Dianna & Robert Peterson: Beau Monde College

Staying on the Cutting Edge

For 42 years, Beau Monde owners Dianna and Robert Peterson have dedicated themselves to providing a high-quality education in the hair design industry. It is a family affair – their daughter Camille, a fully-licensed cosmetologist, has a degree in Marketing and Business Management, and now runs the Marketing Department at Beau Monde. Their son Trevis, who majored in International Business and Chinese, handles their compliance and other logical matters in the business.

The Petersons have been involved in the Beau Monde school almost since its inception. Beau Monde was created in 1960, and Dianna came to work as a teacher in 1973, then purchased the school in 1975. She was just 23 years old.

The Petersons’ focus has always been excellence that is easily obtainable. The Beau Monde College of Hair Design in downtown Portland is a clock hour school (meaning students must complete a specific number of hours to graduate), and is fully accredited, so prospective students can apply for financial aid. The Beau Monde Academy of Cosmetology in the Lloyd District (which Camille runs) is a competency-based program, so students must demonstrate their abilities to complete the program.

Beau Monde utilizes Pivot Point, a complete professional hair design curriculum, which includes a segment on mindful teaching for students who wish to go on to be teachers. Beau Monde is the only hair design school in Oregon to have a study abroad program (students will be heading to London and Dublin this fall). Although Beau Monde College of Hair Design doesn’t have a specific product line they endorse, they strive to use the most quality products, such as Sebastian and Wella.

The Petersons say their family lives and breathes the hair design industry.

What motivated you to purchase Beau Monde School of Hair Design?

Dianna: We felt that there was a great need for quality education and training in the hair design industry. We have graduates who now own salons all over Portland. They are still in the industry and have enjoyed huge success – and that’s our reward.

Robert: We want to give our students skills that will last a lifetime. We are offering a trade that people can learn, and compete economically with college graduates. We love fashion, but really we are all about helping individuals have a wonderful career and lifestyle.

Dianna: Some of our attendees may already have college degrees, but they wish to change to a different path. We also have students who have lost their jobs in other industries. I remember when Freightliner went through huge layoffs, we had 17 men who had lost their jobs driving trucks enter our barbering program. Many of them went on to open their own barber shops.

If you think about it, everyone will always need haircuts. That’s what I always tell our students – this is a recession-proof business. We can never be outsourced or replaced by a computer. The world will always need people who do can do hair well.

What were your backgrounds prior to purchasing the school?

Dianna: I graduated from high school at 17. I was studying at Portland State University (or college, as it was called at the time), to be an elementary school teacher. I had a friend who was attending Mr. Penwell’s Beauty School at the Berg Building in downtown Portland. I went to meet her there, and I was watching and thinking, “This looks like a lot of fun!” People were happy and smiling, and the energy level was incredible. After three years working as a hairstylist, I entered Beau Monde’s cadet instructor program, and then worked there as a teacher. It was my dream to find the best education I could and bring it back. I never imagined at the time that the owner Norma Loucks would ask me if I wanted to buy the school!

Robert: I was going to college for graphic design. I was into art and fashion, and loved David Bowie’s orange hair. I went to Paris and had my hair cut in a salon that was just amazing. Also, a friend of mine was a hairdresser. When I got back from Europe we enrolled at Beau Monde together. I eventually became the distributor of the orange hair color that David Bowie had. I wanted to do something that dealt with people, and was really creative and fun.

This is a family-owned business. What are the blessings and challenges that go along with that?

Dianna: Back in the day when we were just developing the night school program, Robert and I used to get up early in the morning, work all day in the salon, and then teach at night. We didn’t even stop to think that we were working 12 or 14 hours a day.
We were doing all of this, while juggling taking the kids to and from school. We would even sometimes throw towels that hadn’t been laundered during the day in the back of our Volvo and do them at night. We just did what we had to do.

Robert: Although this is a family-owned business, we treat it as a very professional business. We are lucky to be able to work together and share that passion, but we intentionally separate family time from work time. When we walk through the door, we focus on what is best for our students, staff and clients. That’s our primary goal – how can we make this better for everybody involved?

Dianna: It’s interesting – community partners that we work with, many of our clients and sometimes even our students don’t realize we are related! We function as a company, and each of us has a business role.

What advice do you offer to students at Beau Monde?

Dianna: Never, never, never give up! – Winston Churchill.

Students sometimes get impatient and feel that they must know it all when they graduate. But in this industry, it takes time and patience. You will be really successful if you practice a lot.

We also try to instill in our students that good communication is essential. Especially in this age of texting, social media and distractions. This business is 85 percent people skills, 15 percent technical skills.

Robert: We believe you should understand yourself first. That’s why we teach our students about communicating with many different personality types. If you work on people’s strengths and focus on that instead of their weaknesses, you can avoid a lot of unnecessary drama.

Do you have upcoming any upcoming events to watch out for?

Dianna: Our Beau Monde Day of Education will be in October, and will include platform artists, advanced education and lots of inspiration. We also present a fashion/competition show twice a year – the next one will be in November. Participating in exciting events keeps the students motivated about moving forward in the program, and starting their careers.

What is your proudest moment in this journey?

Dianna: We were at the North American Hair Dressing Awards (NAHAs) in Las Vegas, and they had all the past winners come to the stage. We saw three of our past graduates walk across the stage. It’s a prestigious award, and entering a submission is a lot of hard work. We interviewed our graduates after the ceremony, and asked them what had inspired them to enter the competition. They replied that at Beau Monde, we had never stifled their creativity – we had always encouraged them to be as imaginative as they could be. They said while they were studying here they were taught to feel that no vision was unattainable. We taught them if they have an idea, do a vision board and a plan, and see where you want to go with it.

Robert: The high-profile success stories are really great, but another really special moment is when you see someone who goes through this program, and gets their first job – or their first job after a really difficult period – and their family is so, so proud.

It must be exciting to have set out with a vision, and to have seen that vision became a reality.

Dianna: Yes, but we never feel like we are at the top of the mountain. Whenever we get there, there’s another goal to shoot for, another exciting adventure to embark on. We don’t even talk about retiring, or think about it much. We have always been very excited when we are getting up in the morning, eager to get started.

Robert: We have never really considered this work. As in: “I have to go to work (grumbling).” Dianna and I do this for the love of the industry. We want to leave the industry better than we found it.

Dianna: I would like to add that our faculty and staff have dedicated their lives to the advancement of the beauty industry. Their passion and expertise is the foundation for our world-class education and they have been instrumental in shaping the next generation of beauty professionals.


Beau Monde College of Hair Design
1221 SW 12th Ave.
Portland, OR 97205
(503) 226-7355

About The Author: Merlin Varaday