From salon clients to convicted criminals, Deborah Coburn just wants to empower people.
And as of this month, she’s been doing it for a quarter of a century.
The Queenstown hairdresser is the force behind Collective Courses, a series of programmes to help people from all walks of life build confidence and personal skills.
Her work as a hairdresser was a big driver to start the courses, she says.
With roughly six clients a day over more than two decades, that’s 35,000 conversations during her career.
“During these years I have witnessed clients in personal situations that have moved me with raw emotions from grief, sadness, loss, and broken hearts from relationships ending.
“People have bared their souls with their most personal secrets that sometimes they have never confided with anyone else. As a hairdresser we meet men, women and children of all ages and become part of their lives, sharing dreams and goals. Often connecting them with someone to help them along their journey.”
She also worked in a modelling agency in her early 20s, which was another factor.
“I could see what people believed about themselves, it wasn’t what I would see.
“So I started getting really interested at that point.”
While her work started with women and teen girls, she’s started to broaden her courses.
That’s down to starting work with groups of men through the Department of Corrections.
“It has made me very aware that there is such a need for both men, and women, and teenagers, to gain life tools to help themselves and for the relationships around them.”
She tries to use the courses to give back in other ways, such as raising money for Ronald McDonald Trust.
Her next course, Teenage Girls Day Out, is on September 30 at Queenstown’s SkyCity.