As anyone with a relationship with their hairdresser can attest, in the stylist’s chair struggles are shared, decisions are made and friendships are formed. This “hairapy” is as important as the physical transformation of a fresh ‘do.

Steven Sanchez, Jr., (BA ’10) says his decade as FPU student and employee helped him become a salon owner who nurtures connection with his clients. “Going to FPU was one of the best decisions of my life,” he says.

Growing up in the farming community of Riverdale, Sanchez is a first-generation college graduate. Looking only for a day off from high school when he attended an FPU Preview Day, once on campus he had a powerful feeling he was where he was meant to be.

Sanchez jumped into leadership, serving as a student senator his freshman and sophomore years and being elected student body president his junior year against two seniors. The communication major played sax in the Community Wind Ensemble, was on the student activities board and worked four years in the Advancement Office. “I lived and breathed Fresno Pacific University,” he says. “You can’t beat the sense of community on that campus. It was truly a family.”

After graduation, Sanchez worked for five years in the Communications and Marketing Office, and felt the love and support stay with him when life offered a new direction. He’d been cutting friends’ hair since high school when a hairdresser friend saw a photo of a recent haircut and told him hair was his calling.

At his interview at Paul Mitchell The School Fresno, Sanchez felt the same reaction as his first visit to FPU. “I had a gut feeling this was the environment I was supposed to be in,” he says.

In 2013, Sanchez began attending classes four nights a week for two years at Paul Mitchell while continuing full-time at FPU. His first salon was The Dandelion Salon + Barber Shop at Sierra Vista Mall, where he spent almost five years. The blessing of that job was that the owners were believers who eased his transition from what he describes as the “FPU bubble.” “I learned that I could still carry my own faith,” he says.

In May 2020 COVID-19 closed The Dandelion. On December 1, Sanchez opened UNCO | Unapologetic Coterie in downtown Fresno’s Peerless Building. The name wasn’t random. “Unapologetic” was his theme word for 2020, and “coterie” describes a group of like- minded people who share exquisite taste. And that’s what Sanchez wants UNCO to be. “Essentially, I want it to be a place where we can do what we want and celebrate creativity,” he says.