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
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."
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