Emily Muhlbauer: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Towards Success And Paying It Forward With Education

balayage building clientele career development hair and beauty hairstyling instagram marketing Jul 04, 2021
THS 35 Emily Muhlbauer | Imposter Syndrome

There are times in life where success feels too sudden, and you start doing too many things at once that you get lost, and Imposter Syndrome settles in. That was the case for Emily Muhlbauer. She was a new mom of two when she decided to go back into hairstyling in Wyoming, and six months later, she had a full waitlist. Soon after, she was appointed as an ambassador for Masters of Balayage and quickly became Director of Education. Her whirlwind journey has had its challenges, but she shares how she’s overcome that by staying true to her passion and mission, which is to elevate and empower others in their hair journey from both ends of the spectrum. She also talks about how she established her business in Wyoming through the power of hashtags.


Listen to the podcast here:

Emily Muhlbauer: Overcoming Imposter Syndrome Towards Success And Paying It Forward With Education

We've got an awesome guest, somebody that I know well now and gotten to know very closely in 2020 and slightly before that. She was a MOB Ambassador who became a MOB Educator and then became the MOB Director of Education in a short amount of time. I can't wait to pick her brain and see what insights she has to offer others on her journey to success. Welcome everybody to the show.

Ryan, thank you for having me.

I'm glad to have you here. Thanks for showing up. You're in Wyoming. It's not right around the corner, but it looks like a beautiful place. All the pictures that you show all the time and you're in Casper.

That's considered a big city in Wyoming, but our population is around 60,000 people. It's relatively small, but I love that. I have what I need here. I have Target. Also, I can get into the mountains in fifteen minutes and complete relaxation and solitude quickly.

I feel like that's what more of us need in everyday life. We need those places to escape to. It sounds like you have to open up your front door and you're probably in the middle of nowhere, which I've seen pictures in a matter of minutes. That looks awesome and awe-inspiring.

I feel a little underrated. I get excited when people come to visit here because there's so much beauty. I told somebody that I lived in Wyoming and they were like, "I'm sorry." I was like, "I picked this."

Don’t delete your old stuff. Save it and look at it. It shows you how far you’ve come.

Why would they say, "I'm sorry?"

It sounds like a terrible state. I don't know.

In Wyoming, you go there to ski and vacation. If you're looking to get away and see absolute scenic beauty, Wyoming would be at the top of my list and I've never been.

You should go.

I'm still waiting on my invite.

I'll show you around.

You have quickly accelerated to a prominent role in MOB education here. I saw your potential. I like to think that I was part of helping you move through the ranks quickly because when I see talent, I would like to do whatever I can to support that. I saw you and you showed up from day one as a MOB Ambassador. You helped us out at our first event. From that day forward, you never let down. You made your intentions known that you wanted to do more. We're very alike in that way. We're the whole GSD, Get Shit Done, principle. You do what you put your mind in a certain area of focus and go.

I did go very quickly from ambassador to educator and now Director of Education. I'm so proud of that, but it also brings me to a lot of impostor syndrome if we're going to talk about the challenges. People like my clients or other hairstylists ask me like, "How did that happen? What did you do?" A lot of times, my answer is, "I don't know." I know I had goals, but a lot of times, I ask myself like, "Why was I the one given this opportunity? Why me? There are so many talented people and hard workers out there."

When I became a MOB ambassador, I always thought education was a goal of mine. I didn't know though like, "Is it the next step that sounds right? Is it something that I would love?" My goal when I became an ambassador was figuring out if education is something I love or is it, "Let's try this out because it seems like the next step." I wanted to go and assist as many classes as I could. The first one I assisted was a class in Colorado. Ray, Aleck, Jill and Alyssa were there. All of them are MOB educators, who are wonderful, and then April, who is an ambassador in Colorado.

I remember thinking like, "These are my people. These are the people I want to surround myself with." Everybody was team-focused. There was no feeling of, "I'm the educator. You are my assistant." We all had the same goal, like teach a great class, make sure the students are happy and inspire people. I left there buzzing with, "I need to do more of this. This is it." That's what I did and I went to as many as I could. HERO was the first time that I got to meet you, which was awesome. I remember being nervous. I was like, "That's Ryan."


I talked to you multiple times in a week. You talked about impostor syndrome. I still feel that every day and I'm like, "I'm the CEO and founder of a growing company and we're doing well." I still show up some days to work and I'm like, "Who am I? What am I doing? How did I get this awesome job that I get to show up for every day?" That is part of it, showing up. You show up, put your best foot forward and then it's consistent practice after that. That's what you did. You also saw that you wanted to be part of something bigger and help people. You wanted to be part of a movement and found your niche in education. You figured out that you liked it and then you were like, "I'm going to see where this journey takes me."

I don't want to make it sound like it was, "I became a MOB ambassador and then bam." I was told no a lot before I became a MOB ambassador. I applied with other companies and they would say, "Send us a video of you teaching." I would never hear back. That was super disappointing, those phrases of like, "Rejection is God's protection. One door closes so another can open." I was always like, "Okay." That's something people say to someone so that they feel better about being rejected. That's not real, but now, I fully believe that like, "That's what happened for me." At that time in my life, when I was applying elsewhere and it was before I had kids, I was a completely different person before I had my kids. I don't think I would have thrived. I think I needed to go through all of those things in the order that I did in order to come to where I'm at.

When those opportunities do come, you are sometimes a lot more humble and grateful because of it. It's like, "The door has finally opened." All of that struggle and rejection were leading to something like you had mentioned. You can look back and since things weren't handed to you, you appreciate those moments that finally have arrived for you.

Now, I'm so grateful. Every time I get on a plane and go to a MOB cause, I'm excited. It's exhausting and a lot to travel, but I love it. Once I get home, I start looking at my calendar like, "When is the next one?" It's almost addictive. The energy around it is wonderful.

Before you got into Masters of Balayage and the role you're in now, what did your life look like as a hairstylist?

I've been in the industry for many years. I'll give you a very short CliffsNotes of how I got to where I'm at now. I started out in Omaha, Nebraska. That's where I grew up. I went to a hair school there. After my husband and I got married, we moved out here to Wyoming. We ended up moving back to the Midwest. We ping-ponged a little bit for a few years there. I felt like I never got my footing. I never was able to build and thrive because I was moving to new states. That's difficult and I was having babies. I have two kids. My career got put on the back burner so that I could be in the thick of that newborn toddler.

We made the decision to move back to Wyoming when my oldest was four and my youngest was one. I haven't been back here for two years. When I moved back, I thought, "Do I stay home with my kids? Is this what I do?" Rebuilding a clientele again sounded exhausting. Putting two kids in full-time childcare is a very hefty bill when you don't know if you're going to have income. It was all scary. It was like, "What do I do?" I went to a class about two weeks before moving back to Wyoming. I was in Kansas City and there was this big class going on. I was like, "Maybe I should go to that," but it was expensive. I was like, "This makes me nauseous spending this much money, but I'm going."

I went to it and thought this class was going to tell me like, "Am I reigniting my passion? Am I taking a different path and being a stay-at-home mom for a little while?" I praise all the stay-at-home moms. It's the most challenging thing. I cannot do it. It's a great gift to be able to give your kids, but that would have been a huge sacrifice for me to stay home. Going to that education class reignited everything for me. I came home from it and told my husband like, "I'm doing it." He was like, "You're doing it. Find a daycare. We'll re-evaluate in six months. If you're in the red, we'll talk." Here in Wyoming, it's also challenging to build because there aren't commission salons. In where I live, there's one. Everything is pretty much booth rent. That's scary. You don't have a lot of support.

You have to find your clientele.

Ignore anyone that is not supporting you. 

You got to hustle. That's what I did. I leaned into Instagram and that was my main source of marketing. I lucked out because Wyoming is a little behind the times. Instagram was not a saturated market at all with hairstylists. If someone searched #WyomingHairstylist, I was probably the only photos coming up. They're like, "There's my girl. There's nobody else." I built quickly through that. I bet in six months, I had fully booked waitlist. We don't get a ton of education opportunities out here. Not a lot of people are doing balayage.

What were you doing to market yourself on Instagram? What were your posts and captions like? Do you remember that early on?

At first, I like to scroll over far back on my page and see the growth because it's cringey when I look at it now, but it's cool to see the growth. I always tell people like, "Don't delete your old stuff, save it and look at it. It shows you how far you've come." I focused on educating, but not educating other hairstylists. That's where it gets twisted sometimes. As hairstylists, we feel like we need to share our formulas and this, that, and the other. Clients don't care about that. That's Chinese to them. Talk to them with what their struggles are. That's what I tried to do is always be educating and make it a place where clients would want to go and learn something. Figure something out and solve one of their pain points. It's starting with educating them.

One trick to get content that helped me a lot is, if I had a client in my chair for a whole day, I would ask every single client, "What's your biggest hair struggle right now?" I would help and talk them through it there on the spot, but I would keep a mental note and even kept a notes page in my phone of my clients' hair struggles. When I was writing an Instagram caption, I could go to that page and be like, "This is what I'm talking about." I was helping people. It was free content that I didn't have to think about.

Is that something that you innately knew or did you read books on that? That's the first step in real marketing. You're targeting a specific customer, but then you're also addressing the problems and how you can provide a solution.

I don't know. I didn't read anything about it. I'm not a master in marketing.

Fully booked in six months, you kind of are. You were an early adopter. You saw that trend happening. That's also part of that mindset. You were looking for, "How can I get ahead? What's the best way to market myself in a new area without a clientele? What are people not doing that I can do?" Instagram. You did hashtags as well so that people could find you. You were addressing their problems and saying, "If you're having a challenge with this, I'm your girl. I can help you get past this confidently and give you that result that you're after."

Hashtags were a huge one. This is a funny story. I did hone in on my ideal client. I knew who I like to be around. We're together for 3 or 4 hours. I wanted to be spending that. At this point in my life, I don't super relate to a nineteen-year-old girl that's going to the club. That's not me. I want moms that are chasing kids, wiping butts and going to the farmer's market.

Has that ever been you, going to the club?



You're probably like Jeni. Jeni was like that too. She was a party girl.

Now, I'm too tired.

It's always hard to imagine what somebody used to be like when they're so put together now like you.

Thank you. I'm glad you think I'm put together.

People think I'm put together. Wait until you see me behind the scenes.

Everybody has that. I feel like we're all a little bit messy. It is what it is. I focused on who I wanted to be. When I was at work, that was my me time being at work because it was my time away from kids. I wanted it to be fulfilling. One hashtag that I started using was #WyomingMama. I started getting these clients. I haven't talked to my client about this. I'll call her Jessica. I started getting all these people in my chair. There were five within a two-week period and they were all saying, "Jessica referred me." I was like, "Who is Jessica? I have no idea what this is," but I was taking it. Finally, I went through my followers and found a blogger named Jessica. I sent her a message and I was like, "I owe you a big thank you. A lot of people have been saying that you referred them." She wrote me back and she was like, "I'm super established with my hairstylists, but I want to come to you. I've been sending all my friends to you."

How about that? That's an amazing compliment.

Now, I do her hair. She made her way over and she's one of my favorites. I was like, "You can get referrals from people who aren't even your clients if you hashtag right."

She found you through a hashtag. Was she writing a blog about Wyoming moms?

She's a blogger. She has her own Instagram page. She would often use that hashtag, came across a pretty hair photo and started following me. The rest was history. I now do her whole friend group.

Make a vision board and focus on that. Don’t stop. 

When you're posting for Instagram, is there anything that you've changed in your technique from when you had first started to try to get clients as to what you do now?

Yes. That was a tough transition for me too because I'm not trying to build my clientele anymore. I have closed my books to new guests, which is not something that I usually recommend doing if you're a growing hairstylist. Scale your business. Don't close your books, but I have some other things going on and other passions like MOB. That's growing. I'm growing with that. I have closed my books to new clients, so I got a little confused there for a while. I was like, "I shouldn't be talking to clients anymore because then if they reach out.” I'm like, "Sorry. That doesn't make any sense." I've shifted. Now, I'm speaking to other hairstylists and trying to help them through techniques and color formulas. That's my ideal client now is other hairstylists.

You're an educator now and you're in the education space. Now, the customers are not your clients anymore because they're already your customers. Since you're moving in a different direction at the same time, now you're trying to reach other stylists and educate them on how to be better behind the chair. It's funny how things can shift along the same page. What is consistent is that, at one time, you're always focusing on a particular type of a person, which probably makes what you post a lot easier to plan.

One issue that I see and some big problem that a lot of hairstylists are having trouble with is they're trying to be everything to everybody. They're trying to put great work out there and they want everybody to like it, clients and stylists. By doing that, nobody is going to like it because you're not addressing any particular problems. You're just like, "Here's my great work. Clever caption." It's not targeting anybody. They're not selling anything. If you're trying to get clients in your chair, then make that your focus. If you're trying to win awards for hairstyling and that's your goal to stand out amongst your peers, then make that your focus. Trying to do both, it's almost impossible.

It's confusing to the audience, too. That's where I struggled with trying to blur it like, "Some posts, I'll do towards clients. Other posts, I'll do towards other hairstylists." I feel like it got weird. I was finally like, "I'm talking to my hairstylist now." My clients love it. They're like, "I'm amazed. You're a magician." I have no idea what any of those words and numbers mean. They think it's cool, too.

I've had my own identity struggles too, especially when I was working on my own salon and I had my own clients. I was trying to attract them, but then I'm creating education business and then I've got this show. I'm like, "Who the hell am I? What am I supposed to post anymore?" but then, I'm like, "Although my identity has shifted and I'm doing a bunch of different things, I have to stay focused on my message." My message is, "I'm here to help other stylists grow." Whether they're part of my team, MOB students or students in general in the industry, that is my people.

I don't care to try to teach balayage out to somebody that already knows everything about it. That's not my customer. It's people that want to learn it that want a strong foundation. For the longest time, I was trying to make sure that I was appealing to experts in the industry already. I'm like, "They're not going to buy my product anyway. Why do I even try to sell it to them?" They're selling their own. I need to focus on the ones that I can truly help and there are a lot of them. That's what I do best. It makes it easier too, because I've had several moments where you almost get into a rut, where you don't know what to post or don't post anything because you're unsure where to go.

I can relate to that.

What's next for you? I know that you're growing in MOB and we've got a lot of stuff coming up, but now that this is going in an awesome direction, where do you see yourself in a couple of years? Have you thought about that? Have you looked ahead yet?

Hopefully, right there next to you. I want to continue your vision with education, creating that experience for people and making hairstylists feel inspired. One of the things that I love about MOB classes too is the no-secrets approach. Everything is out there. I've been to classes before where you sit in the front row and you're almost told like, "You have to come to 2.0 to get that information." That's one thing that I love. I want to keep going, building a team and elevating the experience over and over. Those are my goals.


I know that you've mentioned something that you're looking forward to and that's our HERO event. You were at the first HERO event, which was in 2020.

  1. We all erased 2020 from our memories.

It was in 2020. It happened right before everything got shut down. It feels like two years ago because that was the last time we were in person. About a week and a half later, the whole world shut down. We are blessed and grateful we had that opportunity to have our first one because we learned a lot from that show. It was amazing. The amount of knowledge we can take with us toward our next show is priceless. We've got this show, the next HERO. We turned it into a retreat at this beautiful beach in Clearwater, Florida. People are signing up still every day. We've got close to 370 people already registered for this thing. By the time it comes, it will most likely be over 400. It's going to be so awesome and thrilling. What are you looking forward to it the most for? What is it about HERO that is getting you going?

All the inspiration. I love a good hair class. Don't get me wrong, but there's nothing like leaving somewhere and feeling inspired like, "I can do amazing things. I can do hard things. I can do anything I want." That's what I'm most looking forward to and seeing all the students have those feelings and seeing our team shine like the ambassadors. We have such cool plans for our ambassadors and watching them work as a team and seeing them create amazing work. I'm so excited.

We want you to go to HERO. If you can make the trip to Clearwater, Florida, for a day or two, it's still going to be worth it. That's the main event day. It's going to be a full day of incredible education, inspiration, guidance, coaching, branding, business, all of the above. It's going to be so cool. I'm not stressed out at all about leading up to this.

You're going to do so great.

I'm very excited. I know that we're all going to do incredible, but the planning that goes into one of these events and I think about The BTC Show and how big their shows are. You have to start planning about a year in advance, which I'm sure they do. Maybe even two years in advance to some degree. We continue to grow in the next one in 2022. We're going to be doing this every year and have to start planning it almost immediately. We're going to start to have people that are like, "You're on the HERO planning team. There you go. Get started."

Where are we going to go? We should go to somewhere different. We'll have to think about that. It's somewhere exotic because it's a retreat. It doesn't have to be different countries. We want to make it accessible. We don't want to make it so obscure that people can't get there. Emily, it has been awesome chatting with you here. We're getting to know you a little better and it's so cool. What are some of your own secrets to success since we don't hold anything back that you can give to stylists that are starting out, stuck, burnt out and they want more, but they're not sure how to get there? What can you do to inspire them a little bit?

First off, ignore anyone that is not supporting you. If there are other stylists that are talking about your Instagram posts in the back room, ignore them. That doesn't matter. That's on them. That's jealousy and ickiness. You have to focus. Make a vision board. I remember you told me way back, "Make a vision board and focus on that. Don't stop. Find your niche." If you have to say no to some things that don't align with your end goal, say no to those things. That's something that I had to learn because I've had a couple of different things to reach out to. It's exciting when a brand reaches out to you and wants to collab. It's like, "They like me." Everyone wants to be liked. I had to be like, "Does this align with my end goal? If not, the answer has to be no." Hone in and make that vision board and keep your eyes on it.

Vision boards, I did that for many years of my life. It's amazing I could look back on those vision boards and see like, "That happened." You're putting this energy out into the universe. If you believe in all that stuff, which I do, it comes back. As long as you think about it and you focus on that, the universe will answer what you're asking of it in some way or another. It's cool and awesome advice. I love you to death, Emily. Thank you so much for being part of MOB, our team being and this show.

I'm honored.

Thank you so much for reading. We'll talk to you soon.


Everyone, I hope you enjoyed the show. Please do me a favor. Go to Emily's Instagram page and give her a shout-out and follow. Say hi and thanks for all of her insights.

Important Links:

About Emily Muhlbauer

I’m Emily Muhlbauer, my goal is to create healthy, beautiful hair that fits your lifestyle. I'm all about that low-maintenance life, I want to create a color that will last you months! You should also feel confident and love doing your hair each morning, we will work together to give you a style and color you love!

I specialize in blonding and lived-in colors. I want to enhance the things you love about your hair! In an ever-evolving industry, I am committed to continuing my education and always eager to strengthen my skillset and share the knowledge with other hairstylists. It was a huge honor when Masters of Balayage chose me to be an Educator for their company.

Outside of the salon, you can find me out for a hike or cozied up with a book and a cup of coffee. I am a wife and a mama to two little boys. As a family, we enjoy being outdoors as much as possible and exploring Wyoming.