Arguably the best part about working the beauty industry is the level of impact we, as salon owners, managers, stylists, influencers and the like, can have on the community—even the world.
Today we’re diving into the incredible story of one of the most impactful organizations within our industry, founded by the amazingly selfless, Matthew Fairfax and his business partner, Lauren Enbright. The Justice and Soul Foundation began as a shared vision to provide a path to a new life for sexually exploited and at-risk youth.
Learn how Matthew and his team began with a mission—tiny, but mighty—to change the world. And how it has since blossomed into an industry-wide initiative to empower young men and women to become confident and self-sufficient individuals though professional training in cosmetology.
From Human Resources to the Hair Industry
Matthew followed a rather unconventional route into the beauty industry, starting with a job in human resources.
Matthew admits to being in and around the salon industry for much of his life, as his partner managed James Alan Salon and Spa. He got to know distributors and even started doing some of his own salon training and education before officially joining the industry.
Matthew remembers when Robert Lobetta’s hair show came into town and in that moment, he knew he was going to wind up in the beauty industry but he didn’t exactly know how. Shortly after that, Matthew had the opportunity to buy his partner out of James Alan, which jumpstarted his transition. He quit his job and worked his way into being full time at the salon, doing consulting and training.
Matthew made is his mission to get involved in the community, and his salon paved the way by participating in outreach events, taking on several sponsorships and hosting their own in-house fundraisers. Several years later, Matthew was called to take his passion one step further after being introduced to the insidious issue of sex trafficking on a global scale.
Combining Your Passion With Purpose
Although it took some convincing, after a client at James Alan approached Matthew about the rising issue of sex trafficking in Cambodia with a plea for help, he simply couldn’t turn away.
This particularly convincing client talked Matthew into offering vocational training to these young men and women who were rescued from sex trafficking and other at-risk situations, and this is how the Justice and Soul Foundation was born. But of course, the journey wasn’t easy.
After his first visit to Cambodia, Matthew realized he had taken on quite a major project, one might even say monumental. After his first ideas, including setting up a three-month educational program and funding additional help through donations, were squashed, Matthew realized that this project would require more than a simple three-month stint.
Matthew and his team went back to the drawing board and decided that the key to creating a sustainable solution was to become a part of the Cambodian community and tap the money from the country’s middle class by offering something of value—salon services.
It made perfect sense, they could stick to what they knew best and open up a western-style, high-end hair salon right here in Cambodia that would generate enough funding to pay its own way and then some. Of course, such a grand idea was backed by a major commitment to the cause, and it was then that Matthew realized he simply had to move there in order to make this dream come true.
Taking a Leap of Faith for the Foundation
Although it was an incredibly big leap, Matthew had faith in his idea, in the industry itself, and most importantly, in the cause. Within a few years he had sold almost everything except his salon, which became almost entirely the responsibility of his leadership team, and thus began his new life in Cambodia.
With highly successful crowdsourcing and incredibly generous donations from some of the biggest names in the industry, including Winn Claybaugh, Paul Mitchell, and Andrew Gomez as well as product donations from Davines and Dermalogica, it took just over a year for Matthew to open his salon and begin his education program.
The Justice and Soul Foundation has since partnered with several NGOs that work on the frontlines, rescuing these young men and women from their horrific situations, to get them into trauma therapy and set them up with the resources and skills necessary to rebuilt their sense of self-worth and ability to live.
Matthew and his crew work directly with these survivors, providing all sorts of education from English to Math and Science in order to rebuild their self-esteem. These young men and women are also given the opportunity to go through Justice and Soul’s very own technical training program which allows them to participate in vocational development, after which many of them go on to work in Matthew’s salon or one of the many others that have partnered with his organization.
With roughly four years of time invested toward this cause, Justice and Soul has grown tremendously, even spreading its wings in order to tackle the sex trafficking issues back home, here in the U.S. With so many opportunities for expansion, Matthew says it can be overwhelming at times, but it’s the most rewarding work he has ever been involved in and he’s excited to see how it continues to grow.
If you’d like to learn more about Matthew’s journey, listen to the podcast that inspired this blog post, episode 171. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Justice and Soul Foundation you can head to their website for more information on volunteer work and all of the ways you can donate to the cause.