Recession is a Boon to Image Consultants

JAMIE GERMANO - Staff Photographer - Democrat & Chronicle Image consultant Cindy Kyle, right, helps match a purse with a suit for client Paula Vullo. Image consultants also offer such services as interview counseling and communication skills.

JAMIE GERMANO – Staff Photographer – Democrat & Chronicle
Image consultant Cindy Kyle, right, helps match a purse with a suit for client Paula Vullo. Image consultants also offer such services as interview counseling and communication skills.

Sean Dobbin – Staff Writer – Democrat & Chronicle
Business – July 7, 2009

Three years ago, Paula Vullo sold her business and went back to school.

She got a master’s degree from Rochester Institute of Technology, but as she was getting ready to re-enter the work force, the economy tanked and suddenly jobs were scarce.

Wanting an edge, she called image consultant Cindy Kyle.

“I had a few friends comment on my hair, that it had grown out really long, and I never paid much attention to color and how to put accessories together,” said Vullo, who previously owned the Hospitality House, a banquet hall in Penfield.

“I knew some people that (Kyle) was coaching and I heard she had some success stories, and I thought: ‘Gee, I need a different approach.’”

A tough economy means more well-qualified people like Vullo are looking for jobs, and some of them are calling image consultants. Kyle said the portion of her business that deals with individuals has increased 50 percent, and other image consultants have also seen a boom among their individual clientele.

“There’s a whole market that has opened up because so many people are looking for jobs,” said Lacey James, chief image officer at Get Persnickety Image, Errands, and Events in Webster. “A lot of what we’re seeing, especially those of us who work on the person-to-person level, is a definite influx in people realizing how advantageous our services are.”

It’s not just a makeover. Area image consultants also offer services that range from interview counseling to communication skills, and Kyle said that many of her new clients are asking for what she calls “the whole package,” which includes the standard hair, makeup and wardrobe consulting, as well as personality development and interview counseling.

JAMIE GERMANO - Staff Photographer - Democrat & Chronicle Cindy Kyle, applying makeup to client Paula Vullo, says a tough economy has increased her business with individuals.

JAMIE GERMANO – Staff Photographer – Democrat & Chronicle
Cindy Kyle, applying makeup to client Paula Vullo, says a tough economy has increased her business with individuals.

Image consulting isn’t limited to individuals, either. Diane Feldon, president of Best Foot Forward in Brighton, does much of her work with smaller companies.

While part of her offerings include traditional image consulting, she also works with her business clients on communication skills, which range from the way a company interacts with its customers to the things you should and shouldn’t say in an e-mail.

“It’s verbal and nonverbal communication, and the nonverbal communication is the image you’re sending out to the public,” said Feldon.

Area image consultants reported that most of their corporate work has been slow lately, as many companies are looking for places to cut costs. But some growing companies are still turning to them in a bid to grow while their competitors retrench.

Mary Ann Ridley, senior vice president of human resources at Canandaigua National Bank, recently started referring some of her company’s salespeople to Kyle’s business, Penfield-based Kyle Image Consultants, where she is also a client.

“Whether you’re looking for opportunities to further your career, or whether it’s continuing a successful career, how you present yourself is critical,” said Ridley. “In terms of putting your best foot forward, it can only help.”

SDOBBIN@DemocratandChronicle.com

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