in the right places to prepare you for the industry,” said DiDonato.

But it doesn’t come easy.

“You still have to be willing to work hard. You must stay up on the latest and greatest in the industry and take the time to make your goals happen. It certainly doesn’t come easy – it’s hard work. But it’s so rewarding,” said DiDonato. “At Untangled Salon, we work together as a team, to not only meet your expectations but also to exceed them. I personally believe this business model keeps our clients happy and keeps our team inspired and passionate about taking care of you – the reason we do what we do.”

Each team member is an employee of Untangled Salon, not a booth renter or commissioned sub-contractor. This virtually eliminates the competition between stylists. By working in this type of structured environment, Untangled Salon’s team members are able to draw from each other’s experience, expertise and creativity.

“This is not how most salons are run,” said DiDonato. “Life is stressful enough. When our clients come in, we want them to relax, enjoy a beverage and put their feet up – not worry about in-fighting between the stylists.”

The College’s cosmetology program is one of the largest and most successful in the state. Beginning next summer, beauty finds a new home as the College relocates the cosmetology program to downtown Kannapolis.

“I definitely hire Rowan-Cabarrus graduates. If I see a resume from a Rowan-Cabarrus graduate, I look at them first,” said DiDonato.

“We teach everything there is to teach about beauty,” said Wanda Pressley-Altman, chair of the program, including instruction on all things hair, skin and nails. “We are moving to a beautiful new location next summer, but we are still offering cutting-edge classes right now.”

Rowan-Cabarrus Community College also offers evening classes to accommodate those with different schedules.

“Even if you work during the day, don’t let that stop you from pursuing your dreams,” said Pressley-Altman.

Many classes are also well-suited for the hair dresser who wants to stay up on the most current styles, cuts and colors.

The College specializes in training for contemporary design, individual hair extensions, keratin smoothing treatments, blow-outs and other cutting edge cosmetology practices.

“I’ve  never stopped learning. Professional development is critical for both myself and my stylists,” said DiDonato. “If you aren’t learning, you’re going to fall behind.”

DiDonato has taken communications classes, workshops and industry-training to keep building her business. She has also brought teaching and mentoring inside the salon. She and her stylists are constantly studying and learning new things.

“Women take their hair very, very seriously,” said DiDonato. “It might seem vain, but it’s our job to help people feel good about themselves.”

In 2009, Untangled Salon launched a full line of products. The beauty products, which are soon to be available online in their new ecommerce store, are made and designed in America and both sulfate and paraben free.

DiDonato employs six full-time and two part-time employees.

“I have a responsibility to my staff to continue to make Untangled Salon successful,” said DiDonato.

But she also does it because it’s fun.

“When I’m behind the chair and out on the floor – it’s just fun! We promote a party-like atmosphere and fellowship.”

The salon also works closely with a wig shop and provides all shaves at no charge.

“When you shave a cancer patient’s head for the first time, you realize how much a part of their identity it is.”

“Our cosmetology program is not only widely successful, but it’s a wonderful example of our strong partnership with local high schools,” said Dr. Carol S. Spalding. “The Career & College Promise program allows students to simultaneously enroll in high school and college so that they can receive both high school and college credit for courses taken as part of the program.”

This tuition-free program for high school juniors and seniors gives them the opportunity to get a “jump start” on a two-year or four-year degree while still in high school.

“Many students in the cosmetology program are high school juniors and seniors taking advantage of the Career & College Promise program,” said Dr. Rod Townley, vice president of academic programs.

In addition to cosmetology, Rowan-Cabarrus offers options for students to get a head start in careers like fire protection, criminal justice, machining, web technologies, welding and more. Further, many of the college transfer classes are weighted just like honors classes, making them a great alternative to Advanced Placement courses.

For more information about Rowan-Cabarrus Community College, please visit www.rccc.edu or call 704-216-RCCC (7222). The College is currently registering students for classes for the fall term.

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