Chances are good that you got into the beauty business because you’re creative and passionate about helping your clients look and feel their best. But when it comes to opening up your own salon, you’ve got to balance that passion with practicality. As with any business, you’re going to need to cover the basics: make a business plan, secure financing, hire employees, and so on. But there are some questions and challenges that are unique to salons. Here are five questions to ask before you open your own salon:
Do you have an established set of loyal clients you can bring along to your new venture? Keep in mind that if you have been working at a salon before striking out on your own, your former employer also has an established relationship with your clients. And remember, it’s ultimately the individual client’s decision—even if they like you and your work, they may choose to stick with the salon for a number of reasons, like convenience of location.
There are more than 1 million salons and spas in the U.S. Why should customers choose you? What makes you different from other salons in the area? Paradoxically, you’ll likely attract more customers by specializing a little bit. Of course, you’ll want to offer a complete range of common services, but think about what you want the brand promise of your salon to be. Are you all about self-care for busy women? Are you all-natural and organic? Think about how every aspect of your salon, from the design of the space, to the stylists and technicians you hire, to the products you sell, reinforces your brand identity.
A break-even analysis is a great tool for any new business. Crunching the numbers on your expected costs and projected revenue can help you understand how much financing you’ll need to get you through the startup period. In the salon business, pricing is fairly standardized—it will be hard to attract clients if you’re charging significantly more than other salons in the area of common services. So attracting new clients and figuring out how to move retail product is key to hitting your revenue projections.
Like any business, your salon will need a general business license, insurance, and an Employer Identification Number. In addition, to run a salon, you’ll need a cosmetology license. Most, though not all, employees you later hire to work in your salon will also need licenses. Requirements vary by state, so make sure you understand your state’s regulations.
As a new salon owner, your first question is, when you’re looking for stylists, are you actually hiring employees, or are you looking for freelancers to partner with? In other words, do you want to operate on a commission or chair-rental model? Either way, you have to think about your style, their style, and the creative fit between the two. Some salon owners find that hiring people with a lot of experience can backfire, if those people have a strong style of their own and aren’t willing to work with your overall vision. When you’re hiring or approaching stylists to rent space in your salon, think about whether you’re looking for artists or pros who always put the customer first.