Our Meet the Merchant series features Q&As with real-world Clover merchants. Read our full catalog for innovative ideas and real-life stories of small businesses in action.
In this installment, we hear from Posh, the owner of Posh Hair District in Atlanta. Posh offers hair care, microlinks, healthy styles, and a variety of products for purchase. She shares how she ended up working with hair, what it was like to open her own salon, how Clover fits into her business landscape, and how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected her.
Clover: Hi Posh. Thanks for making time to connect with us. How long have you been working with hair?
Posh: My whole life! I had an aunt that was a hair stylist, and my great-grandmother was a hair stylist, too. Growing up, I spent a lot of time in my aunt’s salon. By the time I was in high school, she had me shampooing. I was always in the environment, and always enjoyed working with hair, although I didn’t ever think it would be my full-time job. Whenever things got tough for me and I needed more income, I would always end up in a salon. Eventually, I realized that this is a gift of mine, and also something I enjoy. So I decided to stop chasing dollars and instead chased my passion. Within five years of making that decision, I was able to open my own salon.
Clover: Tell us what you love about doing hair.
Posh: I like the fact that women feel beautiful when I’m done. I mean, I’ve had women cry when I finish their hair; it can be a life changing experience. There are so many things that people don’t understand about their own hair. Just being able to teach them the value of proper hair care is a privilege.
Clover: That’s really great to hear. We imagine it was tough to open your own salon. Can you share anything about that process?
Posh: I was not really in the position to secure any type of business funding at that point. My personal credit wasn’t in order, and it was a stressful time. I had to use my own funds. A lot of times, money would run out. I would frequently put off big purchases, or find less expensive replacements. I also set up my own personal layaway program. If I needed $5,000, I might stash away $500 every week or two until I reached my goal. But I had already built up my clientele while renting a chair at a neighboring salon, so I knew my income would level out eventually.
Clover: How did you build your clientele?
Posh: When I started doing hair full time, some of my younger friends and clients encouraged me to establish a presence on Instagram and other social media platforms. That was tough for me. I’m not a natural with social media, but my friends insisted that I brand myself as Posh (it’s my professional name, not my legal name). Having an alter ego allowed me to overcome some of my shyness. Now that I’ve been on these platforms for a while, I enjoy the feedback. I like when people get involved and share their thoughts or experiences. I know that, more than anything, clients buy into the persona of a stylist, not just the business. I could be the best hairdresser on earth, but unless I have celebrity clientele, and potential clients are seeing people they idolize in my chair, they’re not going to just jump on board because my work looks nice. They really want to see who I am, what I have going on, and what I’m into, stylistically. I still haven’t mastered it, and I don’t know if that challenge will ever go away for me.
Clover: Your website states you offer packages branded as Maintenance Plans. Can you tell us more about that?
Posh: Oh absolutely. I started the maintenance plan in 2014, when business was slow, because I figured it was a way to encourage more business without changing my base prices. I offer a way for someone to get my services at a lower price, and in turn, they’ll pay up front at the beginning of the month. That helps me cover the first of the month bills. It ended up being extremely successful because I have a lot of professional clients, and most of them like to plan their budgets. They make a plan to have two or four appointments for the month and they work it into their budget. I have my maintenance plan open for about 40 slots, and I am almost always sold out, so I can’t offer any new slots.
The thing about African-American beauty and textured hair services is that the typical client won’t really do walk-ins. We make appointments, and we tend to stick with one stylist rather than chair hopping. Our texture is different, and so our hair behaves in a unique way. It responds better to consistency—someone that knows it and does the same thing every visit. It’s not about a quick hair cut and blow out, there’s way more to it than that. It takes, on average, two hours from start to finish for a basic maintenance visit. That’s before anything creative, or any type of extensions.
Clover: That’s a wonderful way to support your customers and your business. So how does Clover fit into the picture for you?
Posh: It was just offered to me one day when I was in the bank. I had developed a good relationship with the branch manager at the time, and she asked me about my credit card processing. I was using a processor before, but had never had a point-of-sale system. She showed me the value of having a device and a system instead of just an app. It’s a cleaner concept, and the more I use it the more it does for me in terms of tracking and reporting. I’ve found it really helpful.
Clover: We’re glad to hear that. Let’s talk about the COVID-19 pandemic… it’s hit the salon industry hard. How has Posh Hair District handled those changes?
Posh: Like nearly everyone else, this pandemic really caught me by surprise. I had to close my salon, but the companies to which I pay rent (both professionally and personally) weren’t making any concessions. It took so long for the SBA loan and all of the benefits we were promised to kick in. It was very challenging.
On the human side, with my clientele it isn’t just about having their hair grow out and be too long. I have clients who don’t own shampoo and conditioner, who don’t know how to wash their own hair properly. Many of my clients don’t have blow dryers. One of the benefits of the maintenance plan I set up is that I take care of everything for them and they don’t have to worry about it! People with textured hair can’t really shower, wash, and go unless they have a natural hairstyle, which itself takes planning and work. I have a lot of clients who began to work from home, with constant meetings where they had to be on camera, and their lack of haircare created a lot of anxiety for them.
Now that we’ve been allowed to re-open, I’m requiring clients to text me when they arrive to make sure I’m ready for them to enter the salon. I’m disinfecting between each client. I’m taking temperatures, we’re wearing masks, and I don’t switch back and forth between two clients in different chairs. I have to do just one at a time. That’s really all that we can do right now.
Clover: What advice do you have for other small business owners?
Posh: Before opening a business, you should prepare for your first two years being the start-up phase. You might not see the revenue that you expect. Don’t give up, it’s just part of it. It usually takes anywhere from three to five years to get your business to a place that is consistently profitable. A lot of these things aren’t taught in school, unless you get a degree in business, so be prepared to learn on the fly. Have at least one or two years’ worth of savings for your business and your personal life. You have to take the good, the bad, and the ugly. But if you can weather the storm, it’s so rewarding on the other side.