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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Cutting-Edge Persona

Courtesy Of Persona Labs
Igor Stoyanov has worked with everyone from young MTV starlets to middle-aged news anchors at RTR television, and he can handle big egos and understand caution and conservatism -- but he won't accept excuses for a slovenly appearance.

"Some of our Russian stars and TV personalities like to say that they can't be expected to look like Hollywood stars because they don't make Hollywood salaries. But if you're an entertainer, I think there is no excuse for carrying extra weight or having a sloppy, outdated look," said Stoyanov, owner of Persona Labs, Moscow's largest chain of beauty salons.

Like many of his generation whose professional lives began with the collapse of the Soviet system, he didn't choose his career -- it chose him. After graduating from the Lenin Pedagogical University, Stoyanov contemplated a number of ventures, including building a world-class academy and opening a restaurant. But in 1994, Stoyanov recognized the need for quality haircuts at midrange prices and opened a beauty salon.

"In Milan, London and New York, people could get a good cut for around $30, but in Moscow it was either a $200 cut at a high-end salon or a $1 cut at a Soviet-style barbershop," he said. His first salon managed to attract some of the city's most professionally recognized hairstylists, and his prices appealed to plenty of customers.

Courtesy Of Persona Labs
In 1994, Stoyanov spotted a market niche for quality haircuts at midrange prices.
Persona Labs now offers four kinds of services, which vary in price and cater to different types of customers. "Persona Family" offers midrange prices and targets families on a budget, "Persona Lab" and "Persona Club" offer more daring makeovers to young professionals, while "Charodeika" is a luxury salon designed specifically for women over 35.

Stoyanov said a strong sense of intuition had played a key role in the growth of his business. "Unlike our Western counterparts, our generation didn't inherit any business traditions. We had to make it up as we went along, but I think we have laid the foundation for future business in Russia."

Particularly in the beauty industry, Russia provided fertile ground in the form of daring stylists and receptive customers. "I found that hairstylists were more meticulous here. The profession had a greater emphasis on precision and artistry. Moreover, our customers had none of the prudish conservatism you sometimes find in Western countries."

Eclecticism was the formula that governed national tastes during the 1990s; it is only now that people are beginning to make some conclusions about personal style, Stoyanov said.

"We are talking about people who spent half their lives in uniform because of the war, and the other half wearing dad's old suits. It's like a starving man coming to a feast. Of course he will eat everything he's offered," he said.

Stoyanov's business has grown to dominate the market in Moscow. There are 40 Persona Labs in the capital, and 10 franchises have opened in other regions.

Persona Labs also maintains a style institute and an image consulting service, which, for the sixth year in a row, is working to prepare for the upcoming fashion week.

For Russian Fashion Week, Persona Labs is the best partner imaginable, fashion week president Alexander Shumsky said.

"They are the only style company that can handle the overwhelming demands of such an event," Shumsky said.

"I have a tremendous respect for Igor Stoyanov, who I know built this business from the ground up."

Stoyanov's advice to aspiring businessmen is to "find good Russian partners, people who have grown up here and who have a good grasp of this country's unique business environment."

In terms of the state of business in this country, Stoyanov adopted the words of Augustus Caesar: make haste slowly. His own company has earned a reputation for quality and professionalism, but Stoyanov said business here had yet to develop professional practices that would live up to Western standards.

"I think in some ways the business boom in Russia is a little overrated. Yes, there are many opportunities here, but certain processes still take time," he said.