Our Meet the Merchant series features Q&As with real-world Clover merchants. Read innovative ideas and real-life stories of small businesses in action. In today’s installment, we talk to Ricky Barragan, the owner of Ricky Styles Studio in Seattle, Washington. Ricky Styles Studios specializes in all things blonde and balayage, bringing a party-like atmosphere with friendly service and free cocktails on the weekends. Ricky shares his background in working with hair, how he built a base on social media, and how Clover has helped the Studio navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
Clover: Hi Ricky! Can you tell us about your history with hair and what led you to open your own salon?
Ricky Barragan: Sure thing. I’ve been in the industry for 12 years, since my first job at age 14 when I worked at a hair salon owned by a family friend. At the time, I was just excited to get a summer job as a kid where I could get paid.
I also got to see how hair stylists don’t just touch hair—they touch people’s lives. As a kid, I was really inspired by that. Later in life, I was working at Starbucks and a coworker was raving about a course he was taking at a local beauty school. That really triggered something in me. I remembered the feeling I had in the salon environment and signed up. Everything about [that course] was so much fun. I got to be creative and share people’s highs, lows, and everything in between.
About a year ago I started my own little studio specializing in what I love, which is blonde and balayage. I started posting videos, stories, and photos on Instagram and Facebook and my clientele grew exponentially.
We decided to open an even bigger Ricky Styles Studio in February of this year. Now, we have five stylists, and my husband Jose Zerpa manages the business side of things. We are a non-binary, non-gender specific salon, and we specialize in blondes.
Clover: Tell us about when you first opened. How did you find your clientele?
Barragan: I remember in beauty school one of my instructors told me that you’re going to attract people who are like you. It’s the way of the world. That advice has always stuck with me.
When ombre hit the scene back in 2014, I personally thought it was a trend. But growing up and watching Sex in the City, reading Vogue Magazine, I noticed balayage was a little different. I got a certification in this technique, and the instructor recommended that I create an Instagram page—this was back before social media was big. It was the best advice I’ve ever received. Through posting my balayage work on Instagram, I gained a big following and was able to hit the ground running when we looked to open a salon in Seattle.
Clover: When you’re hiring, how can you tell if someone’s a good fit for Ricky Styles Studio?
Barragan: I’m all about creating a culture that’s inclusive. We’re not only offering great service, but a great experience for absolutely anybody that comes into our establishment. We take pride in hiring people with a great attitude. Technical work can be learned, but attitude can’t be.
We’ve worked hard to create a really fun atmosphere at our salon. We have our liquor license, and when we’re not in the midst of a pandemic, we have signature cocktails that we offer on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. When you come in, you’ll see a lot of people laughing and smiling. Clients have told me they feel like they’re at a party when they’re at our salon.
Clover: What’s it like to work with your husband? Is it difficult to balance working together and your personal life?
Barragan: We were a little nervous about that when we first started. We’re human, so you never really know how it’s going to go. But, actually it’s worked out wonderfully because we both know our roles in the business. I’m the master stylist: I have the vision as far as how we want to do hair. Jose is super tech-savvy and analytical. He’s our numbers guy.
We have more respect for one another now that we’re working together. We recognize that we’re each trying to do our part to make this business a big success. I think that’s made our relationship, on a personal level, a lot stronger.
Jose actually introduced me to Clover! He was working with Bank of America at the time, and he knew that Clover was an easy way to ring clients up—that it was very user friendly. I couldn’t agree more. Once you’ve got Clover set up, it really is easy to navigate it, add products and services, and ring up clients.
Clover: That’s great to hear. How are you using Clover in your studio now?
Barragan: We use it for retail as well. My favorite feature on Clover is ringing up with the SKU, where you can scan the item. It makes things really efficient.
Because of Clover, we were able to take a lot of our retail online during the pandemic. It allowed our community to continue to contribute to our business, even when they couldn’t visit in person. It also gave me the peace of mind that my clients were using the hair care products that I needed them to use before they came back into the salon again.
Clover: Tell me a little more about how you’ve managed during the pandemic.
Barragan: Clover has played a big role in how we survived until we could reopen the Studio. Obviously, we couldn’t provide our normal services. But, we wanted our clients to be able to take care of their hair while quarantined at home. Jose realized there’s a Clover feature—Clover Online Ordering—where you can offer sales online. It took 30 minutes to set up and we were able to sell products right away. That was huge.
We reopened our doors on June 6 at 50% capacity, with all kinds of processes in place to keep everyone safe. Clients are no longer able to just walk in and hang out: they have to call us when they arrive. We double drape everybody now, space all of our chairs six feet apart, and put Plexiglas next to our shampoo bowl to minimize contact.
As hair stylists, every one of us is really familiar with sanitation—we’re just taking it up a few more notches. We’re watching all of our guests and making sure that we’re wiping things down as soon as they touch anything. Everyone wears a mask.
We’ve also stopped taking cash. We’re utilizing Apple Pay a lot—luckily, here in Seattle, everybody’s very tech-savvy. It’s been easy to accept Apple Pay through Clover.
Clover: What advice do you have for other small business owners?
Barragan: Our advice would be certainly to stay optimistic and to follow all pandemic guidelines. This is a public health moment that we’re all going through together. Get creative with ways that you can accommodate your clientele so that they feel like you care, and that you’re still here.
For us, we really upped our social media game throughout all of this. We’re creating content in ways that we weren’t before. I did one Instagram Story called “Self-care Sunday” and I colored my hair blonde one day. People loved it—that video got around 70,000 views! We’ve also been doing styles on mannequin heads.
Keep it light, keep it positive. That’s what the world needs right now. As hairdressers, we get to connect with people—and we want to keep that up, even throughout this pandemic.