Different generations, but a shared passion for beauty and helping people look their best. Mary Lee Powell and Samantha Nolte are not only grandmother and granddaughter; they are also both graduates of Capri College Cosmetology Program in Dubuque, where they both learned to Do What They LOVE! This is the motto of Capri College’s four locations, led by two generations of the Fiegen family.
It took Sammy Nolte a little longer to recognize her dream, but Mary Lee Droessler Powell knew from her youth that Beauty was her passion in life. She had always experimented on hair styles and makeup, so when her cousin, Linda Droessler Schwinn, then the Director of Admissions at Dubuque Capri College, suggested the June Junior Cosmetology program at Capri, she jumped at the chance. Starting her Cosmetology education the summer after her junior year at Wahlert High School, Mary Lee continued her training during her senior year in high school. Upon her high school graduation, she returned to Capri to complete her training and earn her Cosmetology diploma.
Graduating from Capri College in January 1973, she worked at two salons before receiving a phone call from Chuck Fiegen, the owner and founder of Capri College, asking her return to Capri as the Clinic Floor Supervisor. “Passion for what you do is the most important goal in choosing your life’s work. When I first started cosmetology, it was the ‘70s and hair was wrapped in rollers and dried under hair dryers. Up dos were the most popular styles, with the Beehive leading! The Nova, Farrah Fawcett and Dorothy Hamill each took turns as popular styles, and permanents were absolutely necessary. I wrapped perms in 15 minutes!” Mary Lee laughed.
“Chuck Fiegen and the Capri instructors were outstanding. I wrote him a letter thanking him for creating such a great school that had allowed me to go into a successful career doing what I truly loved. By the age of 24, I was able to own my own salon, ‘Country Charm Beauty Salon’ in Dickeyville, Wisconsin, and I hired a talented staff of stylists.” She ran the shop up until 14 years ago, and then worked out of her home until three years ago. In all, she has been doing hair for 40 years! “In what other career could you do what you love for 40 years and then turn it into a part -time hobby that actually makes money and brings into your life clients who turn into friends? You make such good friends in this industry and they give so much back to you. I can’t imagine any other career that is so fulfilling!”
“Talking with people and trying to help them; that was the biggest interest I had when I was looking at career paths in my senior year in high school. “ Nolte added. “ I had also always liked doing hair and working with makeup, and as a kid, I would work at Mary Lee’s salon, sweeping up hair, so I was always around cosmetologists and the Beauty industry. And, when I took a career interest survey in school, cosmetology came out as the top career for me!
I decided to try studying criminal justice at the University of Wisconsin, but when I started classes, I found them boring and not what I had expected. The classes were long and dull! I talked to Mary Lee and decided that as a cosmetologist, not only would I be able to meet and talk with people, but I could also use my creative side in hair and makeup, and help people feel good about them. It was the perfect solution! And the program only took 16 months!” Sammy wasted no time.
“I absolutely loved Capri,” Sammy said. “I loved hair color, cutting hair, extensions, makeup, nails- everything that went into the career. In addition, I enjoyed the business classes that prepared me to rent a chair and start running my own business. I loved going to class and learning not only the book information, but also the hands-on classes and the Clinic work that sharpened my skills. “The amazing thing about my career,” said Nolte, “is that Cosmetology brought together everything I was passionate about into one exciting career! I was fulfilling my passion for everything that was important to me.”
Thinking back on her college days, Nolte added, “One of the things the other students and I loved when we were on the Clinic Floor was watching Mr. Fiegen when he would cut a client’s hair. I learned so much just watching the fast, effortless way he cut.” An independent young woman, Sammy wanted to be able to run her business her way, especially in creating interesting colors in hair that her clients loved. “She’s the Queen of Color! “ Mary Lee said, smiling.
Graduated from Capri College in 2014, at age 20, Sammy began work five days later at University Cut & Style, where she rented a chair and immediately started putting her newly learned business and creative skills to use. By that summer, with her Capri background and help from Linda Field, the owner of her salon, she knew how to run a business. “It takes passion for what you love, along with dedication and hard work,” Nolte said. “I love the challenge and creativity, meeting all sorts of interesting people and talking over their problems with them.”
A few weeks shy of her 23rd birthday, Sammy says she has everything she wants. She does her own taxes and helps cosmetology friends with answers about their taxes. “I’m independent, doing what I love and I’m happy,” Sammy said.
It’s all about passion and family! Two women, following the careers they love, fulfilled and happy. Their school- Capri College, a family-owned and run business that understands the importance of a solid education, combined with the passion of Doing What You LOVE! 50 years of Creating Careers!