Updated, Thursday, Sept. 24, 7:45 am*
“You’ve got to be kidding, right?”
That was pretty much the consensus when Angela Prout announced that she was giving up her career in marketing — after stints at BBDO, one of the world’s largest advertising agencies and several other agencies — to become a hairstylist.
Angela was 27 years old, and was on the fast track, working on accounts like American Express and Bank of America. But somehow she felt that as she was climbing the corporate ladder, she was distancing herself from what she wanted out of life. “I felt like I was a drone behind my computer,” she said.
The death of Angela’s sister-in-law proved to be a life-changing event for Angela. She traveled to Atlanta to be with her husband-to-be Gavin and his family, and this gave her time to reflect on her career and life in New York. As a girl in high school, Angela had worked at the desk of a beauty salon and several people in her family had worked as hairstylists, and they often raved about how much they enjoyed the human connection they felt with their customers. It was the very thing Angela was missing from sitting in front of a computer all day.
Angela enrolled in the Aveda Institute, a beauty school in Atlanta. She got her degree in cosmetology, but about that time, men’s haircutting was getting big, so Angela got her license in men’s barbering. “I was the only white woman in the program,” Angela said. “It was quite an experience, and I learned a lot.”
Following school, Angela got a job in a salon in Atlanta and she and Gavin decided to cut their ties with New York, and tie the knot themselves. They got married, then traveled up to Chatham on the Cape for their honeymoon. While they were there, they decided to take a side trip to the Vineyard. They stayed at the Nashua House in Oak Bluffs, and Angela decided to poke around town and see what the salon business looked like on the Vineyard.
It was July, and Tracy Briscoe, owner of Benito’s in Oak Bluffs, was a little short-handed. She and Angela hit it off, and Brisco offered Angela a job. It all happened very quickly, but Angela and Gavin could see making a life on the Vineyard; they returned to Atlanta, and two weeks later, Angela returned to the Vineyard, settled into a house Briscoe had provided for her, and began work at Benito’s. “Tracy got me started on the Vineyard, and I’ll always be grateful to her,” Angela said.
Gavin would stay in Atlanta for a while, while Angela decided if the move would be a good long-term fit. He joined Angela in September. Angela looks back fondly on that summer of 2014 — she wasn’t crazy busy, and had some time to relax and get to know the Island. But the thing about Angela is that she likes to have a lot of irons in the fire, which led her to take a part-time job at The MV Times as editor of the Calendar section. She would stay at The Times for three years while still working three days a week at Benito’s — just to keep her centered. Then in 2018, Angela and Marnely Murray would start Shored Up Digital, a digital marketing group which in 2018 received the Martha’s Vineyard Business Award, given by the Chamber of Commerce, in the “Marketing Guru” category. And of course, all the while Angela was still holding down her three-day-a-week job at Benito’s.
Business was good, in fact almost too good, and she and Gavin, who is a private chef, were looking forward to relaxing and taking a road trip around the country, starting in January 2020. The plan was to return to Benito’s in early May, but after they’d been on the road for a couple months, it became clear the pandemic would interrupt their plans. Benito’s closed down in March, and Angela and Gavin went home to Atlanta to hunker down with family.
Angela and Gavin returned to the Vineyard at the end of April, and Benito’s was opening back up in May, but Angela decided to hold off going back until she could feel safe again. Shored Up Digital was as busy as ever, and soon, people were reaching out to her to do their hair.
Angela didn’t want to work inside cutting hair, but thought if she could go to people’s homes and work outside, that just might work. She didn’t want to do anything illegal, so she registered with the state, and was designated a licensed cosmetologist and registered mobile stylist in Massachusetts.
Then in June, she officially launched her new business, Coast to Coast Cuts — from one coast of the Vineyard to the other. “Customers just have to provide a chair,” Angela said, “and I have a full kit.” Angela has a new cape for every household, gloves, disinfectants, masks, all tools are cleaned and sanitized between clients … business is booming. “And so far this summer, the weather has been fabulous,” Angela said; “we’ve only had to cancel once.”
Angela was thinking that this might have been a good summer to kick back and take it easy, but between Coast to Coast and Shored Up Digital, “that just didn’t seem to happen,” Angela said.
Angela has found that about 80 percent of her clients are new, she has lots of seasonal clients, and she already has bookings into November. She doesn’t advertise per se, she gets business from social media and a lot of word of mouth. Her customers range in age from seniors to preteens.
“I did a job up in Aquinnah at Tribal Housing,” Angela said. “I was cutting a young girl’s hair and she couldn’t stop talking.” In all fairness, Angela is extremely personable; she could strike up a conversation with a lamppost. “The mother said to me, ‘She hasn’t talked so much in a month, it’s good to see her come out of her shell.’”
Angela noted that weddings are starting to come back, and she’s already booked some weddings for the fall. “It’s good to see we’re getting back to some sense of normalcy,” she said. She also sees no reason why she can’t keep cutting hair deep into the season, “So long as we keep the windows open, maybe even cut hair in the garage with the door open,” she said, “that should be safe for everyone.”
In the winter, Angela and Gavin generally go to California to stay with her sister. “And who’s to say,” Angela says, “I just may bring Coast to Coast Cuts out to the West Coast, and then I’d truly be bicoastal.”
*Updated to correct inaccuracies about Prout’s advertising career, her time in Atlanta this year.