Hair Salon Owner The Buzz


Owning a hair salon means more than counting the cash in the till at the end of the day. Besides having some business savvy, you also need to understand the basics of hair care.

"In my experience, the majority of salons have owners who are also experienced stylists," says Lori Wiebe. She is a stylist and a partner in a hair salon.

Jennie Bev, editor-in-chief of StyleCareer.com, agrees that the combination is an important one.

"There are great distinctions between a hairdresser, who must possess technical skills, and a business owner, whose entrepreneurial skills would determine the growth of the business," she says.

"Ideally, a salon owner has what it takes to be able to distinguish excellent hairdressers from mediocre ones. This means at least he or she must have working knowledge of hairdressing, even though advancement is not necessary. This skill is important in hiring the best people for the salon."

So if you want to own a salon, learn the hairstyling side of the business first. Plan to spend approximately three years learning your craft and earning your license.

But while there are training programs for hairstylists, nothing like that exists for salon owners. So you'll have to combine your hairstyling training with at least basic courses in accounting, small business management and marketing.

It's crucial that you write a business plan. Not only will this help you get started, but it can also help keep you on course during the turbulent first years. Be realistic in what you want to do and how long you're willing to take to achieve your goals.

You can have an independent business or purchase a franchise. There are some critical differences. One of those differences is cost.

For an independent salon, the investment can be a little or a lot. You may choose to lease or buy a small shop, which can cost a lot. However, many cities and towns allow home-based salons, which don't cost nearly as much to get started. Either way, you'll need at least $3,000 to buy equipment (i.e. chairs, sinks, mirrors, supplies, etc.).

You must also consider the fees for registering a business name and any business taxes that may apply.

"Sometimes it is best to start out cutting hair at a salon on a commission basis," Wiebe says.

"You can build a clientele, which then with time will sustain all the costs incurred with owning a business. As an owner who is also an experienced stylist, you know you will at least be generating income from your own clientele."

If you choose the franchise route, the biggest downside can be cost. A Regis franchise, for instance, would cost a minimum of $50,000. However, the franchiser provides many things, such as signage, advertising, product purchasing and decor. Another trade-off is the lack of flexibility to do your own thing.

"The primary difference between owning a franchised salon instead of an independent salon is that you would need to follow the agreed terms and conditions of the franchiser," Bev says.

"If you own your own independent salon, you're free to experiment. Freedom is always an issue, but as a franchise salon owner, you'd get immediate recognition and it's also easier to market services."

Franchises typically offer lower prices. On the flip side, privately owned salons usually focus on quality and personal care and will spend much more time with each client.

Franchises often have the cash that it takes to obtain prime retail mall locations. However, independent salons tend to become a real part of the community in which they are located.

Wiebe, although an independent owner, sees another advantage to the growth of franchised hair salons.

"The spread of franchises is probably good for stylists as individuals. It offers more options of places to work. Typically, franchises are opened in busy shopping malls, so there is good walk-in traffic for a stylist to gain experience and -- potentially -- clientele."

And without clients, your business doesn't stand a chance. So how do you build your customer base?

"The best way is through satisfied clients' word of mouth," Bev says. "For a neighborhood salon, you might want to get involved in the community to spread the word about your new business."

"Hair salons are relationship businesses and nothing can replace word-of-mouth advertising for hair services," agrees Wiebe.

"If you have good stylists and your salon is in a good location, you will attract clients. If the stylists do good work and are able to connect with clients, clientele will grow. There is no quick fix for drumming up business."

So if you have some talent with scissors, an entrepreneurial spirit, people skills and an eagerness to learn, owning a hair salon may be right for you. Just don't expect instant success.

"The first two years are probably the hardest, which explains why many new salon owners close their doors," says Bev. "If you encounter hardships during that period, don't blame anybody. Accept it as a challenge to conquer."

"Opening a hair salon takes a lot of time and patience to see it through to being a thriving business," says Wiebe.

"If you do not enjoy being in the hair business, it will be very difficult for you to make it through all of the challenges. You need to gain some experience prior to opening a hair salon so you can understand the business and to find out if you really want to be a part of it."

Links

Regis Corporation Franchise Division
Get information about franchise opportunities in North America

Small Business Administration
Find out about the help that's available to get you started

Open You Own Salon
Learn what it takes to start your own business