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How a 25-year-old hairstylist drives a six-figure Mercedes

Susan Tompor
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How a 25-year-old hairstylist drives a six-figure Mercedes

A hairstylist shares his journey for making extraordinary money in his 20s by building a brand via Instagram and co-owning a salon in metro Detroit.

Alex Pardoe, 25, is what some might dub the anti-millennial. Except, he's not really. 

Much like others in their 20s or 30s, he's savvy about building a brand, marketing his talents and recognizing how to use Instagram and YouTube to turn a head and grab a headline.

He's just making a whole lot more money than you'd imagine for someone in a generation painfully overrun with bloated student loans, bad jokes about participation trophies, and way too much sharing on Instagram. OK, he does share way too much on Instagram. His Instagram handle: @Alexpardashian – a playful mix of his name and the Kardsahians. 

Yet instead of being burdened by six-figure student loan debt, he's earned shock-and-awe status with a six-figure income.

Take this CNBC.com headline: "This 25-year-old hairdresser makes $280,000 a year in Detroit." 

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Pardoe, who is a co-owner of Aesthetic Hair Co. in Ferndale, loves buying luxury brands. He's proud of his success, happy to work hard and willing to share his strategy for making money. 

So when he spotted the CNBC.com "Make It" feature, which highlights successful millennials, well, he was all in and decided to send an email on the hopes of being interviewed. And he spilled his numbers.

A young hairstylist making $280,000 a year? Really? Out of a shop in Ferndale, Michigan? And he's driving luxury cars and never, ever using the stove in his apartment to make a meal?

Let us introduce you to Alex Pardoe.

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Here’s what he shared:

At 25, he makes about $280,000 a year

He said he earns about $190,000 a year doing higher-cost hair extensions, highlights and color. He only will do a few haircuts a year when an important client demands one. He gets about $50,000 in tips, $30,000 from teaching classes and training other hairstylists, and $10,000 from his product line.

It's a lot of money – even for a well-established hairstylist, according to some experts. But his prices are higher than many others in the region. Where you might pay somewhere in a range of $65 to $150 for highlights at other hairstylists in metro Detroit, Pardoe charges around $275 for highlights.

Pardoe said his prices are based on demand for his time. 

"It’s actually not drastically high," he said. "My prices are getting raised in July, as well." 

His clients can pay $800 to $2,000 for extensions.

Being on trend – and looking heavily in demand – has long been a strategy for stylists. Some never admit to having room for a last-minute appointment if you call out of the blue. Instead, they may say they just had a cancellation. 

Yet Pardoe has built a name and a social media presence at a young age. 

Pardoe heavily uses Instagram and encourages the hairdressers at Aesthetic Hair to take pictures of their work and actively promote it on Instagram to attract new clients.

(L to R) Madison McLean, 21 of Highland works on her clients hair as Aesthetic Hair Co. co-owner Alex Pardoe, 25, talks at the hair salon in Ferndale, Michigan, on Tuesday June 4, 2019. Pardoe, who co-owns the salon, was featured on CNBC.com in late May of this year in their Millennial Money segment as someone who is successful and a good manager of his business and his money.

Pardoe believes in having "multiple streams of income" – so he also makes money off promoting the Bellami Pro hair extensions brand via Instagram, too. 

“They pay me to post regularly about the brand and what we use in the salon,” Pardoe said. 

Pardoe expects that his income will be higher in 2019, nearing around $320,000 this year, as he has signed a new Instagram sponsorship where he is paid regularly to promote hair extension products and offer educational tips as well to hairstylists. 

He questions the work ethic of millennials

“It’s not my job to build your clientele,” Pardoe often tells the millennials working in the salon. “I’m not going to hold your hand.”

Pardoe does think some millennials have some bad habits and aren't willing to make the sacrifices by working long hours or taking extra steps to get ahead. 

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"They think they deserve a six-figure job right out of school because they have a degree," he said. 

To be sure, many millennials do not fit stereotypes, such as being difficult to manage, impatient and unsatisfied with work.

Not all millennials are wondering how they're going to pay the next cellphone bill, either. 

Some of the Aesthetic Hair Co. hair products on the shelf at Ferndale co-owned by Alex Pardoe 25.

As a group, millennial households – ages 23 to 38 in 2019 – now earn more than young adults did in nearly any time in the past 50 years, according to a Pew Research Center analysis of new census data. 

The median adjusted income in a household headed by a millennial was $69,000 in 2017, according to the Pew study. That is a higher figure than for nearly every other year on record, apart from around 2000, when households headed by younger people earned $67,600 in inflation-adjusted dollars.

Even so, Pardoe is doing far better than many and he has the toys to prove it. 

He drives a Mercedes – and a BMW

He spends $2,200 a month to lease an olive 2018 Mercedes-Benz G-550 luxury SUV.

He’s also making a car payment of $1,300 a month for a five-year loan on a 2015 BMW i8. He bought the BMW plug-in hybrid in April. It cost $75,000 for a vehicle that originally would have been twice the price, he said. 

He said he spends $380 a month on auto insurance and about $300 on premium gas.

He doesn't see cars as an investment, though, so he prefers to lease or buy a used car.

Alex Pardoe 25 driving north on Woodward Avenue on June 4, 2019, in his 2018 Mercedes-Benz G 550 that cost more than $130,000. He leases the vehicle for $2,200 a month. Pardoe is a co-owner of Aesthetic Hair Co. in Ferndale.

He rents 

He does not have a mortgage. He doesn't want to own a home. 

"I'm not home enough to deal with a broken furnace," Pardoe said. 

So Pardoe spends about $1,900 a month rent for a two-bedroom condo that he shares with his boyfriend, Josh. 

He has little debt

Pardoe didn't attend college and doesn't have student loans. His parents paid for his training as a hairstylist.

"My parents have always been very wise financially," he said. 

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He studied at Paul Mitchell The School in Sterling Heights. It was about $22,000 total in 2011 for a 10-month program, he said. 

Initially when he was interviewed for the CNBC piece, which ran online only, he owed about $2,000 on a credit card – a balance he wrongly thought was good to keep to build up a credit score. He was paying about $100 a month toward that expense. But he took the advice of a certified financial planner quoted in the CNBC piece and paid off his credit card balance. 

He loves splurging on luxury

Yes, he does put aside $3,000 a month toward retirement savings, a brokerage account, disability insurance and life insurance. His life insurance policy is worth $3 million.

The CNBC piece noted that he's also spending $1,500 a month on luxury-brand clothes, shoes and accessories, on average. Pardoe told me he doesn't spend that much every month. He might spend anywhere from $300 to $3,000 in a given month on names such as Gucci. 

"I have a pair of shoes that I wore to the grand opening of the salon that I'm never going to get rid of," Pardoe said. The label: Christian Louboutin. 

On the day I interviewed Pardoe, he was carrying a vintage 1990s Hermes Kelly bag in deep green, a color that mirrors his Mercedes. The 32-centimeter Kelly cost him $7,000. He bought it in April online on TheRealReal, an online consignment shop for authenticated luxury goods. The company, which also has some brick-and-mortar stores, has just filed for an initial public offering under the ticker symbol REAL. 

Work goes on at Aesthetic Hair Co. in Ferndale on June 4, 2019. Alex Pardoe 25, co-owns the salon and advises hairdressers how to make more money. He encourages them to promote their work on Instagram.

Pardoe sees the Hermes bags, and he has more than one, as a bit of an investment, too. He pulled out his phone, went online and soon declared that a Kelly bag would have been $900 new in 1954. (In 1954, film director Alfred Hitchcock allowed the famous costume designer Edith Head to buy Hermès accessories for the film "To Catch a Thief," starring Grace Kelly. Hence, the Kelly bag.) 

Now the bags can cost $11,000 or much, much more. 

"I don't think of it as a splurge," Pardoe said. The $7,000 bag, he says, might sell for $9,500 or more in a few years.

"You get to be fashionable and make some coin at the same time," Pardoe said. 

Not surprisingly, Pardoe said he received plenty of feedback after the CNBC publicity. 

While his financial numbers may sound wild, CNBC asked for some paperwork for fact-checking purposes. As part of the process, Pardoe had to provide screenshots or PDFs to show proof of income – such as a tax return, W2 or pay stubs. He also needed to offer proof of liquid assets, proof of savings, proof of investments and proof of debt repayment. (Pardoe declined to share his paperwork with me, though, when I asked.)

Many people, including his parents, were happy to see his story highlighted. 

UberEats.com sent food to the salon after he talked up how he orders food all the time. 

Someone who sells graphics for websites wanted to sell him a deal for $30,000. He isn't buying. 

And yes, there were the haters. 

"Who spends 2500 USD a month on food? I couldn't spend that much on food if I tried," one online comment read on a YouTube video read. 

"Lottery winners spend uncontrollably, crash, then burn, and this guy is doing the same with his lottery in life," another said. 

"Just wait until the recession," chimed in someone else. 

"Should be titled 'how to blow 280K a year,' ” said another harsh critic. 

"Start cooking more," said another. 

The trolls online focused on the extravagant visuals in the video, which resembled a hipster version of the old "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous" series that ran on TV in the 1980s and 1990s. 

He has advice

Pardoe treats meaningless criticism as background noise, much like having to ignore the sound of a blow dryer. 

He said he didn't read the comments, recognizing that some of the negative vibes were from people who might not even have $2 in savings. “People fixated so hard on me spending money,” he said.

Alex Pardoe, 25, with his rescue dog Biscuit at his hair salon Aesthetic Hair Co. in Ferndale. Pardoe estimates he spends about $100 to $300 a month on his dog.

But the real purpose of telling his story, he said, was to show how you can build wealth by having a strategy. By building up a reputation as someone who is knowledgeable about hair extensions, he said, he's been able to grow.

He'd advise other millennials to think about how best to use their talents.

Pardoe wasn't a 9-to-5 kind of office worker; and he couldn't really handle four years of college. His mother suggested that he work as a hairstylist. 

He grew up in Amissville, Virginia, and moved to Detroit in 2011 because he wanted to live in a bigger city. He had extended family in Michigan. 

He worked for a while at another salon, initially making roughly $30,000 a year. But he aimed higher and worked hard to build a following on social media.

Early on, he would offer complimentary hairstylist services to influencers in Michigan – women who had a certain number of followers and reached a certain level of engagement on Instagram.

The women would have to agree to post their picture with their hairstyle on their main page. 

"I don't do it a ton now," he said. "It's usually like a one-time deal." 

His current salon opened in 2017. It's owned by Pardoe, his friend Tess Garoon and her sister, Annie Starler. 

When it comes to hair extensions, Pardoe said many times clients are willing to travel from all over Michigan and other states, including Ohio and Indiana. He's seen regular clients from Arizona, Alaska, Florida. One woman who is working overseas even has come back to Michigan from Dubai. 

"Extensions are not a necessity, they're a want," he said. But many women end up feeling more confident when they're able to have a fuller, longer hairstyle. 

"You can change people's lives," he said. 

Follow Susan Tompor on Twitter: @tompor

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: How a 25-year-old hairstylist drives a six-figure Mercedes