Kim Willis

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Living in San Angelo required some getting used to for Kim Willis. Like how helpful folks are in the grocery store.

The first weekend after Willis moved here three years ago, the longtime Austinite stopped someone in the supermarket and asked for help. A friendly local squired Willis around the store until she had found everything on her list.

“I thought, “Wow! These people are really nice,’” Willis recalled. “The people here are so supportive and will do anything for you.”

Willis has found San Angelo welcoming in other ways, as well.

It encouraged the hairstylist to continue cutting and coloring here after she’d decided rebuilding a clientele in a new community wasn’t worth the effort. It has supported her thriving business selling hair care products. And it has given her avenues to pursue good works in the service of others.

Former 20 Under 40 honoree Stacey Leigh Patterson raved that while Willis is a talented stylist, her specialty is “making her clients feel confident.” Willis first contemplated beauty school – with much trepidation – after growing disenchanted sitting in huge lecture halls filled with hundreds of other students at the University of Texas.

“How am I going to go home and tell my parents I want to quit UT and go to beauty school?” she thought. “But I did. And I absolutely loved it. Eighteen years later, here I am.”

Being a successful stylist is as much about building trusting relationships as it is snipping and styling hair, she said.

“I love my clients. They’re like family to me,” Willis said. “It’s more than just what I’m doing behind the chair. It’s talking and listening to their needs – whether it’s hair or personal.”

She is also one of about 150 directors for MONAT, a direct-seller of premium hair care products. That path began with her buying a box of MONAT products and later having a leadership position “fall into my lap.” She has built a network with about 750 sellers across the nation and the world.

“I’m told daily I’ve inspired somebody,” she said. “I’m like, ‘I’m just me.’ I had to read books and listen to podcasts to help teach me how to be a leader. I didn’t know how to stand in front of a crowd and talk.”

Willis may be selling herself short. She recently chaired the Junior League of San Angelo’s annual western dance, raising more money than the event ever had to fund the organization’s civic endeavors. And she spearheaded an effort to donate hair care, hygiene and feminine products to Sara’s House, an intensive residential substance abuse treatment program.

“Leadership is not about me,” Willis said. “It’s about others – inspiring, teaching and helping others. I’ve never once thought this was all me.

“It makes you happy and is so rewarding to know you’ve done something for somebody else – whatever it is,” she added. “There’s always something in your community you can do to give back. Knowing you’ve helped just one person is such a feel-good.”