Salon ownership: Your guide on how to open a salon

Editorial Team

8 min read
Stylist working on client's hair at salon

Being a salon owner enables you to help your clients achieve their beauty goals, while you make money and earn a living based on your passion. But what qualifications do you need to open a beauty salon? While having the talent to provide salon services is a must to start a business, you also need a sound business strategy to maintain a salon business long-term.

If you’ve had dreams of salon ownership, this guide for starting a business outlines how to turn your passion for beauty and styling into a thriving venture. Learn about the elements that go into opening a hair salon, such as doing market research, choosing a location, designing and setting up your salon, acquiring necessary permits and licenses, hiring skilled staff, and selecting quality salon equipment and products. Use this guide to help you attract new clients and build a successful salon business.

Salon market research and planning

If you want to know how to start a salon, you’ll first need to determine that there’s a true business need in the location where you want to open. Get started by checking out this article: 5 questions to ask before you open a salon.

Then, create a comprehensive salon business plan to outline your strategy and get organized. A business plan will help you answer questions like “how much does it cost to open a salon?” based on your unique needs, the local market, and your goals, as well as what it takes to meet them.

According to the Small Business Administration, creating a business plan for starting a salon should include:

  1. Executive summary: mission statement, service, and basic information about your company’s workforce
  2. Company description: the problems your business solves, the customers your business serves, and competitive advantages your business has
  3. Market analysis: a salon competitor analysis that shows how your salon concept will differentiate from and borrow best practices from successful salons in your area
  4. Organization and management: how your company will be structured, including legal structure and workforce organizational chart
  5. Service and/or product line: how you’ll attract and retain customers with your salon services
  6. Funding: determine how much it will cost to open a salon in the size and location you’re interested in, as well as how you will fund your salon
  7. Financial projections: outline of a prospective financial outlook for the next five years
  8. Appendix: supporting documents (credit histories, legal documents) that can help you obtain business funding, if relevant

To turn a great idea into a viable business, it’s important to determine a business need and outline a strategy that will help you create a profit-making business. You can also use a business plan to gain investments, and evolve your plan as you grow.

Salon location selection

Since a salon relies on a physical location and walk-in business, location matters tremendously when starting a hair salon, nail spa, or other type of beauty business. As we outlined in how to find a good location for your business, consider the following:

  1. The type and size of your operation: think about how many clients you want to serve and how big you want your workforce to be
  2. The location’s history: consider business turnover in that location and what your relationship with your landlord would be like
  3. Customer demographics: evaluate what type of people live near and shop in that location
  4. Foot traffic and walk-ins: determine how important walk-ins are in comparison to scheduled appointments
  5. Competition and proximity: research the number of existing salons and similar services in proximity to the areas you’re considering
  6. Accessibility: evaluate how accessible the space will be for people of all abilities, including ADA-compliant accessibility and parking
  7. Zoning ordinances and restrictions: enquire about a location’s restrictions and zoning requirements
  8. Building infrastructure: make sure your building can handle your needs, including open hours and issues like plumbing and wiring

When you’re interested in specific building locations, you’ll also want to think about your location budget, so you can negotiate a store lease. You may be able to save by committing to a longer lease. A commercial real estate agent can guide you through the process.

Salon design and setup

After you’ve secured your space, it’s time to focus on interior design and layout. Since salons are beauty-focused, think about how to create an inviting ambiance. You may want to work with an interior designer to choose décor that matches your salon brand. It can also be helpful to think about your favorite hotels, boutiques, and even restaurants that have memorable interior design elements to inspire your look and feel.

You’ll also want to ensure your space is functional and has a flow that makes sense. You wouldn’t put a workstation right at the entrance, for example.

Make sure everyone on your team has enough room to work comfortably with all the tools they need for their clients. Walk through the space and take accurate measurements, so you can choose the best furniture and decorations that fit.

Salon permits and licensing

What licenses do you need to open a salon? The requirements to open a salon and salon permits you’ll need will depend on where you’re operating. You’ll typically need a business license for the type of beauty service you’re offering. You will also need to ensure all your stylists and aestheticians have the appropriate licenses. The application review process can take more than a month to complete, so the earlier you can apply, the sooner you can open.

To operate legally, you’ll also need to follow the business registration requirements at the federal, state, and local levels. Work with a business attorney to secure those.

Salons must also typically follow health and safety regulations and state board requirements for opening a salon. Avoid a shutdown by learning what the health department approval requirements are for where you’re operating. Create training for your staff that makes regulations easy to follow.

Salon staff recruitment and training

Your staff can make or break your business. At a salon, technicians have direct contact with clients. Your employees’ talent and customer service skills can directly impact your client retention and your business success.

To build a skilled team, think about the requirements you have for each new staff member. Determine which job requirements to list when recruiting and hiring. Reach out to your own professional network for referrals.

As you hire new salon staff, make sure you’re properly training them on all salon procedures and health requirements. You can use this new hire checklist as an onboarding guide.

As your team gets settled in, you can offer ongoing development in the form of continuous education and workshops. That way, your staff can grow their careers while working at your business.

Also, think about the workplace culture you want to create at your salon. From job descriptions to the hiring process to continued training and development, integrate the qualities you want to drive your culture in everything you do throughout workforce management.

Salon equipment and products

Just like the people who work at your business, the equipment that powers it can have an impact. Investing in quality salon equipment can help ensure work goes smoothly and clients stay satisfied.

First, consider the physical equipment that’s used to carry out your salon services. This could include hair styling stations, shampoo bowls, chairs, and/or nail and spa equipment. Test out the products yourself to make sure they’re comfortable and will fit well in your salon space.

In addition to big items like furniture and tools, beauty outcomes rely on high-quality hair care, skincare, and nail products. Look for products with trustworthy recommendations. Ask for trial samples your team can test out before committing to large orders.

You’ll also want reliable equipment to process payments (including contactless payments), book appointments, and manage your inventory. The right POS system for your hair salon or nail salon can help you quickly and more accurately handle transactions. Clover POS systems also manage inventory, so you always have a clear view of what’s in stock and what you need to reorder.

Opening a successful salon starts with your POS system

Opening up a salon can be a rewarding venture, one that allows you to serve clients and pursue your passion, while making a living. Like any business, understanding the nuances of how to start your own salon requires a thoughtful business strategy. You need to understand your competitors and business needs, find the optimal location, get the right salon license and permits to operate lawfully, set up an inviting business space, hire talented staff, and secure the best equipment and products to power your business.

Make operating your salon business easier and simpler with Clover POS solutions, including salon software and spa POS software. With Clover, you can manage inventory, create a customer relationship management account, organize your staff, and simplify the check out experience.

Why wait? Elevate your salon business today. Get started with Clover POS systems.

This information is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice. Readers should contact their attorneys, financial advisors, or tax professionals to obtain advice with respect to any particular matter.

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