“Brisbane was growing at an enormous rate and so was my business but the biggest challenge was having to train apprentices non-stop,” he said.
“There were no hairdressers to hire so I needed to teach apprentices how to train cut hair and do it fast without running out of puff myself.
“Today we take things for granted but only because we created that with an incredible academy.”
After more than 50 years as a hairdresser, Mr Ackerie has been awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for his significant service to business and support for charitable organisations.
His brand remains the largest hairdressing chain in Australia, with 37 salons operating in Queensland.
The Brisbane celebrity has a fundraiser for multiple not-for-profit organisations including Disability Sports Queensland, The Mother Theresa Foundation and the foundations of the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and Queensland Children’s Hospital.
He also started Stefan’s MASKS Foundation in 2011 with the aim to “Make A Sick Kid Smile” by delivering toys to children in Queensland hospitals during Easter and Christmas.
Mr Ackerie, was granted the Lord Mayor’s Business Awards Lifetime Achievement Award and the named as a Queenslnbd Great in 2013, left Lebanon in 1957 with his mother to start a new life in Australia.
He began working for major salons in 1963 before taking over a hairdresser in Longreach in 1964.
After opening his first Stefan salon in 1966 in Mackay, Mr Ackerie learnt about communication, technicality and creativity from the most prominent industry professionals in London, Paris and New York, he said.
He vividly remembered the era when everyone wanted the Raquel Welch perm.
“Raquel Welch was the most beautiful woman in the world and she had a very soft perm flowing all over her shoulders so people were rushing in to get her Raquel perm,” he said.
“The problem with it is it is good for four or five weeks but they wanted it to last four or five months.
“That time was one of the most amazing experiences in my career.”
Asked if hairdressers sometimes took on the role of a therapist, Mr Ackerie warmly agreed.
“I’d like to think we’ve made a major contribution,” he said.
“I studied that and hairdressers are trained in communication skills first and then hairdressing skills, otherwise how will you know what they want?”
On the subject of terrible do-it-yourself lockdown haircuts, Mr Ackerie said nothing surprised him anymore.
“People shaving their heads off on the sides is not my favourite look,” he said.
“The funny thing is that’s how I learnt when my dad taught me.”
Jocelyn Garcia is a journalist at the Brisbane Times, covering breaking news.