How the JCPenney Salon Team Harnessed the Power of Teamwork and the Support of Their Community to Score a NAHA Team of the Year Nomination



For hairstylists, colorists, and barbers, there is no greater honor than a North American Hairstyling Award (NAHA). Often considered to be the “Oscars of Hair,” this prestigious awards competition honors the industry’s top artists in 14 categories of excellence ranging from Haircutting and Texture to Avant Garde. All this is to say, it’s a very big deal to score a finalist nomination for a NAHA, especially for the highly coveted Team of the Year award.

Pictured (from left to right): Brittany Brown, Jaimee Harris Smith, and Joy Butner. Image courtesy of JCPenney Salon

Unlike some of the other categories in the competition, the Team of the Year category recognizes the work of not just the individual, but the entire salon team. This year, of the many salons that competed in the category, JCPenney Salon had the privilege of being named among the finalists. Through consistent collaboration and a commitment to a shared vision, their incredible dream team of stylists—made up of Senior Education and Services Manager Jaimee Harris Smith as well as Beauty Field Trainers Brittany Brown and Joy Butner— were able to pour their creativity, skills, and talents into creating a successful NAHA submission. And while their nomination certainly underscores the importance of teamwork, it also proves that not only is JCPenney Salon a supportive environment that fosters professional growth, but that their stylists are truly a force to be reckoned with in the professional hair industry.    

The Tease had the pleasure of connecting with Smith, Brown, and Butner about their journey to becoming NAHA finalists as a salon team. Here, the trio discuss the creative process behind their NAHA entry, their outstanding team dynamic, and the joys of being able to represent JCPenney Salon in such a major industry competition. 

The Tease: How does it feel to have your team named as a finalist for the NAHA Team of the Year category and to be able to represent JCPenney Salon on such a huge stage?

Jaimee Harris Smith: I am beyond honored and elated to be recognized as a finalist on NAHA’s prestigious platform. It is gratifying to receive this honor on behalf of our entire JCPenney Salon family!

Brittany Brown: It feels amazing! To be nominated within this platform is awesome and I’m excited to represent JCPenney Salon at NAHA with my team. It’s nice to show everyone how JCPenney Salon has elevated over time, just like any other salon within the industry and we can compete with the rest.

Joy Butner: I am both excited and humbled to be named as a finalist as part of the JCPenney Salon team. I have had the opportunity to assist in these photo shoots previously, but this was the first year I was an active contributor to the collection. I was extremely honored to be on the team, and it now feels surreal that we have made it to the finals. It feels both validating and rewarding to have our artistry recognized and publicly celebrated.

How has JCPenney Salon been supportive of you all throughout your NAHA journey thus far?

Jaimee Harris Smith: We work for the world’s best beauty team! The unwavering support of our leaders, team members, and salon team are empowering. When you have others cheering for you and believe in you, it lights a fire in you.

Brittany Brown: They have been super supportive! It’s nice to see how others get excited to hear the news about JCPenney showing up for such a big, titled award. Everyone has shown so much support and I’m very grateful to my JCP family.

Joy Butner: JCPenney Salon has been supportive throughout my NAHA journey. I think the biggest factor to me was their ability to be open-minded about bringing in new team members—focusing on our individual strengths instead of what some would consider our lack of previous direct experience. Both Brittany and I have been successful hairdressers and educators, but were both new to this type of professional collection work. We were both given the opportunity the previous two years to be able to assist on set for the 2022 and 2023 NAHA collections,which were amazing learning opportunities and a great experience (though I sadly caught Covid the week of the 2023 shoot, so I was unable to be on set). This year was a dream come true for us to be able to create a collection and represent JCPenney Salon for NAHA! I greatly appreciate their confidence in us and that they provided this amazing opportunity. I am grateful for them sharing with us that we have made them proud!

Can you tell us about JCPenney Salon Team’s nominated collection? What served as the inspiration behind the looks you all created?

Brittany Brown: Our collection was focused on giving Regency era, but with a modern twist, or I like to say Bridgerton with a little more sass. We wanted to showcase a collection of powerful, bold, and strong women in an era where sometimes that normally wasn’t the case. 

Joy Butner: Our collection is meant to celebrate diverse, strong, confident women in a timeless but fresh viewpoint. We knew we wanted to showcase beautiful textures and color palettes and were inspired by significant female leaders of history and the modern-day representations of them (i.e., Neftlix’s Queen Charlotte). 

How did you go about building your salon team for this competition?

Jaimee Harris Smith: When the time came to build a new team, I knew exactly who I was going to invite to join me. Brittany and Joy had been amazing assistants on previous NAHA shoots. Their assistance, perspective, and contributions have been invaluable. Both are smart, highly skilled hairstylists and enthusiastic educators. Most importantly, they have a strong work ethic and a powerful sense of commitment.

As team members of JCPenney Salon, were there personal strengths that you all saw in each other when it comes to creating that led you all to believe that you would work well together in the competition?

Brittany Brown: We have worked together prior to this collection on a few projects. With us three, it’s not a team—it’s truly just a family. Just speaking for myself, I feel that I can reach out to them for support about absolutely anything. Whether it’s a piece of the look that I’m not feeling, if I need help within execution, or if I’m hitting a creative block, I know they will support me wherever I need backup, if I ask. 

Joy Butner: I personally believe Jaimee [who’s the Senior Education and Services Manager at JCPenney Salon]  is exceptionally talented and has a lot of relevant perspective and experience from previous editorial and competition work. She has a love for fashion and a unique take on texture, styling, and silhouettes. She was able to step into the role of a mentor and team lead with ease and grace. I would say Brittany is a brilliant colorist and a wonderful stylist, with great attention to detail and has an eye for hairstylisting that photographs well. Personally, I would say my professional strength is as a colorist. As a lifelong artist, I would like to think that I contributed an eye for unique details that provided added interest, as well as a fresh perspective, since I am new to competitions and collection work. From a social dynamic, all three of us are women who celebrate, encourage, and support other women (instead of viewing them as competitors), so we were able to collaborate well and welcome each other’s opinions and feedback.

How did the creative process unfold for you all with building this collection? Did you each focus on different aspects of the collection or was everything done collaboratively?

Jaimee Harris Smith: Since we all reside in different states, all planning and preparation was done virtually. We did not come together in person until the day before the shoot. To begin, we had several conversations and brainstorming sessions to discuss our ideas and determine the framework for our collection. 

Joy Butner: It started by open forum brainstorming sessions and focusing on common traits and themes. We all agreed on a color palette to begin with and went from there. We knew there were certain elements/looks expected for this year’s NAHA collection submissions (short, long, up styling, various textures, and colors, etc.) Since it was our first time submitting looks for a collection, Brittany and I both focused primarily on being the lead artist on one look each, and Jaimee was lead on the others. However, we all shared collaborative input on each look and assisted one another collaboratively throughout the collection.

While working together as the JCPenney Salon Team, how were you able to express your own creativity and individuality while still supporting one specific vision for the collection?

Brittany Brown: I think because we work well together as a team and we all understand the larger goal, it’s good for us to go get into our creative flow and start creating something that we love first. Once we’ve gotten in our mojo, it’s just about checking in with the team—showing each other where we are at with our looks, what we like, what we don’t like, and what would they change, if anything. It’s just to make sure that we are all seeing the vision come together. 

Joy Butner: I think that starting off by agreeing on an overall vision for collection before we started working on individual looks helped keep our collection and them cohesive, even within our individual expressions of that vision.

In what ways has the collaboration process for the competition allowed mentorship to take place between you and the other members of your salon team?

Jaimee Harris Smith: Mentorship happens naturally in a collaborative environment. It strengthens skills and builds confidence. In a collaborative mentoring environment, everyone should feel comfortable sharing and learning from each other. During the competition process, you must trust each other. Working in partnership with Joy and Brittany allowed me to provide guidance, feedback, and share valuable skills. They were challenged to stretch their mindset and use their skills in a different capacity. It was a rewarding experience for all!

How much do you think the overall JCPenney Salon team dynamic played into creating a successful NAHA submission? 

Brittany Brown: It’s all about teamwork. Having a safe space to communicate freely is big. Voicing our strengths and weaknesses so everyone knew what everyone was comfortable with or where they might need more support added into better collaboration. 

Joy Butner: I think it made a big impact. If you are on a team where individuals are overbearing or not willing to do their part, the rest of the team suffers. When you are on a team where everyone involved is respectful and supportive, then everyone can flourish, the workload is evenly distributed, and that’s where true collaboration takes place. Only in those environments do you get a product or work of art that is truly a result of everyone’s combined strengths.

What is it about the culture and environment of JCPenney Salon that makes it such a great place for stylists looking to grow, evolve, and reach new heights in their career? 

Jaimee Harris Smith: JCPenney Salon fosters an environment of inclusivity, teamwork, and collaboration where everyone is celebrated. It is a workplace where you feel valued and respected. This year I am celebrating 25 years with JCPenney Salon! I am grateful for the unwavering support and opportunities for growth and career advancement. At JCPenney Salon, we are committed to helping our stylists grow and elevate through mentorship and education.

Brittany Brown: The JCPenney Salon culture is such a positive culture—it’s a welcoming culture. It’s motivating, and it’s not just a culture where people want to grow and evolve, but it’s a culture that a lot of people enjoy so much that they want to stay and that to me is huge! One thing that I love to do when I go visit a JCPenney Salon is to give recognition to those that have been with us for so long. Most of the time, you’ll find there’s a handful of stylists that have been there, over 10, 20, and sometimes even 30 years. JCPenney Salon helps their stylists set their own career and personal goals, and then pushes them to achieve them. And that is just a couple of reasons why I think it’s such a great place.

Joy Butner: One thing I think is unique to JCPenney Salon is that because they are corporate, there are many benefits and career opportunities that aren’t available to private salons based on practical logistics. In my own 16 year journey within JCPenney Salon, I was a full-time stylist that grew from the ground up, working from a brand new stylist with no clientele and promoting through the various stylist credential levels. I really enjoyed my salon team and clients. After 12 years, I knew I was ready for something new. In 2020, I was given the chance to join our education team, and over the last four years, I have experienced many wonderful career opportunities that have helped me evolve and grow. On a practical note, corporate full-time benefits aren’t a common industry standard; but I am so grateful to be able to get insurance, 401K, and paid time off in an industry where that is hard to come by. I love that I am part of a company that creates opportunities and makes you want to stay. I can honestly say I have an amazing peer group of wonderful, talented, supportive professionals that I am proud to be a part of. It’s the people that make all the difference.

How has this experience so far helped you all to grow not only as artists, but also as team members working as part of the JCPenney Salon?

Brittany Brown: Being a part of the NAHA experience has pushed my creativity to new levels that I have not hit before within my career as an artist. I will forever be grateful for my JCPenney Salon family in seeing the potential in me as an artist, to gift me this opportunity.

Joy Butner: This experience has inspired me to broaden my horizons and push myself out of my comfort zone. It is easy to become comfortable, and at times stagnant, in your work and stop dreaming about your potential and what else could be within your scope and future. As team members of JCPenney Salon, I think our finalist nomination has brought positive credibility and recognition to JCPenney Salon as a company and brand. I also believe this experience has internally inspired seeds of expectation and possibility to many of our stylist and trainer teams. It helped showcase what types of things could be possible for them individually, and what is possible for them within their career at JCPenney Salon.

To learn more about JCPenney Salon, including their available job opportunities, be sure to visit their website

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