It’s time to turn your passion for the salon lifestyle into a successful business venture. Whether you’re into doing hair, painting nails, or offering spa treatments, the life of an aspiring salon owner can be difficult. Choosing how you start and build up your salon business is a crucial decision that can impact the success you see and the influence you have within your community. In most cases, there are two possible routes you can take in your salon career: operating a salon from your home, or purchasing an existing salon.
You’ll eventually come to the fork in the road where you will have to choose which path to take. Each has its benefits and challenges that accompany your decision, so we have mapped out and projected each scenario to help you overcome obstacles and find the salon success you desire.
We’ve included answers from Kelsey Shuey, who runs a salon out of her home but has yet to make the jump to an actual physical location. Look for her answers throughout this piece.
Starting From The Bottom
Whether you’re starting in your home or purchasing an existing salon, you have to start somewhere. It’s paramount that you get off on the right foot to see positive results. Each path has its unique demands that will require you to adapt to various circumstances. Knowing how to accommodate the needs of your clients while maintaining the behind the scenes functions of your business is tricky, so you’ll find the tips and tricks we’ve compiled to be of the utmost importance.
From Your Home
Home Grown Loyalty
Running a business out of your home can be a difficult task with trying to juggle the daily routine by yourself while pleasing your clientele. Overcoming the obstacles of marketing, networking, and expanding your salon might seem intimidating. Fortunately, we’re here to help ease your worries and help you grow your passion for salon ownership. Making the jump from your home-grown salon to owning a salon will be simple with that dedication we know you already have.
Growing your salon and building client loyalty is crucial in transitioning into an ownership position. Knowing how to make your customers happy and satisfied will not only build their trust but it will open the door for an increase of referrals. Think of it as a never ending circle of clients. As you strengthen and support your existing clients they will be more likely to refer their friends to your services.
So how do you make your clients feel like they’re on top of the world? It’s rather simple, actually. Give them reasons to come back to your home salon again and again. The beauty of operating a salon out of your home is that you’re in control of the environment. Nobody is holding you back from being creative. Use that freedom to your advantage in making your home salon the local go-to salon.
The environment you create in your salon will leave a lasting impression on your clients. Bringing your clients into your kitchen, garage, or bathroom for appointments won’t cut it. You have to present to them a professional environment within your home. It might take some renovating on your part, but creating a specialized room in your home for your salon is a must.
Include in your home amenities that you would find in a professional salon; salon chairs, hair washing basins, mirrors, and other perks that will impress your clients and certify you as a professional.
The decor within in your salon is important too. An inviting, warm atmosphere will add to your clients’ experience. Use wall decals or vinyl lettering to decorate walls with images and professional looking lettering. Have the lighting within your home salon natural, without it being overwhelming. In the end, the decorating depends on the vision you have for your salon.
Build Relationships of Trust
Getting to know your clients personally will be the best way to build loyalty. Put yourself in their shoes; would you want to go to a salon whose owner is less than friendly? Of course not. Becoming a friend to your patrons will show that they are important to you beyond their money. Having meaningful conversations with your clients will build a relationship of trust that will enhance the services you offer. When talking, always focus on their needs. Try your best to remove your personal life from the conversation so that it’s all about them, rather than about you. Here are some simple conversations starters and tips to help customers feel comfortable and genuinely cared:
- Ask about their family – Generally speaking, families are an easy topic to talk about and it will help you get to know the client personally. Retain information that they mention in one visit and follow up with how their family is doing in subsequent visits.
- Find out their hobbies or interests – Knowing their likes/dislikes is a simple way to open your clients to conversations. Ask them how they are progressing in their favorite book, if they are involved in community programs, or even talk about the latest reality TV show results.
- Talk about their week/weekend – Usually the weekend is a time for events and get-togethers. Follow up on what they were up to and discuss any future plans.
- Find out what they do for a living – whether they stay at home or work for a living, talking about their day-to-day experiences is a great way to open up conversations.
People generally respond well to positive conversations about their life, which will help you increase the loyalty you have with them. Clients will remember you not only for your services, but for your friendship as well.
Purchasing a Salon
What to Know Before Purchasing
Location is key when it comes to purchasing a salon, whether you buy an existing one or a space for your new one. It’s common to see salons in shopping centers and malls because these locations are easier for customers to find and allow for more walk-in customers. These positions also give you the chance to be next to a complimentary salon, so if you do hair maybe you could set up shop next to a nail salon. Some salon locations are in more rural, quiet areas to provide a relaxed, retreat-like atmosphere for their clients, which many people appreciate. The major drawback with these locations though is they can be harder to find and won’t create a lot of walk-in traffic. Either way, you can help draw in more clients with advertising and branding. Use a variety of banners or signs to get your salon brand recognized.
When considering a locations, it’s also important to consider the potential growth that your salon will go through. If you plan and expect to expand your business, don’t purchase a location that will confine you to a smaller size salon. Look ahead to the future when making this choice.
Before purchasing your salon or space for one, check the demographics of the area and what or how many salons are in the surrounding area. Demographics are important because you want the type and age of your potential customers to be in and around your salon location. It’s important to check crime rates as well, so that you can ensure the safety of your clients, workers, and salon. One more important consideration is the growth rate of the area itself. Is the potential salon in an area that is slowly aging and becoming less vibrant in the makeup of the city? Or is it in an area that is just starting to explode with commercial and residential buildings? It goes without saying, that any decision would be much better if it were the latter situation.
As for competition, it isn’t a bad thing, but too many salons offering your services could become a problem. A crowded market usually means the less your establishment is worth and the less likely for your salon to attract a lot of business from that area.
The Good and Bad of Buying an Existing Salon
The nice thing about buying an existing salon is most of the legwork has already been done for you. The previous owner should already have a customer base and suppliers set up for you, as well as provided you with needed salon equipment, supplies and staff. With those things taken care of, this option tends to be cheaper than starting your own salon from scratch.
A bad possibility with this option is inheriting any issues that might come with the salon. Issues could range from old equipment to money problems to dishonest, lazy employees. A new owner doesn’t mean these things are just going to magically change for the better or disappear, so try to find out if there are any problems before buying and then determine if they’re worth dealing with.
If the salon you’re purchasing has clients that are relationship driven to the previous owner, then you will have to plan on how to win their trust. If you’ve found a location and are in the stages of purchasing, meet with the current owner to talk about the salon and the clients. Make the transition of ownership smooth by shadowing, or working with, the current owner for a couple of weeks before you acquire the salon. This will help clients be comfortable while getting to know you, making the switch of ownership less dramatic in their eyes.
Besides building, equipment, staff or client problems, you also want to check on how long the salon has been in business and research its financials. If a salon hasn’t been in business that long, then it’s probably a red flag if someone wants to sell it. It’s smart to ask how long that salon has been in business, as well as thoroughly research its financials over the last few years. Check the salon’s books and make sure those figures match up with the figures you’ve been told. If the owner trying to sell doesn’t want to show you the books, that should be another serious red flag for you.
The Challenges Ahead
Once you get your business up and running and you feel like you’re starting to get the hang of the salon lifestyle, you may encounter some bumps and challenges. Have no fear, opposition can be overcome with faithful persistence in the practice you are carrying out. Patiently assessing your situation and applying simple business principles will give you the boost you need to continue with your passion in the salon industry.
From The Home
Quality You Can Trust
It’s important that the services you offer are of the utmost quality to ensure that, even when tough times roll around, your clients are still loyal to your services. Even if you are friendly and caring, if you don’t give the client what they want at an affordable price, you’re going to lose their loyalty. Your passion for owning a salon has probably led you to train in your craft. Whether you’re doing hair, nails, or skin care it’s imperative that you’re competent and professional in the practice you carry out. You will be competing with other local businesses and, as such, will need to know the industry standard for salons while offering unique services for a reasonable price.
Practice what you preach. If you say you offer the best, most affordable salon service in your area, then you will need to be prepared to give the best. A great way to build your skills and market your salon is to offer discounted model days. The essence of this idea is that you offer reduced price, or even free, services to practice your skills. Advertise that you’re looking for models to try out new beauty techniques on, new styles, or new products. More likely than not there will be an influx of people who wouldn’t mind being a ‘model’ for your services, especially when it won’t cost them a large sum to volunteer. Use this opportunity to increase your clientele and show off your skills.
Mastering Social Media
Starting any business out of your home can be difficult, especially when trying to get the word out that you’re open and ready for clients to come pouring in. Excelling in the marketing game will make the client flow a reality. The internet is a vast landscape for marketing, especially with various social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. If you can master the social media game then you will be able to profit greatly. Using Facebook to market your salon will allow you to reach friends, community residents, and other small businesses. Creating a page for your salon is just the first step in marketing on Facebook; after doing so you must be active in contacting current customers, local businesses, and everyone you can find that could result in potential clients.
Have current customers ‘like’ your page, then have them share their experiences on your wall. Having client testimonials will validate your services and encourage others to visit your salon. Invite clients to share your salon’s Facebook page with their friends, including their own personal testimony. Use any social media platform to thank customers for choosing your salon and offer a discount to them for their valued loyalty. This will help build relationships with those you serve and establish yourself as a customer-friendly salon. Promote discounts and limited-time offers via social media.
Expand your business to a variety of platforms to reach your intended audience. Knowing who you want to reach will give you an idea of where those people will be spending time online. Research has found that 65% of adults use social media, so employing this advantageous marketing tool will surely succeed.
Purchasing a Salon
Challenges of Owning a Salon
Expect challenges with being a salon owner, as you would with any type of business. The first challenge you need to be prepared for is money. Knowing the costs is crucial so you’re financially prepared. Salon costs depend on the type of salon, services offered, equipment and products needed, promotion and location.
Another challenge is keeping your employees happy and earning their trust. You can do that by offering them incentives, like giving bonuses and providing health insurance, and having flexible scheduling. Instead of setting strict schedules for each member of your staff, be flexible and let them do some or most of their own scheduling so they can cater to their clientele. Doing this shows you care about your staff and their needs, which earns their trust and gives you happy, friendly employees.
Deciding if your salon is appointment only or allows walk-ins can be another challenge. Some salons like regular clients and walk-ins, while others are strict about appointment-only customers. Walk-ins can be hard to accommodate if you don’t have a big staff or if you’re normally full with your regulars. Salons with the staff and space to accommodate walk-ins like them because they bring in more revenue to their business for that day, and they may become regular customers, which brings in more revenue on a long-term basis.
The next challenge is staying competitive. Like any small business, you need fresh ideas to stand out from your competitors. Make sure you’re up to date with styles and equipment, and provide various services in the best kind of environment. Salons offering hair and nail services are great because customers can conveniently do both in one stop. If you own a hair salon, try providing eyebrow and lip waxing services to better appeal to potential customers.
Another challenge specific to the salon owner is mastering the balancing act. Salon owners have a lot they oversee, such as clients, staff, equipment, marketing and finances. Juggling multiple aspects of a salon can be stressful and tiring, but it can be done so just stick with it until you get in the groove.
Kelsey: “For me there have been three big challenges. First, managing my kids while my client is here to get their hair cut or colored. Second, the breakdown of equipment. Believe it or not, equipment breaks. I’ve been through a few chairs, pairs of scissors and clippers. Working in a salon, the owner would take care of some of that, like chairs, but I’ve had to be really good about putting money aside for unexpected expenses like new equipment. Another challenge is taxes. Same concept as above, you just have to be really good about putting money aside.”
The Next Step
You’ve set up your salon, learned how to adapt to the unique circumstances and challenges, and have begun to market your skills to the community. So, now what? It’s time to take your business to the next level. For those who decided to begin in their homes, this is the point where you might consider expanding your craft to an actual salon location. If you’ve already purchased a salon, it’s time to create a diverse environment and expand the salon empire you’ve started.
From Your Home
Networking and Partnering
Doing everything by yourself can be overwhelming. Lighten the advertising load by networking, or partnering, with other local businesses. This will give your salon more exposure in the community. Reach out to local businesses, especially those in the beauty industry, and offer them discounts towards your salon services in return for their help in advertising. Have them share on social media and post advertisements in their stores for your salon. Two heads are better than one, so use their established business knowledge to your advantage. Ask for tips on how to maximize the effectiveness of your marketing campaign. Don’t be afraid to contact as many businesses as you can. It’s the more the merrier with networking.
Attending Small Business Developers Centers will also aid in networking with other small business owners. Doing so will give you the opportunity to cross promote with other owners. Cross promoting allows you and another company to work together to promote a product or service, which in turn will benefit both parties. It’s a win-win situation if done right and helps you get exposure to different demographics.
Kelsey: “If I were going to do a big salon, I’d invest heavily in a web presence and do a lot of localized online marketing. I’d also look for other businesses to partner with, like a nail salon, a spa and so forth. Passing business back and forth would be huge in building more business. I’d also make sure that the signage on my building was visually appealing and eye catching as to draw interest and help people remember me.”
Taking a Leap of Faith
Once you’ve built up your clientele using your personality and unique services, combined with the power of social media and networking, you’re prepared to make the jump to owning a salon. The skills you learned from managing your home salon will be valuable in owning a salon location. It’s not going to be easy making the transition but, with a desire and passion for owning a salon, you will be able to succeed in the industry.
If you do decide that you want to open up a salon at another location, we recommend applying the tips and principles we’ve listed in this article under the ‘Purchasing a Salon’ sections.
Purchasing a Salon
Rewards of Owning a Salon
Don’t be discouraged because of challenges. Owning a salon also generates numerous rewards. A very common and satisfying reward is putting a smile on a customer’s face. Providing good customer service and making the customer feel good about herself with whatever service you provided is how you get this kind of simple yet gratifying reward. Also rewarding is gaining a customer’s trust, which you do by being honest with them and meeting their expectations. Training an assistant and watching them grow into their own type of artist (hair stylist, hair colorist, nail artist, etc.) is yet another reward of being a salon owner.
A big reward for many smaller salon owners is the freedom that comes with running your own business. Being your own boss means you get to make your own hours and control the number of clients you have.
Kelsey: “ I have the freedom to do what I want, when I want to, and the freedom to control how much I earn. If I feel I’m getting too busy, I can choose whether to take on new clients or not. It’s pretty great!”
Setting Your Salon Apart From Others
Making sure your salon stands out from other salons is a must in order to have a successful business. Of all service industry businesses, 55 percent are still in operation after being in business for four years. Follow some of these tips for setting your salon apart from others and be a part of the successful 55 percent, instead of the 45 that fail.
Many people look to price as a way businesses set themselves apart, but the truth is a business can’t survive if it’s always lowering prices and offering discounts. That’s not saying your salon should overprice for your services or never run specials or discounts. Offer reasonable prices and deals every so often, and advertise them with big, colorful signs and banners, to help your business stand out to potential customers.
Offering services your competitors don’t offer, and doing so in a unique atmosphere, is also how you set your salon apart. The more services you provide the better because customers like the convenience of getting things done in one salon instead of having to travel to three different places to tan and then get their hair and nails done. When it comes to the atmosphere, think like a customer. Think of what makes you feel comfortable and would help you enjoy your time in a salon and then have your interior decorating, lighting, music, refreshments and everything else match that. Make your storefront appealing and inviting using window decals and other attractive signage.
Using trained technicians and stylists who are positive, friendly and passionate about their job is an additional way to help your salon stand out. Great customer service ensures you have repeat and happy customers.
The last thing is being flexible. Allow walk-ins if you don’t already. Let the public know you accept walk-ins by posting signs outside your business. We recommend using an A-frame sign or vinyl banner to really catch the attention of those that pass by your storefront. Not everyone feels the need to make an appointment, and some people have last minute things come up where they need a treatment done as soon as possible. Walk-ins are good for business and allowing them lets your salon accommodate these kinds of people.
Kelsey: “I think more than anything I try to make it super easy to work with me and my prices are extremely competitive. If I were to start marketing my business, I’d probably set up a website, produce some great content that helps people learn how to better style their hair and see if I can pick up any new business from that. There’s also a neighborhood newsletter that goes out every month and I’d probably look into advertising in that.”
Advice to Follow
Before jumping into a business adventure, it’s smart to talk to those who have been through it all and get their advice on how to handle the good and bad that comes with being a salon owner.
Here’s some more advice we have for those desiring to be a salon owner:
- Don’t be afraid of hard work.
- Practice, practice, practice because practice makes perfect.
- Build a good relationship with your customers and suppliers.
- Live and breathe your brand.
- Use technology and the web to your advantage.
Women and men use every kind of salon out there, which is probably why there are currently more than 1 million hair and nail salons in the United States. Salons prove to be a successful business venture, but use these tips and advice before deciding which salon path is the right one for you.