It List 2022 Entrepreneur finalists share some invaluable business advice, discussing the top things to know before opening a salon
Charlotte O’Flanagan, Charlotte Paints Hair, Birmingham
Without a doubt, your team is going to be the body and soul of your salon. The importance of a well-gelled team can’t be overlooked, after all these are the people we spend most of our time with.
Charlotte O’Flanagan, salon owner at Charlotte Paints Hair in Birmingham agrees, and tells us that it’s “something you can’t buy.” She also adds that it is crucial for your team to have “the same work ethic and passion for hair that you do,” as it plays an important role in the atmosphere of the salon.
Once the salon is open, this is when the team dynamic really comes into its own. “When you grow your team in a way that you’re caring for the humans, and not just the financial gain for yourself, your team will love what they do,” adds Danielle Garner of Wildflower in Dublin. While those first initial months may mean you playing every role in the business, once a firm team structure is in place, that will give you the time to do what you love most.
Likewise, Manchester’s self-titled salon owner, Melissa Timperley, agrees that building a team dynamic is down to the salon owner. “The team takes its tone and attitude from the leader, so it’s my job to role model the behaviours I need to see in the team and support them on an ongoing basis, not waiting for team meetings or monthly reviews, as that’s too rigid and probably too late.”
The customer journey at your salon is a significant part of what they take with them when they leave. Their experience – from the initial greeting to the thank you as they leave and everything in between – is something that can make your business stand out from the competition.
One half of Hampshire’s Jack & The Wolfe, Lydia Wolfe, gave an eye-opening statement that is sure to impact your thinking. “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression,” she states. “A smile goes a long way! I think amongst the stress, pressure and long days involved in the early stages of starting out, people forget their best customer service.” Don’t forget the importance of that first impression.
Melissa Timperley, Melissa Timperley Salons, Manchester
You want to do your best to guarantee returning clients and hope that their experience at your salon may also lead to word-of-mouth rave reviews. An important factor to acknowledge, according to Melissa Timperley, is “knowing what great service looks like in their eyes.” She explains: “It’s about the smallest details, making them feel more special when they leave the salon than when they came in.” Clients will remember the last part of their experience just as much as first impressions. This makes it just as vital for you and the team to finish the salon service in a way which is memorable for the right reasons.
Starting a new business venture, opening a salon, chasing your dreams – these things can take a lot of planning. That, however, doesn’t always mean elaborate, excessive planning. It can also be just as useful as a structural tool to refer back to as your business develops. Lydia Wolfe of Jack & The Wolfe admits that the business plan they created wasn’t intended for financial investment but provided a “clear focus for our own goals, a realistic budget and a consistent foundation that we can revisit and adjust every year.”
Jack & The Wolfe, Hampshire
As Lydia mentions, a realistic budget is a vital consideration for business planning to maintain progression and allow your business to grow and develop. The beginning of a new project can often correlate with a stigma around loans and financial support, inevitably this adds a great deal of pressure and stress. However, this can be avoided by making the compromise of starting small and playing the long game. In Lydia’s case, opening on a tight budget allowed them to “start off without a penny of debt.” In the long run, they have been able to afford a renovation and expansion, which means Lydia now has the salon she’s always dreamed of.
Similarly, Danielle believes that there is a fine line between pursuing a dream and pushing in the wrong direction to make profit in order to pay the bills. Her advice? “Write all your dreams down then try to align them together, so that when you do have a business behind you to support you, you can then act on them dreams.”
Heffy Wheeler, HX Hair, Staffordshire
When it comes to developing your business model, there is no one set way to do it. For Heffy Wheeler, owner of HX Hair in Staffordshire, social media has been a vital aspect from day one. “I‘ve built my whole business model based around our use of social media and running a digital salon,” she says. “You need to adapt and change with the times and do your research. If an algorithm changes, work with it not against it.”
Be inspired & stay resilient
Admittedly, working towards opening a salon is certainly a learning journey, but the further you venture from the comfort zone into territory of unknown experiences, the more resilient you become. Finding ways to adapt and learning from mentors who inspire you is one of the best pieces of advice that was given to Melissa Timperley. “I’ve learned to take feedback and not be defensive about the comments. You need to recover from setbacks quickly in order to move forward in a practical way.”
Danielle Garner, Wildflower, Dublin
It’s also important be inspired by areas outside of the hairdressing world. It is difficult to stay unique if your sole source of inspiration comes from people already doing the same thing, and this is a mindset Danielle firmly stands by. “I wanted everything to be the opposite of what the hairdressing industry was. I had to reach out to brands like jewellery designers and interior designers, and graphic designers, and they’re all very different to people who are working in salons at the moment.”
Danielle has also built an immediate circle of mentors to help with all aspects of the business. “I have people who help with my social marketing and strategy for creative, and then I have a business advisor for financials. I also have a support network of women in business that we can all bounce off each other and help each other to grow and do the best that we can.” She finishes by confirming that “it’s all about building a community so that we can all do our very best.”